As CEO of ChannelSight, one of many Irish tech companies to have forged a global footprint and international reputation, I’m proud to come from a country that punches above its weight in a highly competitive sector. I’m frustrated and disheartened, however, that the same country is the worst performing EU country, and among the worst in the world, when it comes to tackling climate change and meeting the commitments we made as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. It’s simply not good enough for us to fail to take our responsibilities seriously, especially as a dynamic, modern liberal democracy – it’s embarrassing!
So about a year ago I began to consider ways that the tech and wider business community might be able to help put this right, to help position us as a country that inspires others with what we’re doing to tackle climate change. The result of a huge amount of work by a number of people who shared this vision was launched today in Dublin – ‘Irish Tech Goes Carbon Neutral 2020’ – an initiative to rally Irish companies to fight climate change.
Like an increasing number of people, I am passionately concerned about the future of the planet and the terrible legacy we risk leaving for the next generation if we don’t start taking affirmative action. If we could harness just a small amount of the passion, intelligence and resources of the amazing people I am lucky enough to work with in the tech and business community, I believe that together we can make a meaningful impact.
To start with, I want 250 Irish companies to get involved in creating at least 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent offsets per year.
How? Through the restoration of native woodland, more specifically, by planting approximately 200 acres of trees. Trees are an important ally in the fight against climate change. They are huge carbon store and nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turning it into the oxygen we breathe. They also help combat flooding, control pollution, and create an environment where biodiversity can flourish.
Ireland has the lowest forestry cover in Europe – less than 11%, versus an average of about 40%. We also have the lowest level of native forestry in Europe, at about 30%, with the remainder being mainly commercial forestry using non-native tree species such as Sitka spruce.
We like metrics and data in the tech sector, so I was determined that this would be a measurable initiative rather than a vague gesture. So the other big part of the plan is to work closely with third-party foresters and adhere to the highest international standards of forestry management and certification. We will publish their audited reports to ensure that all the forest cover we create is permanent, verifiable and additional over what would otherwise have occurred.
The way it works is simple – we provide easy-to-use online tools and educational materials to help businesses understand their emissions and the equivalent offsetting steps they need to take. The business commits to funding the creation of woodland that will offset their emissions, and we arrange to plant that forest, then certify that the offsets have been funded by that business. It’s a simple model, but it works. All the forests that we plant will be placed in trust so they will never be cut down or sold, but will be a permanent legacy for every participant.
I’d also like to thank everyone who volunteered to help in the setup and running of the social enterprise. Special thanks to all the individuals and companies who have supported us with services to help us get the initiative off the ground, including Neworld (branding/website), Beach Hut (PR), Philip Lee (legal), Haydon (accounting), Blacknight (hosting) and Kendlebell Co Dublin (phone services). Thanks also to the organisations who are supporting the initiative with their members/clients or resources, including SFI, IDA, Chambers Ireland, IBEC, Enterprise Ireland, IIBN and Tech Ireland among others.
I’m excited at the number of people and companies who’ve enthusiastically signed up, even before we officially launched, including Gav Walsh from iCabbi, Ronan Perceval from Phorest Software, Niamh Bushnell from Soapbox Labs, John Mullen from Version 1, Peter Coppinger from Teamwork and Nikki Lannen from Warducks, among over 30 companies who are already committed offsetters!
If you’re interested in getting involved, please visit GoCarbonNeutral.ie and get in touch.