Who We Are
VCS is committed to helping reduce emissions, improve livelihoods and protect natural resources across the private and public sectors. We support climate action and sustainable development with standards, tools and programs that credibly, transparently and robustly assess environmental and social impacts and enable funding for sustaining and scaling up these benefits. We work in any arena where we see a need for clear standards, a role for market-based mechanisms and an opportunity to achieve environmental and social good.
What We Do
VCS develops and manages standards and frameworks to vet environmental and sustainable development efforts, build their capacity, and connect them to funding. By ensuring that our standards are robust, practical and transparent, we can accurately quantify benefits and drive investment in responsible, high-performing projects and programs. We work closely with civil society, governments and the private sector to develop novel frameworks and enable results on the ground. We continue to bring our expertise in standard development and program management from our flagship voluntary carbon market program into new fields, to increase the scope and scale of our impact.
All of our programs undergo extensive stakeholder consultation and expert review, and draw from four key components: standards, assessment, accounting methodologies, and registries.
How We Do It
Standard: Establishes the core rules and requirements that must be met for any project, program or activity to be certified under the framework. Depending on the circumstances, our standards may set out higher-level requirements or, for more complex endeavors, include more detailed rules and procedures.
Assessment: Ensures that projects, programs and activities meet our standards. Where standards require independent auditing or verification, we establish processes for accrediting auditors, overseeing their work, and sanctioning them if they underperform. We provide support and oversight to established accreditation programs to ensure cost-effective and high-quality independent auditing.
Accounting Methods: Allow for the determination of baselines (ie, what would have happened in the absence of the project, policy or program) and set out specific parameters for measuring, accounting and monitoring impacts.
Registry: Displays the performance of projects, programs or activities to allow tracking of results or, in some cases, tradable units. The final programmatic component of a typical standards framework and essential to functioning certification markets, registries provide tracking services to accountholders and transparent project documentation to the public.
Our Programs and Initiatives
Currently, VCS manages the following:
- VCS Program. Our flagship program allows vetted projects to turn their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions into tradable carbon credits. Since its launch in 2006, the VCS Program has grown into the world’s largest voluntary carbon credit market. The program has registered more than 1,300 carbon reduction projects worldwide that have reduced or removed more than 185 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere.
- VCS Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) Framework. As part of the VCS Program, JNR provides guidance to governments to support the design, implementation and integration of projects and programs that conserve and enhance forests at national and sub-national levels and leverage carbon finance. One of the defining features of JNR is its ability to provide a pathway for individual projects and private investment to play a role in REDD+, thereby enabling much-needed finance and know how to address deforestation at scale.
- Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Program. The CCB Program leads in shepherding and promoting the design, implementation and independent assessment of multiple-benefit land-based climate change projects. Verification to the CCB Standards ensures that projects are improving livelihoods, creating employment, protecting traditional cultures and endangered species, and helping secure tenure to lands and resources, as well as making a key contribution to combating climate change.
- VCS California Offset Project Registry (OPR). Under California’s cap-and-trade system, entities covered by the cap may purchase and retire carbon credits generated by GHG reduction projects as a way to satisfy a portion of their regulatory obligations. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has approved VCS as an Offset Project Registry, meaning VCS helps ARB administer this aspect of the cap-and-trade program. As the global leader in the voluntary carbon market, VCS is uniquely equipped to support market participants within the California system.
VCS is also actively engaged in initiatives that will help to drive more investment in actions designed to protect the environment and promote sustainable development:
- Initiative for Climate Action Transparency. The Initiative is building a methodological framework which countries will be able to use to transparently measure and assess the impacts of their climate policies and actions. This includes guidance for measuring the effects of these policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as their ability to respond to sustainable development needs and drive transformational change. Working initially with 20 developing countries, the initiative aims to help governments build capacity to measure the effects of their policies and report progress publicly. The aim is to foster greater transparency, effectiveness, trust and ambition in climate policies worldwide.
- Landscape Standard (LS). The Landscape Standard is being designed to enable the streamlined assessment of the key environmental, social and economic outcomes associated with sustainable agricultural landscapes, and to help link these to emerging green supply chain incentives and diversified sources of finance. The LS aims to address natural and agricultural systems together, so that both agricultural production and ecosystem services can be maintained.
VCS was founded in 2005 by environmental and business leaders who saw the need for greater quality assurance in voluntary carbon markets. We now serve as a secretariat for the various standards we develop and programs we manage, as well as an incubator of new ideas that can generate meaningful environmental and social value at scale. The strategic direction of VCS is set by both staff and the VCS Board of Directors. Our headquarters are in Washington, DC, and we have staff working remotely in various parts of the world. VCS is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Initiative for Climate Action Transparency
Supporting countries around the world in the evaluation of the climate, sustainable development and transformational impacts of their policies and actions
Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards
Supporting land use projects in addressing climate change, supporting local communities and smallholders and conserving biodiversity