Last week, South Pole welcomed George Favaloro as Head of Climate Solutions, North America. We sat down with George to talk about his new role. At the end of our chat, one thing was clear: buckle up, because the US has the potential to unleash a wave of innovation that can rise to the climate challenge like never before.
What are you bringing with you to this new role at South Pole?
Prior to this, I can break my career down into two broad categories.
First, I spent a number of years as a corporate strategist and an operating manager. I sat on the other side of the table and lived the life of a manager in a global enterprise.
Second, for the last fifteen years, I was a sustainability advisor, working with many large American companies and helping them think through how they bring in sustainability and make it part of what makes them successful. So from these two experiences I know what challenges our clients face, and I also know the types of solutions that we can incorporate into our clients' strategies.
In this new role, it's applying my years of experience as a manager that I am most excited about, and using that to guide the growth of our North American business. We have new people joining almost every single day - innovative, experienced, and energetic people - and with them, our ability to deliver impact grows.
What made you decide to join South Pole?
A year ago I was doing a project for a client and assessing the leading offset players in the US, specifically which providers had the best capability and who was looking at the market in the most forward-thinking way. South Pole stood out. On a global basis, South Pole has a breadth and depth of capabilities that is unmatched, but at the same time they weren't really scaled up in the US yet.
So I joined because of the enormous opportunity to grow the business in the US. Our strategy is simple: replicate South Pole's global success and leverage its technical expertise here in the US market to bring the most innovative carbon solutions and related services to our clients.
What makes South Pole unique when it comes to corporate climate action in the US?
Companies face a host of challenges as they seek to reduce their carbon emissions and achieve net zero. Procuring offsets is complex today and is going to get even more difficult going forward as prices go up and supply is limited. South Pole has been a major player in the carbon markets for 15 years and has built expertise that starts with developing and managing carbon offset projects on the ground across the global South.
On top of this, South Pole regularly advises governments and other entities on structuring voluntary carbon markets. In recent years, we have realized some of the most innovative and groundbreaking carbon finance transactions and vehicles. What makes us unique is that we can leverage all this expertise for our clients to help them develop net zero strategies based on a sophisticated view of where the carbon markets are going and a procurement strategy that gives them access to great projects.
South Pole has been a major player in the carbon markets for 15 years and has built expertise that starts with developing and managing carbon offset projects on the ground across the global South… What makes us unique is that we can leverage all this expertise for our clients to help them develop net zero strategies based on a sophisticated view of where the carbon markets are going and a procurement strategy that gives them access to great projects.
What excites you most about working for a carbon offset company?
While offsets are viewed by some as controversial, I think of them as a miracle… The voluntary carbon market has built a way for companies to to step up to help save and restore ecosystems around the world. When you look at the impact these projects have, it's truly awe-inspiring, not only in terms of carbon emissions avoided or removed, but also in terms of the environmental and social co-benefits these projects deliver. They are supporting women and children, improving health, and providing electricity in rural areas, to name a few.
And a whole new class of technology-based removal credits are coming, which should be part of driving the transformation to low carbon development in key industries. Of course, companies should use offsets only after they have reduced their carbon footprint to the full extent possible, in line with science. But at a fundamental level, the voluntary carbon market channels money from responsible companies who are ready to compensate for their current emissions to projects that save or restore huge swaths of the natural world or drive technical innovation. These are projects that desperately need this funding today and would not have the financial support they need if not for the funding coming from selling carbon credits.
What do you see as the main opportunities for US Corporations?
The US has many of the world's biggest and most innovative companies. They have an outsized impact on the world. Just like in everything else they do, they want to take a very innovative approach to sustainability and carbon offsets. That's where we come in, as we believe we have the most to offer in this regard. As US companies drive these new approaches, like tech-based approaches to offsets or new forms of removing carbon, they are helping to push the envelope for their peers in the US and around the world.
In the past we have seen companies stepping up and embracing corporate environmentalism when US political leadership was lacking. What do you expect to happen under the current administration?
The positive story here is that companies and our clients in the US realize that they have to step up, and many of them have. Corporate leaders realize that their success as a business, for their customers, for the employees, and for society at large depends on their climate leadership. As the impact of our changing climate starts to become more evident - things like fires and floods - we're only going to see more corporate leadership on climate action, regardless of what happens in Washington. That said, corporations can only do so much and we need good policy and government action and the current administration has proposed a host of policies that should help, but we're at a point now where companies aren't going to take their foot off the gas pedal.
US corporations are some of the most innovative, forward-looking businesses in the world, and we're embarking with them on a challenging journey, but one that can play a critical and exciting role in addressing climate change.
And as they drive to the net zero finish line, what will be the most important thing for South Pole and for our clients to keep focused on?
For South Pole, I am confident that the team in the US has the potential to become one of the highest contributing parts of the company, not only in terms of sheer volume of emission reductions but also in terms of innovation and impact. Our success will depend upon the success of our clients and our ability to partner with them to do big, ground-breaking climate actions and helping them along on their net zero journeys. US corporations are some of the most innovative, forward-looking businesses in the world, and we're embarking with them on a challenging journey, but one that can play a critical and exciting role in addressing climate change.
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