"It's time to reassess the voluntary carbon market with the technologies available today"

Image source: MORFO
October 2023

The Landbanking Group 's mission revolves around promoting collaboration between diverse stakeholders to create the mosaic of solutions needed for a sustainable future. The company integrates nature's vitality and ecological health as assets on corporate balance sheets, and attracts increased funding for reforestation and other nature-related initiatives.

In an interview for MORFO 's white paper on The future of carbon credits for reforestationco-founder of The Landbanking Group, Sonja Stuchtey, discusses her vision for redefining wealth in the 21st century and creating a new asset class for global land restoration and conservation by promoting transparency and aiming to minimize bias in outcomes through the use of independently verified data. Stuchtey challenges the current voluntary carbon market model, emphasizing the need to focus on ecosystem outcomes as valuable investments.

Can you introduce yourself?

At the start of my professional career, as a strategy consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, I quickly took the entrepreneurial route. I founded an award-winning social enterprise, played an important role in defining the emerging field of social enterprise, created the first social franchise and modernized science education.

After more than a decade in science education, I switched to the technology industry, with a particular focus on internet platforms, where I worked as a senior consultant, investor and board member. In 2022, I co-founded The Landbanking Group with my partner, Professor Martin Stuchtey, with the aim of redefining wealth in the 21st century and creating a new asset class for global land restoration and preservation.

In addition to my professional commitments, I currently chair the supervisory board of Alliance4Europe, which I co-founded in 2018 with the aim of preserving democracy in response to extremism. In addition, I am dedicated to the principles of responsible business, the long term, ethical technology and inclusive measures as a member of the Supervisory Board of Capitals Coalition and as a researcher at the Atlantic Council's GeoTech Center.

Can you give us an overview of The Landbanking Group?

The Landbanking Group offers the agnostic infrastructure needed to create a new asset class based on nature. We comply with the prevailing accounting standards for intangible assets, ensuring rigorous valuation of the biophysical characteristics of the land on a per hectare or per pixel basis. We provide automated, structured monitoring and a legal framework for standardized performance contracts focused on ecosystem outcomes, rather than the land itself.

MRV companies have been criticized for biases in their results. How does The Landbanking Group help to avoid such biases?

We use public and verified data, transparent models tested and validated by an academic committee, and openly share our approach for continuous improvement. The data we use is not provided by the recipients of ecosystem payments, but must come from independent sources. This reduces the variety of parameters we can (currently) provide, but increases transparency and minimizes bias. As technology advances, we expect independent data to increase exponentially.

Can you summarize your position on the voluntary carbon market?

It's good to live in a world that has grown accustomed to the idea that ecosystem outcomes are valuable and worth paying for. The voluntary carbon market was created at a time when we didn't have the opportunity to use technology as we do today. It's time to take another look.

As a humanity, we haven't managed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. But we must! A logic of compensation won't get us there. If we compensate, we are merely restoring - in the best and most honest case - what we have previously destroyed. This doesn't meet the necessary scale and is massively unappealing. Who likes punishment?

Do you distinguish between types of credits, such as reforestation versus sequestration, or not?

Our approach is based on the idea that nature and its vitality, and ecological health, are a source of wealth. This is desirable, and a non-negotiable prerequisite for our life and prosperity. That's why nature restoration and preservation contracts should be included as assets on the company's balance sheet.

Do you have an estimate of what these "balance sheet-quality credits" could contribute to reforestation? More or less funding? Changes in payer profiles?

Considering payments for reforestation as an investment not only in extractive value (harvesting timber at a given point in time), but also as an investment in ecosystem-related outcomes such as water retention capacity - a treasure in times of drought and flood - carbon storage, biodiversity - insurance against pests - should increase funding and broaden the investor pool.

How has the system been received so far by buyers and suppliers?

We're seeing not only a curious attraction, but also an open enthusiasm, as many decision-makers share the perspective that nature is critical infrastructure. They are already experiencing material business risks due to the loss of nature, and are actively seeking a solution to deal with this new reality.

What should we wish you for the future?

We want a healthy ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, civil society and politicians to engage in a concerted and massive effort, an unprecedented collaboration to create the necessary mosaic of solutions. There is no quick fix.

And for ourselves? We want the optimism we need despite the facts and figures we see coming from science. We want optimism, energy, friendship and support to redefine wealth on a grand scale.

Chief Writer and Content Manager
Lorie Louque
- Paris, France
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