Offsetting emissions and restoring land key to Carbon Neutral story

By Emily Roberts

Restoring depleted farmland while reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels makes perfect business sense to Carbon Neutral’s Ray Wilson.

Carbon Neutral’s Ray Wilson

Carbon Neutral’s Ray Wilson

“People are realising that without carbon offsets, without mobilising funding from carbon offsets and channelling it into carbon projects, we just won't reach our climate targets,” the company’s Chief Commercial Officer says.  

Planting trees, which Wilson calls “nature-based removal units”, produces carbon offset solutions for companies looking to reduce their environmental footprint and meet growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) responsibilities. 

“We're now Australia's largest biodiverse reforestation, carbon offset provider,” Wilson says.  

Planting trees behind pioneering program  

More than 20 years ago the pioneering Carbon Neutral initiative emerged from within the framework of Men of the Trees, now known as the renowned Trillion Trees Australia program.  

Now centred on large-scale reforestation projects, Carbon Neutral not only rejuvenates landscapes but also safeguards biodiversity and captures substantial volumes of atmospheric carbon.  

After “ticking along on a very small scale” for five years, the release of former US vice president Al Gore’s 2006 climate-change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, heightened interest in and demand for carbon reduction measures, Wilson says.  

“Individuals and companies across Australia wanted to do something,” he says.

“Carbon Neutral was inundated with enquiries, and the demand for offsets from tree planting grew.  

“But when I joined in 2010 [as CEO], there started to be quite a lot of uncertainty around the carbon market and government policy was chopping and changing. So, it’s been an interesting journey.”  

As one of the first participants in the carbon market, Carbon Neutral has built on a significant early-mover advantage. It has converted more than 21,000 hectares of farmland in the Wheatbelt.  

“What sets us apart from competitors is we help companies measure, reduce and offset their emissions. We offer the full spectrum rather than just one or two capabilities,” Wilson says.  

“We're a carbon accounting consultancy, but also a carbon farming developer, and carbon offset retailer, and are now exploring international carbon project development. We are quite unique, and I guess we are almost all things to all people, which imposes its own challenges on us. 

“But we believe we are helping clients make a big difference.”  

CCIWA complements business  

As a small company with just over 20 employees, Carbon Neutral enjoys the benefits of being a CCIWA Member.  

“It’s hard to keep up with all the industrial relations legislation changes, for example,” Wilson says. 

“We are too small to have a dedicated person and that’s exactly why we need to work with CCIWA.” 

Wilson and his colleagues regularly attend CCIWA’s events, networking opportunities and business roundtables.  

“The last working group I went to was a real eye-opener; listening to other companies and the challenges and opportunities they face around issues, including industrial relations,” he says.  

“It was really interesting seeing how CCIWA approaches it. We are looking forward to getting more involved, maybe in some of the policy issues around climate change.  

“I’ve been to a number of events and they are great forums for networking.  

“So, it’s been a great partnership so far.”  

CCIWA is an important conduit for WA businesses, Wilson says.  

“As a lobby group, it’s critical,” Wilson says.  

“We are all sectors of SMEs and larger companies, and we can use CCIWA as a forum to present our views and lobby government, so it’s very important.”  

Making a difference  

Although they mostly work in the voluntary carbon reporting space, new climate disclosure regulations will see companies having to report their emissions. This will have an impact on supply chains – upstream and downstream – says Wilson.  

“What we're doing is making a difference,” he says.  

“We've got about 600 organisations we're working with and that's growing by the week.  

“It's the liaison with clients who want to work with us, because they choose to, that I find really satisfying.”  

A major milestone for the business was its 2013 merger with private company AusCarbon which enabled project expansion.  

Then in 2021, Carbon Neutral took on a major shareholder in Melbourne-based Tiverton Agriculture Impact Fund.  

“In some cases, farmland we plant on has been affected by wind erosion, water erosion and some of it is starting to go saline. Then within three years there is healthy, native revegetation, and that's really quite powerful visually,” Wilson says.  

“We have local farmers congratulating us for our work because they say our trees have brought more rain to the region.” 

To be part of WA’s peak business organisation, get in touch via 1300 422 492 or [email protected].        

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