Helping volunteers make a difference: The need for full disclosure in offset programs

Date: 13, Jan, 2020
Author(s):   Martine Maron, Winnifred Louis
Publisher: TSR Hub

Project 5.1 People who volunteer their time, resources or land for environmental restoration projects typically want to make a difference to the environment. They should therefore be aware of whether the restoration they are participating in is part of an environmental offset. An offset, after all, is a condition of approval for a permitted loss. When mandated as an offset, restoration work must take place whether volunteers contribute to it or not, so in that case volunteers’ contributions might be replacing work that would otherwise be done by a commercial provider. When restoration work is funded by offsets, the net environmental outcome is usually intended to be neutral, not an environmental gain, because the benefit of the restoration is tied to a loss elsewhere. Volunteers generally only see the gain that they help achieve, not the corresponding loss it may be designed to offset, and so it is not always clear that their efforts result in no net gain. We argue, therefore, for transparency and full disclosure to volunteers, donors and landholders about mandated offsets.