During November, Highland Carbon was lauded by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) as one of several "inspirational and visionary UK businesses" during the lead up to COP28. The BCC article follows:
Founded by Richard Clarke, Highland Carbon is an award-winning supplier of conservation-grade UK carbon credits.
In a nutshell, this means that it helps other companies to balance out their impact on the environment — and to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions — by creating relevant opportunities for them to offset. Typically Richard does this by vetting and then shaping reforestation and peatland projects in Scotland or Northern England, although he does spot trade internationally as well.
What makes this venture stand out from the crowd is that Highland Carbon does all of this with a totally science-based, conservationist approach. Determined to do more than just plant trees for the sake of having a commodity, Richard will also look at how these projects can be used to propagate endangered species and to restore the landscape, in a way that he compares to: “rolling the clock back to before Roman times.”
They carefully select where projects are located and then design them in a way that specifically expands habitats for endangered species. For example, they have replanted forest between two existing woodlands in Loch Ness, thereby bridging the two. This has had the effect of expanding the habitats for red squirrels, pine martins, ospreys, otters and all sorts of wildlife.
It’s not just about climate impacts then, but also about conservation. Speaking about how this works, Richard (who has a Masters Degree in Zoology) said: “We are effectively conduits between landowners and those businesses who are looking to achieve climate credentials. We provide our clients with a kind of menu, listing all of the various opportunities they have available to them in the UK — and the [associated] standards that they will meet by choosing a project, as well the badges that they get to use and so on. “Then, once they have committed to a climate project, they can put in their official reporting that they have a carbon-neutral product or even that they are a Net-Zero company [by a particular date]."
They sell international offsetting too, which is sourced from around 80 different countries and involves projects like hydroelectric plants, wind farms, solar arrays and Greenhouse Gas abatement initiatives. Richard will carefully vet those to make sure that they are validated and recognised by the appropriate bodies.
The demand for this service is certainly high as well, with businesses from across all sectors exploring how they can offset in the most responsible manner. Indeed, Highland Carbon is currently selling to over 60 clients, which range from minor SMEs right through to big multinationals like Sky and Microsoft.
Speaking about the latter group, Richard added: “Those bigger companies would normally go through brokers in New York or London, so it’s been a bit of a coup attracting them […] I think it’s the fact that I am a zoologist that has lent Highland Carbon the most credibility. The vast majority of offsetting brokers come from the worlds of venture capital, finance or land surveying. I bring a distinctly scientific [perspective] that I think the multinationals really appreciate. That gives authenticity to our projects given that I truly am passionate about the cause.”
Highland Carbon have a number of exciting collaborations in the pipeline for the future. For instance, they are working on the Galloway Coastal Rainforest project, which is shaping up to be a real milestone achievement.
About this, Richard said: “The scale of [that] project is over a million trees. It’s the size of nearly 2,000 football pitches and it will offset 213,754 tons of carbon dioxide. It’s one of the largest projects of its type ever undertaken in the UK. And that’s exactly where we want to be.”