Meta has pretty high aspirations when it comes to its climate goals. For one, the tech company hopes to reach net zero emissions across its value chain by 2030, aligning its efforts with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This organization provides companies with tangible net zero paths in line with scientific knowledge and the reduction targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement.
However, according to the FootPrint Coalition Portfolio company Aspiration, a climate action financial institution helping businesses and individuals leverage their assets for the benefit of the planet, corporations, even those as large as Meta, can’t reach their climate aspirations alone.
As Bob Lee, the Vice President of Carbon Programs at the company said in a recent article he penned in Greenbiz, “Reducing emissions is the most important priority, but to address residual emissions from hard-to-abate sectors, high-quality carbon removal projects are critical.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees that carbon removal projects play a part in limiting global warming to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and according to Lee, “When businesses collaborate” on these goals “they can combine their expertise, scale their efforts and create more significant impacts on sustainable development.”
“Corporate partnerships can lead to significant benefits for both ecosystem restoration and local communities,” he wrote. That’s why Meta is partnering with Aspiration to engage in carefully selected nature-based projects.
Already, the tech giant has pre-ordered 6.75 million metric tons of carbon removal credits with expected delivery from 2027 through 2035.
Notoriously, many carbon removal ventures have a quality problem. Generally, a carbon credit can work one of two ways, either by averting one metric ton of carbon emissions that would’ve otherwise happened, by preventing deforestation for example, or it can remove one ton of carbon from the air through methods like direct air capture or by scaling the natural carbon sequestration abilities of nature.
However, it’s no secret that carbon credits have been under fire recently. This year was kicked off with an investigation by The Guardian into the world’s leading carbon credit certifier, Verra, which has a litany of high-profile customers including Disney, Shell, and Gucci.
The investigation revealed that over 90% of its rainforest carbon credits are absolutely worthless with only a small handful actually showing evidence of deforestation reductions because the threat to the forests they claimed to be protecting via carbon credits was vastly overstated.
This wasn’t the first time the carbon credit industry made headlines for the wrong reasons, nor was it the last. Just last month, a $1 billion lawsuit was filed against Delta Air Lines over the claim that it is “the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.” However, the plaintiffs say the credits they rely on are bogus and do nothing to mitigate global warming.
These are the problems Aspiration aspires to combat with a rigorous standard for evaluating its nature-based carbon removal initiatives.
The credits that Meta has pre-ordered come from all types of ecosystem restoration and natural carbon removal projects, including native reforestation approaches, agroforestry, and the implementation of agricultural practices that reduce emissions and have a positive impact on the communities implementing them.
Aspiration’s standards are so high that only 20% of the carbon projects it evaluates get its stamp of approval.
According to Tracy Johns, the carbon removal program lead at Meta, “carbon credits are only one piece of the puzzle in achieving our ambitious goals for net zero emissions across Meta’s ecosystem.”
"Through our carefully selected partnerships and projects like this carbon credit purchase with Aspiration, we aim to manage and minimize our environmental impact while accelerating our path to net zero in a responsible and scalable manner,” she said.
Beyond its intense transparent verification process, Aspiration requires that all projects have both environmental and social benefits. So it's not enough that a project reduces emissions or avoids those which would otherwise be emitted, but it also must have positive material impacts on those connected to the project either socially or economically.
Already, Aspiration has high-impact carbon projects spanning five continents, many of which, like its Trees for the Future Agroforestry Project in Homa Bay, Kenya, use technologies like satellite monitoring, AI-enhanced data collection, and real-time monitoring to ensure their impact.
Launched in February, the initiative represents a $21 million investment in carbon projects across Sub-Saharan Africa through an organization called Trees for the Future which will support and train 15,000 farmers in and around the Lake Victoria Watershed in western Kenya to plant 87 million trees, effectively creating 15,000 hectares of regenerative agroforestry land.
In addition to helping the farms adapt to the impacts of climate change and diversify the crops they grow and sell, the efforts will then be generated into 4.13 million verifiable carbon credits. Each of these credits represents a metric ton of CO2 that will be removed from the atmosphere over 20 years.
Once sold, that money can further be used to help restore the planet.
According to Executive Director Tim McLellan at Trees for the Future, “Partnerships like the one we've developed with Aspiration are key to expanding our work to not only combat climate change, but also improve the lives of farmers and communities in Kenya and beyond.”
That’s just one example of the many projects Aspiration leverages to create its global carbon credit service and its solutions are not just limited to industry players. There are also opportunities for individuals to be a part of its efforts simply by being strategic about who they bank with.
Still, corporate partnerships are integral to the work Aspiration does.
According to Olivia Albrecht, CEO at Aspiration, large capital investments and financial partnerships like that which Meta allow the company to “take on larger, more impactful nature-based carbon removal projects.”
“Many of these projects wouldn’t be able to get off the ground without this type of corporate commitment, which illustrates how companies can amplify their efforts and make a more significant impact on global climate goals.”