SA climate fintech CURBON takes bold offset and uplift approach to solve climate change


CURBON, a climate fintech-focused startup addressing the impact online shopping has on the climate has provides a way to offset and uplift to solve climate change.  Using an e-commerce plug-in, businesses can offer their customers the opportunity to offset the carbon footprint of their purchases.

The CURBON API does this by using industry standards to estimate the total emissions of the contents of a cart at checkout and adding this amount to the shopping invoice. In contributing between 1.8 – 5% of cart spend, an individual can offset the carbon impact of the goods they are purchasing, as well as the impact of the delivery of their order.

 Everything purchased has already had an impact on the environment in the form of greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions. By offsetting these purchases, shoppers can continue to consume with a largely neutral impact on the environment.

While there is a lot that we can do – spend our money only with sustainable brands, change behaviour to reduce our individual carbon footprints – ultimately everything has an environmental impact. This means that as climate-conscious consumers, anything that negates even a portion of our own carbon-producing behaviour is worth adopting.

Internationally, such carbon credits benefit reforestation in Panama, a wind farm project in Indonesia as well as Fairtrade  coffee production in Ethiopia. Locally, we facilitates carbon offsetting that supports South African projects with a big socio-economic reach.

In South Africa, 87% of all recyclable waste ends up in landfill or is dumped illegally. Within 10 years, landfills will account for 10% of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. By supporting the Stellenbosch Community Recycling Project, we are taking steps to address South Africa’s waste problem. The proceeds from carbon credits improve the financial viability of establishing additional waste collection drop-offs while helping 600 waste pickers with the opportunity to earn an income from collecting and recycling waste, which reduces emissions. Having diverted over 14,000 tonnes of solid waste from landfill annually, this project is an exemplary mix of carbon reduction action and socio-economic empowerment.

This serves as proof that when it comes to carbon offsetting, it’s not an either-or choice. The projects that benefit from offsetting don’t have to purely be climate action-oriented. They can (and should) address as many of South Africa’s complex and intertwined issues as possible.

The Kuyasa Project focuses on providing low-carbon housing in Khayelitsha for those in need. Houses were equipped with carbon-conscious solar water heaters and compact fluorescent energy-efficient light bulbs in more than 2000 homes. The first audit conducted in 2014 showed that these efforts had eliminated 23 683 tonnes of CO2.

Through the Wonderbag™ Carbon Investment, consumers have the opportunity to contribute to tackling our climate crisis and the empowerment of women in vulnerable communities through the distribution of heat-retention cooking solutions. A single Wonderbag can in one year cut a household’s fuel usage by 70%, save five trees from being cut down, and reduce carbon emissions by one tonne. In addition to greenhouse gas savings, Wonderbags provide significant upliftment through female empowerment, job creation, and family cost savings.

The projects that we choose to support undergo a rigorous selection process. There are international verification and credibility standards and oversight regulatory requirements that projects must meet.

With CURBON’s chosen global projects, we focus on emission reduction. And with our local projects, we focus on emission reduction and socio-economic development in a way that benefits both the planet and people.

For potential e-commerce partners on the fence about carbon offsetting, it’s worth pointing out that there are two available solutions from CURBON. The first is obviously for businesses that already prioritise sustainability and want to take their eco-commitment to the next level. Here, the business can onboard CURBON fully and pay for each of their products to be offset. But then there’s also the zero-cost to the company solution, which is a way for businesses to show they facilitate the customer’s commitment to climate action.

As consumers become more eco-conscious, it will become more important for businesses to facilitate these shifting priorities in a meaningful way.

Based on the least-effort principle, this zero-cost solution allows businesses to meet customer demands without spending anything themselves. It is also a great start for businesses in taking that first step on their journey to reducing their impact on the planet.

Ultimately through small, incremental changes that contribute to a greater collective reduction of emissions and community upliftment, it’s clear carbon offsetting is a viable means of climate action that is accessible and effective because it requires little immediate effort from the population. Change that requires the least amount of effort is likely to be the most effective in the short term, giving us time and space to figure out our next steps for averting climate disaster.