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A TerraPass and industry first: presenting our 2004-2005 verification report

We’re proud to release our 2004/2005 Verification report (pdf). Based on an agreement with Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), creator of the Green-e program, this report details our impact for the year, the sales-supply balance and our distribution of offset projects. The good news, in case you’re wondering, is that we passed!

As we have discussed, accountability in carbon offsets is a crucial issue. We view verification as a crucial part of our promise to members that we have achieved reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and that their money has been put to good use.

It doesn’t stop there. We, along with CRS, hope to extend this pilot program into an industry-wide program. That means attracting other industry participants as well as getting feedback on what types of projects qualify for a Green-e like program. The CRS announcement went out this morning and I’m happy to say that NRDC, WRI, Interface Fabrics, climate change experts Seth Baruch and Terry Surles, and others will also participate in a new GHG Advisory Group to help shepherd through a program.

Finally, we know a lot of other social entrepreneurs starting out could benefit from such rigorous third-party auditing. The audit was several months back, but here are a few very simple things that could help your team get through a session.

  1. Get organized: Familiarize yourself with all the files your are going to present, and all transaction systems you have ever used. Pay particular attention to records occurring around system changeovers.
  2. Get detailed: CRS performed a statistical audit, selecting over a hundred of our transactions for closer inspection. The more detail you have ready to present, the easier it is to get through this process. Make sure transaction-level detail is available in your system — don’t roll up information into aggregates.
  3. Understand the exceptions: We use searchable email to track all returns, exchanges and adjustments. As luck would have it, CRS asked about Mr. Jones — a customer who was issued a replacement TerraPass and then ultimately took advantage of our money back guarantee. Because the paper trail was organized and searchable, we could quickly present a case history to CRS.
  4. Alert everyone who ever worked in customer service: Since this was our first year of audits, some questions went all the way back to 2004. Fortunately, all of our staff from the company’s early days was available to clear up questions about early customer records. Our audit took many hours, so make sure you have resources blocked for enough time.
  5. Use the process as an improvement workshop: We took ample notes during the process as we thought about steps in our customer process or data systems we could improve upon for next year. This is one of the few times an outsider is going to look at your inner workings, so make it worthwhile.
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