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All I want for Christmas is a… Gabonese forest elephant?

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Last editedDec 20212 min read

If it’s better to give than to receive, why is choosing the right present at Christmas often so hard? It’s difficult enough for individuals, but for a company it can be really tough. How do you do something that has meaning for every customer, especially when you have over 70,000 customers?

This year we think we’ve cracked it by supporting what promises to be a really remarkable, innovative and imaginative contribution to tackling not just climate change, but a whole lot more.

On the behalf of each of our customers, we are “hiring” the services of forest elephants – yes, forest elephants! – in Gabon so they can get to work on positively impacting the environment, biodiversity, and local communities.

The project is run by Rebalance Earth (www.rebalance.earth), which reimagines carbon offset markets as a “rebalance” mechanism to fight climate change, protect biodiversity and lift communities out of poverty.

Blockchain comes to the rainforest

Rebalance Earth is the collective brainchild of three co-founders from different disciplines: Walid Al Saqqaf, a serial entrepreneur and blockchain specialist, Ralph Chami, Assistant Director at the IMF, and world-renowned conservationist Ian Redmond.

Walid describes Rebalance Earth — which goes live in 2022 — as “a marketplace to value and fund a living nature”, and uses Gabon’s forest elephant population to illustrate how it works. “A forest elephant killed for its tusks is worth around $40,000, but over its 60-year lifespan — directly and indirectly — it contributes $1.75m of carbon capture and carbon sequestration services. The meat of a dead blue whale is worth $50,000, but alive it sequesters $2m of carbon.”

And the elephant’s contribution doesn’t stop there, says Ian Redmond: “The elephants prune the trees, their dung fertilises the soil, and by eating smaller plants they weed the forest and gives the big trees more nutrients, so they can sequester more carbon. Forests with elephants sequester 7% more carbon than those without.”

Rebalance Earth combines Walid’s blockchain expertise with Ralph Chami’s economic know-how to value the services the elephants provide to their ecosystem, in the process helping to maintain and grow their surrounding environment. Supporters buy ecosystem services tokens that don’t only offset carbon but, for example, fund rangers to protect the elephants and invest in local villages, building schools or hospitals, thus tying the economic development of the community to the welfare of the elephants. 

Thank you, customers of GoCardless

Rebalance Earth calls this harnessing of carbon offsetting “ecosystem services” and wants to partner with companies that have committed to taking action on climate change and also value the protection of keystone species. Which is why GoCardless is supporting Rebalance Earth by hiring the services of forest elephants.

We’ve agreed to pre-purchase 100 “elephant days”, equal to one minute for each of our 70,000 customers, and we’re also matching each minute, bringing the total to 140,000 “elephant minutes”.

Walid Al Saqqaf welcomes our support as a game-changing sign validation of the concept to the market: “We believe GoCardless and its customers can trigger a snowball effect that will bring other businesses on board. Having GoCardless as one of our first corporate supporters is massive for us. Thank you!”

Ben Knight, Head of Environmental Sustainability at GoCardless, was tasked with choosing the right initiative and explains why we’re supporting Rebalance Earth: “GoCardless is committed to climate action as part of our wider sustainability strategy. That’s why we’re a co-founder of Tech-Zero, the climate action group for tech companies, and why we’ve measured our emissions, had them externally audited, and committed to the Science Based Target Net-Zero Standard. But importantly we want to go beyond just reducing our own emissions by creating a positive impact for nature and communities. We think that too much focus on carbon alone leads to a ‘carbon tunnel vision’, which is where Rebalance Earth’s more holistic approach really aligns with our values.”

Want to know more about Rebalance Earth? Check out this explainer video from Walid and the team.

For Christmas, we are also giving away some fantastic gifts through our 12 Gifts for Climate Action Campaign to help individuals and businesses take climate action, including a free-to-use carbon calculator, bespoke GoCardless & Tech Zero sustainability workshops for SMEs, and Toast Ale made from waste bread! Find out more here.

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