To reduce global economic inequality along with greenhouse gas emissions from its corporate travel, travel industry leader Expedia, Inc. has invested in four community-owned carbon offset projects from the non-profit Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP.org).
COTAP’s carbon offset projects counteract emissions through tree planting, agroforestry and forest protection in areas where incomes are less than $2 per day. They are certified under Plan Vivo, the world’s longest-standing voluntary standard for forest carbon, which requires rural communities own their offset projects and that they receive at least 60% of all carbon revenues.
Expanding voluntary carbon markets and using carbon offsets were topics discussed in a recent UN intersessional meeting in Bonn, Germany on implementing the Paris climate agreement. US withdrawal from Paris has not slowed carbon offset use by companies. Major companies which have recently announced using carbon offsets for corporate travel include retailer Zappos.com, business software giant SAP and car rental leader Hertz, to name a few.
But Expedia, whose 2016 revenues exceeded $8.7 billion, is the first Fortune 500 company to work with COTAP to offset some of its corporate travel and insure the lion’s share of the money goes directly to those who need it most. Through donations to COTAP, Expedia offset 1,010 tonnes of atmospheric carbon, counteracting emissions from a large meeting convening leaders from many Expedia locations. The funds will be distributed evenly among COTAP’s partner projects in India, Malawi, Nicaragua and Uganda, with cash payments directly shared with smallholder farmers and forest communities there.
COTAP projects serve and connect key UN Sustainable Development Goals, including ending poverty, taking action on climate change, enhancing food security, fighting deforestation, boosting sustainable growth and employment, and protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. They’re also examples of how the private sector and communities in developing countries can work together to help meet global emissions reduction goals.
“One of Expedia’s core Corporate Social Responsibility values is climate action, so there was really was no question about whether or not working with COTAP made sense. Travel is a large contributor to carbon emissions and given that we are in the business of travel anything we can do to help alleviate the impact we’re on board. We are very excited to be working with COTAP and look forward to what we can accomplish together,” said Tony Donohoe, SVP and CTO, Expedia Worldwide Engineering at Expedia, Inc.
“By offsetting through COTAP, Expedia is creating over $5.00 per tonne in direct, life-changing income for the world’s poorest people,” said Tim Whitley, COTAP founder. “This unsurpassed level of direct carbon revenue sharing is made possible by the combination of Plan Vivo’s 60% community revenue sharing requirement, the premium price of $9 per tonne COTAP pays projects, and our modest and transparent margin of 9.1%. Our projects create other indirect co-benefits like improved food security, biodiversity, soil quality, and reduced erosion. But income is the ultimate benefit because beneficiaries can use it to pay for income-generating assets, medical treatment, food, or their children’s school fees.”
Expedia’s donation to COTAP also gives its more than 20,000 employees worldwide access to COTAP’s Employee Offset Matching Program via Expedia Cares. It lets employees double the amount of carbon emissions they can offset and halve the effective rate they pay. At COTAP.org/Expedia, they can calculate, learn to reduce, and offset their carbon footprint of any size.