The start-up disrupting wine carbon offsets

The carbon offset market has been plagued by corruption and other problems. One New Zealand company is making offsets transparent and easy. Jason Sych reports.

Dave Rouse, CEO, CarbonClick
Dave Rouse, CEO, CarbonClick

A new carbon offset business is working with wineries to make the industry a little bit greener. CarbonClick, headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, is offering a way for wine estates and their customers to reduce their environmental impact – transparently. 

“We are a carbon offsetting engine,” says Dave Rouse, CEO of CarbonClick, “that connects the carbon credit with a track-and-trace that shows where the customer’s dollar has gone.” 

Buying credits appear to be an easy way for people to counter their carbon impact—credits can be used to fund projects that prevent or reduce greenhouse gasses. In practice, the carbon market has been a failure, plagued by corruption and lack of oversight. Worse, in some places it has paradoxically led to more carbon being generated, not less.

CarbonClick combines the action of buying credits with tracking procedures normally used in shipping. Customers buying CarbonClick’s credits get a tracking number that lets them to see what projects their carbon offset money is funding. 

“We have various projects around the globe, and at least 50% of a purchase will go towards native reforestation,” says Rouse. “The remainder goes to clean energy projects.” Wherever CarbonClick can, they connect the offsets with projects that are local to the area of the business. 

The projects receiving donations have all been audited by four agencies, including the World Wildlife Fund and Gold Standard. The auditing regimen means the projects funded are legitimate. “We take a 10% margin off the donations to run the auditing processes, and the other 90% goes directly to the projects,” said Rouse. 

Businesses pay a monthly fee to CarbonClick, which for platforms like Shopify are around $9 per month.  They can then give their customers the option to offset their carbon when they buy something, or the business can simply use it to offset their own carbon. 

The first wine estate, 3Sixty2, in Marlborough, joined in March, with six more joining since. 

“Most of my online orders are now offset,” said Alice Rule, owner and winemaker of 3Sixty2. That so many customers are buying carbon credits has taken her by surprise but demonstrates the interest in such programs.

“It’s a relatively new concept for the wine industry,” said Rouse. “There has been a push to make carbon-neutral wines, but few have addressed the delivery cycle, or allowed customers to participate in the process.”  

Rouse says that two euros’ worth of credits can account for as much as 100kg of carbon. “That goes a long way to offsetting more than just the delivery, but of the footprint embedded in the product as well.”

So far, says Rouse, about 200 merchants on the Shopify plugin have participated, offsetting more than 80 tonnes of carbon in the past two months.

Jason Sych

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