Ecosystem Services Market Update: December, 2018


Posted Dec. 24, 2018

Good afternoon,
As we head into the last weekend of 2018, I wanted to share with you a recap of some of the remarkable progress we have made this year.

I left my CEO role of Climate Trust Capital in March and over the course of 10 months joined many of you to press diligently forward on the development of all the aspects an Ecosystem Services Market (ESM) needed to help advance sustainable agriculture and soil health.

Our collective work in this arena could not have come a moment too soon. The latest report from the New Climate Economy states that we are at a critical juncture announcing that the “next 10-15 years are a unique ‘use it or lose it’ moment in economic history.” With the right choices in energy, water and industry, food production and land use, and urbanization over the next 2-3 years we can release benefits that translate into a value of $26 trillion by 2030, create 65 million new low-carbon economy jobs, and avoid over 700,000 deaths from polluted air.

With this challenge and opportunity, succeeding at rolling out a national ESM program by 2022 is an imperative to me. The good news is that Debbie Reed and her protocol team have completed the draft integrated protocol that guides the creation of carbon and water ecosystem services impacts that can be used either as insets to meet supply chain targets or as offsets to meet scope 1 and 2 emission reduction targets. We have signed an MOU with the Gold Standard and are collaborating with their team to ensure that the ESM protocol aligns with their recently released “Value Chain (Scope 3) Interventions – Guidance for Soil Organic Carbon.”

We have spent a considerable amount of time engaging corporations and some of the prominent NGOs. In November we offered a preview of the ESM protocol to a number of food and beverage firms to seek feedback to incorporate into the final draft version of the methodology. We are teeing up another meeting with those corporate leaders in the spring of next year to share the final draft version of the protocol. This will also offer an opportunity to enroll producers in the various corporate supply sheds in the pilot phase to test the protocol. Feedback from the pilot phase in 2019/2020 will help improve the protocol and MRV approach. During the pilot phase, the protocol team will be drafting adaptations for the protocol to be applied to additional crop production systems and geographies around the country.

Now that we are past this formative stage of the ESM program, we have also addressed how to better advance the ESM program on a collaborative and inclusive basis. Collaboration is key to what the Noble Research Institute does, and it saw the power of establishing a research-focused Ecosystem Services Market Consortium to effectively enlist key stakeholders to address critical research questions to help drive the soil health agenda forward while being rooted in science and geared towards measurable outcomes. The proposed Consortium will bring together corporate & NGO stakeholders, sustainable agricultural experts, soil scientists, producers, buyers and sellers, and will fund critical research and science necessary for a viable, scalable, cost-effective ESM program implementation. This approach will move the ESM program from Noble to the Consortium framework. Noble will join the Soil Health Institute as a Founding Partner in the Consortium. Partners in the Consortium will drive the research and implementation agenda leveraging the appropriate and transparent governance and the dedicated committee and work group structure. More updates on the Consortium will be coming to you in the spring of ’19.

Thank you to many of you that have committed your time and energy in supporting the creation of this ambitious program. I look forward to more achievements in 2019!

Have a terrific New Year!

Sean Penrith
Gordian Knot Strategies


Noble Research Institute, LLC ( is an independent nonprofit agricultural research organization dedicated to delivering solutions to great agricultural challenges. Headquartered in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Noble Research Institute conducts fundamental, translational and applied research; offers no-cost consultation and education to farmers, ranchers and land managers; operates seven research and demonstration farms; and educates students of all ages about science and agriculture. The Noble Research Institute was founded by Lloyd Noble, an Oklahoma oilman and philanthropist, in 1945 as The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to advance agriculture and land stewardship.

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