Market demand for carbon credits is growing rapidly, increasing the price of rural land in the process and in many ways posing a new threat to the natural environment, local communities and wildlife. My advice to most businesses therefore would be… don’t buy carbon credits. Instead focus on lessening your impact on the planet and in the process reduce your carbon footprint, whilst trying to have a net positive impact. If ultimately your business, like many others, still requires you to offset residual emissions, really take the time to understand the credits you’re being offered. Consider carefully what you’re supporting with your investment because that’s what your purchase is, an investment in the future.
It is impossible to separate carbon and the wider impacts of our actions. Therefore, any natural capital product that does not seek to also deliver positive environmental and social impacts is fundamentally flawed and could very soon be recognised as a toxic asset. In buying these credits, likely relatively cheaply now with respect to the true environmental cost of carbon, you may be directly funding environmental degradation. And if you’re still in business in future years, you will have to invest significantly more in putting right the damage you’ve done both environmentally and reputationally.
There is another way. Instead, work with environmental organisations that offer genuinely positive natural capital products, those who partner with local communities, and work to protect and improve the environment for people and wildlife. Through native woodland creation, peatland restoration and increasingly blue carbon projects such as the restoration of sea grass meadows and protection and expansion of coastal habitats, it is possible to sequester and store large quantities of carbon but in a way that delivers so much more.
My name is Rich Stockdale, I am the founder and manging director of Oxygen Conservation. We hope to be the world’s first conservation focused unicorn company and in the process change the way people value the natural environment, so that it can be improved and protected for this and future generations. I am an environmentalist. I have two small children and in the future when they ask me what I did to help with catastrophic climate collapse and the next mass extinction I want to be able to say I tried.
Oxygen Conservation was founded in June 2021 with the ambition of Scaling Conservation, delivering positive environment and social impact, generating profit as a result not as the purpose. Our business was started with the specific aim of tackling climate change and the biodiversity crisis. We invest directly in the acquisition of land at scale across the UK, to protect and improve natural assets. This in turn gives us the opportunity to create a range of natural capital products and services, that in the same way as advertising drives forward the capabilities of search engines and social media channels, will fuel our ability to Scale Conservation.
We own land from Dartmoor, through Exmoor, across to the Welsh Coast, in the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland. We have recently acquired a wonderful estate in Perthshire, and are so grateful that the previous owners have entrusted us with the ongoing custodianship of this estate’s spectacular landscape.
Each site we acquire is beautifully unique. We work in tandem with local communities and environmental groups to outline a set of conservation objectives to restore natural processes and protect precious habitats and biodiversity, in an attempt to help save at least a little of the world. Our efforts are focused on regenerative agriculture, sustainable development, ecotourism, native broadleaf woodland creation, peatland restoration and where appropriate renewable energy generation.
We believe conservation must help create opportunities within rural communities for food production, ecotourism and sustainable development and in the process create both employment and homes for those very communities. Many of our sites are home to iconic and threatened species including beavers, pine marten, red squirrels, black grouse and curlew. We are committed to protecting their precious habitats, whilst also creating new opportunities for ecotourism to welcome more people into wilderness environments, connect with the natural world and in the process become advocates for conservation, especially those within Scotland.
The balance of protecting the environment and creating opportunities for people and wildlife within each of these places is complex, and we don’t have all the answers, but we have an incredible team of talented and passionate individuals who are committed to learning more each day, especially from those who know most about these unique landscapes.
We’re aware that people are often rightly concerned about private investment buying land in rural communities and we encourage you to be positively challenging, but also to engage with these new neighbours. At Oxygen Conservation, we understand and share people’s concerns about green washing, unsustainable land use and environmental profiteering, and will do everything we can to ensure that our work only delivers positive environmental and social impact.
We know that everything we do won’t be popular with everyone, and that challenging the status quo even with the best intentions will create tensions and debate. We welcome that criticism, will listen to that feedback, and will continue to seek local advice and guidance. We will do our best to create places and spaces that local people can be proud to call home. If you’d like to do any of those things, be a partner with us on our journey, preregister for our next natural capital products release, or maybe just learn a little more about us you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.