Purpose of pilot

The See Through Carbon Pilot is a bottom-up test of three objectives:

  1. The functionality of the See Through Carbon standard and software design
  2. Proving STC can incentivise SMEs to sign up for their own benefit
  3. Creating a dataset compelling enough to convince big businesses to mandate STC adoption for their supply chain

1 and 2 are the necessary steps, but however successful the Pilot is, its key objective is to get to 3.

Why top-down beats bottom-up

The underlying objective of creating a free standard that accurately measures SME carbon footprints for free is to reduce carbon emissions. Accurate carbon measurement is the necessary first step to carbon reduction.

See Through Carbon is an independent body, but was conceived by See Through News as part of its goal of:

Speeding up carbon drawdown by helping the inactive become active.

See Through Carbon shares the pragmatic guiding principles of See Through News:

  • Target the unconverted
  • Change the rules, not the ruled
  • Storytelling, not lecturing

Changing the rules rather than focusing on what the ruled do — i.e. government regulation rather than individual behaviour — is by far the fastest route to rapid decarbonisation.

The will of the people and the actions of their rulers are linked to some degree. This link is stronger in some governments than others, but the fastest way to effect change is for the people setting the rules, i.e. the government, to change them.

See Through News devised this simple game to demonstrate how government regulation will get us 90% of the way to our net-zero goals, individual behaviour change only 10%.

Big Businesses are the real change makers

This is why the pilot, which takes a bottom-up approach of incentivising individual SMEs to adopt the See Through Carbon Standard, is important as a starter motor to our journey to a sustainable future, but won’t be its main propulsion.

We can continue to expand the Pilot approach, encouraging ground-up adoption, but even if this is wildly successful and popular on its own merits, it’s trying to get the tail to wag the dog, or putting the cart before the horse.

Maximum impact, and fastest scaling, will happen when Big Businesses mandate See Through Carbon for all the SMEs in their supply chain.

Whatever their own views on climate change and their role in it, all big businesses know the direction of travel when it comes to carbon reporting. It can only get stricter. Boards have a responsibility to their shareholders to future-proof themselves against the coming reporting requirement storm, and get ahead of the game.

SME supply chain might generate 70% of global emissions, but governments target big businesses good reasons. The same reasons the current for-profit carbon auditing business targets big business — they have the money.

Carbon reporting requirements are still nowhere near as stringent as financial reporting ones, but will only get stricter. Loopholes will tighten. Estimates will no longer do. Greenwashing will be riskier for reputations. More specifically, businesses that can currently get away with ignoring their Scope 2 (energy used by their supply chain) and Scope 3 (energy used by everyone else, including their customers) reporting know this lax oversight won’t last long.

Sooner or later, governments will require them to give far more accurate measurements, applying far more demanding rules, for their supply chain.

Currently, this presents a huge problem for businesses who want to do the right thing, but soon even the greenwashers will confront the same dilemma. How can a big business expect the hundreds and thousands of SMEs that supply them to provide accurate carbon reports, free of friction and additional cost burdens?

Fortunately, the conditions are perfect for the radical new approach offered by See Through Carbon. Carbon auditing 1.0 has proved itself to be an irredeemable bust. Elegant though the concept of offsetting may have been in theory, it turns to Swiss cheese when gamed by expert bad players.

Not all companies using the vast array of current carbon standards are cynical, but the system favours those that are. Having a choice of competing proprietary standards is ideal for any big business that only gives lip service to being green’. Deliberately or not, the current system is optimised for businesses who see carbon reduction as an annoying government interference into business as usual. All they have to do is pay something official-looking to award them a Carbon Neutral’ sticker, display it in their PR, and carry on.

Having dozens of standards competing to charge for their proprietary standards leaves big business with no good options. Big businesses get dodgy standards that the market incentivises not to count all their liabilities, and to include fantasy offsets’ to massage the numbers. Small businesses can’t afford even these dodgy options.

Which is why the only solution has to be free to use, the features that distinguishes See Through Carbon from the current crowded market of competing proprietary standards.

If you’re not paid, you can’t be bought.

And if you’re not selling, you’re always affordable.