Climate compensation

The number of “carbon-neutral” products and services for private and commercial customers is growing continuously. But the question arises as to whether a clear carbon conscience can indeed be bought, and how serious these services offering to offset carbon emissions really are. Research has shown that as part of a more comprehensive climate protection strategy for companies and consumers, carbon offsetting makes sense.

As one element of an overall strategy, offsetting carbon emissions makes an important contribution to effective environmental protection. However, the first step should be to cut greenhouse gas emissions; for example, using renewable energy, using trains instead of cars, deploying thermal insulation wherever possible and conducting energy-efficient behaviour in general.

The second big step is a permanent reduction of carbon emissions by expanding local renewable energy generation; for example, installing solar panels on the roofs of schools and companies. Such projects help secure a climate-friendly energy supply. How can offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions be integrated into a differentiated climate strategy?

Provinzial Rheinland's employees joined forces to plant their climate protection forest.

Dusseldorf

Green inside and out

Many companies have a green logo, but few are green at heart. Provinzial Rheinland, however, is green inside and out. To offset all unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions, the insurance company had 4,500,000 square meters of forest restored, partly by its employees, who took part in a tree-planting action to grow a climate protection forest.

A high level of dedication is part of the corporate culture at Provinzial Rheinland – a member of the Savings Banks Finance Group – as is sustainability. Marita Krüssel, respon­ sible for environmental and health management at Provinzial Rheinland, explains: “We have committed ourselves to sustainability in our new mission statement: We want economic, social and ecological sustainability.”

Using an intelligent environmental management approach, Provinzial has been screening all business divisions, with the objective of steadily reducing the use of resources and avoiding pollution. Any unavoidable emissions are offset – for instance, through the climate protection forest, which was planted by employees in 2011.

Joining forces for climate protection A very practical matter for Provinzial Rheinland's staff members.

Provinzial took a hands­on approach to actively involve its employees in climate protection. Every employee received an emissions passbook to help them keep track of their individual carbon footprint. This resulted in greenhouse gas emissions being reduced by 87,500 kg within two and a half years.

“Provinzial further added to the reduction with reforestation projects,” said Ms Krüssel. Over the next ten years, the trees in the climate protection forest will store 175 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The initiatives are backed by Provinzial Rheinland’s top management. Dr Walter Tesarczyk, CEO of Provinzial Rheinland, explains why: “As insurers, we have a strong interest in our society caring about climate protection, since we have a responsibility towards future generations.”

Provinzial Rheinland is one of Germany’s companies with ambitious goals regarding climate protection and energy efficiency. The insurance company’s goal to make its business activities completely carbon neutral by 2011 – the year of Provinzial Rheinland’s 175th anniversary – had already been met at year­end 2010.