SOCIALCARBON (Version 5, 2013) is a complementary standard that certifies carbon reduction projects for their contributions to sustainable development. It is applied to lots of different projects that have already achieved certification for their carbon reduction/avoidance activities - from small ones such as income generation intiatives for local communities, to large one including hydroelectric plants.
The aims of the standard are to:
- Ensure that projects contributes to sustainable development, as well as carbon reduction.
- Improve the social and environmental benefits of projects.
- Contribute to project differentiation in the carbon market, adding value to carbon credits generated under the standard.
To achieve the standard, carbon reduction projects must meet certain criteria including:
- Use of a SOCIALCARBON methodology. For this, projects must involve local stakeholders and be base their activities on a sustainable livlihoods approach, taking six basic resources into account - these are: biodiversity, the natural, financial, human, social and carbon.
The monitoring and continual improvement of project perfomance by implementing a SOCIALCARBON methodology periodically. Projects are assessed and monitored according to a set of indicators which are based on the six resources that are included in the sustainable livlihoods approach. They are then rated by virtue of their situation - level 1 being the worst scenerio and level 6 being the ideal. To maintain their certification, projects must show continuous improvement in each area and move up the rating scale.
Independent verification through SOCIALCARBON Reports by a certifying body, of which there are ten from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Only after the successful validation and verification of continual improvements will a project receive SOCIALCARBON credits through the Markit Environmental Registry.
According to the 'State of Carbon Markets 2013' report from The Ecosystem Marketplace, there are 52 projects with SOCIALCARBON certified status that make up 2 per cent of the carbon credits transacted on the voluntary market.
SOCIALCARBON was developed by a Brazilian NGO, Ecologica Institute. The principles of the methodology are adapted from the sustainable livelihoods approach developed by Chambers and Conway (1992). The criteria were based on their experiences developing a carbon sequestration project in Ilhao do Bananal, Brazil in 1998.
It is not clear how the Ecologica Institute is funded however it receives a fee of USD 0.02 per SOCIALCARBON credit issued. It also has sponsors.
SOCIALCARBON differs from others certification schemes in the carbon market in how it looks beyond carbon reduction/avoidance by rewarding those that also work towards sustainable development, focusing on the social, environmental and economic conditions of communities affected by emission reduction projects. Furthermore, SOCIALCARBON is also different because it allows for flexibility - projects must show continual improvement in order to meet the criteria, rather just follow a set of rigid procedures.