Client conversations: DLL about green leasing and triple wins
Our clients are the ones who enable us to pursue our mission to support smallholder farmers. We spoke with Erica Ward at DLL, one of our corporate clients. As DLL’s Sustainable Business Consultant, she provided various insights into the partnership between the financial solutions company and our own organization.
DLL is a global asset finance company for equipment and technology, supporting businesses in many industries. With a wealth of asset knowledge and active across a wide range of industries, DLL offers great potential for sustainable business approaches. Now that vendors are making strides to decarbonize their assets and value chain, one of the impactful interim solutions DLL offers to their vendor partners and customers is a brand new benefit: purchasing Acorn-issued carbon credits to help compensate for the estimated emissions generated by the average use of assets during the term of a contract (such as mobile devices, tractors, or excavators). Offering the Acorn carbon reduction units (“CRUs”) to help compensate emissions turned out to be highly compelling and very supporting in new business pitches.
We spoke to Erica Ward, DLL’s Sustainable Business Consultant, about her experiences working together with Acorn — and how our collaboration leads to win/win situations for our partners and the planet.
For those not fully familiar with DLL, they are the world’s leading vendor finance partner. DLL is recognized for its sustainability leadership within the equipment finance industry and is focused on supporting partners to make the required energy and agri-food transitions while increasing the circularity of the materials in the assets they finance. For example, they won Leasing Life’s 2022 awards for Best Vendor Finance Provider and Best ESG/Sustainability Initiative.
This focus on doing sustainable business led to purchasing approximately 2000 carbon reduction units ("CRUs") in two transactions of 1000 CRUs each. They will be used to compensate for the 'use-phase' emissions from assets in DLL's portfolio. The first 684 CRUs are already allocated to specific assets for equipment that is being built right now. These CRUs were derived from our Solidaridad Latin America Nicaragua and Farmstrong Commodities SA Ivory Coast projects.
Erica admits that initially, she was somewhat skeptical: “Carbon offsetting as a focus raised question marks. There are issues with the carbon credit market, like the existence of low-quality credits that neither provide real climate benefits nor socio-economic and biodiversity co-benefits. However, as I got familiar with the Acorn methodology it became clear that these credits are of high quality, that the model adds value, and that the program drives actual change on the ground. That Rabobank stands behind the team was also an additional signal of quality and impact. As with most things, when it comes to carbon credits, you get what you pay for. And as we continue to work together, it’s clear that Acorn’s focus on carbon removal aligns well with DLL’s focus on addressing assets’ use-phase emissions.”
Making sustainability less abstract
Still, it’s not all quite as straightforward. Ward notes: “The equipment solutions we finance can be a challenge when it comes to product offsetting. For example, when we finance laptops or cell phones, we must consider the sources of electricity used to charge the devices to correctly estimate the emissions versus calculating tailpipe emissions from construction equipment. While the CRUs we deliver to customers won’t factor into the manufacturer’s own enterprise carbon accounting and shouldn’t be used for reaching the Science Based Targets of our customers, we do get excited responses when we explain the Acorn program to them. Acorn provides a clear, human-centered story, on how this offering helps customers take climate action today while they work on deeper decarbonization of their value chain.”
One example of DLL’s transactions was with a construction equipment manufacturer that’s also active in the agriculture equipment sector. Ward: “Initially, they weren’t so sure. They had heard about quality variability in carbon credits and wanted to know if Acorn was reliable. After explaining Acorn to them and the robust monitoring and verification provided by following the Plan Vivo standard, they grew interested, especially because 80% of Acorn’s revenue flows back to farmers."
The involvement of certifier Plan Vivo helped cement Acorn as a respectable player in the carbon market, too. Ward: "And for us at DLL, it’s nice that there’s a clear story, a direct link between action and impact, and no complicated technical sustainability talk. It’s a concrete story, less abstract. It’s a good way to engage customers, and linking Acorn to our products and services turns it into a real B2B2B approach. Its effectiveness is clear. The first question people ask when we tell them about the program is: how much will it cost? Because they’re already sold on the story.”
To make its partners’ contributions to smallholder farmer livelihoods and a healthier planet even more concrete, DLL is taking various approaches to scale the initiative. “Working with Acorn’s CRUs provides us with flexibility in delivering solutions with our partners, whether that be on the manufacturer or customer side of our financing relationships,” says Ward.
All in all, a successful partnership. As Ward puts it: “Acorn is a highly impactful way to take climate action now, while working on deeper decarbonization of our portfolio. We have no regrets.”