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DigFin Green: Max Song, Carbonbase

Carbonbase is building fintech platforms to support sustainable investments worldwide.



DigFin Green is our series profiling founders of fintech companies addressing environment, social and governance (ESG) solutions, using technology to power financial services towards sustainable outcomes. Contact us if you would like to be included.

Max Song has been involved throughout his career in blockchain, venture investing, and sustainability. Based in Hong Kong, he served as partner at local blockchain startup blockdynamics, founded the Global Solutions Festival in Beijing, and served as a venture partner at Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group.

He set up Carbonbase in January 2020 to build fintech platforms that can facilitate sustainable investments for a global audience.

The following remarks are taken from a webinar organized by the Fintech Association of Hong Kong in October on blockchain in carbon markets as part of a FTAHK content series focused on ESG.

What problem are you addressing?

We’re bringing blockchain and data science to carbon markets. The world’s experienced a technology wave, the penetration of data science, the rise of the internet of things, and the advent of blockchain to handle large amounts of information.

Now there’s a big need to focus this tech wave on our environment. 

Carbonbase is focused on retail participation. People don’t feel they can contribute to stopping climate change. We’ve developed an app to incentivize people to understand their true emissions footprint. Can people take responsibility for their own emissions? We can give them a calculator, an easy way to choose to invest in projects to offset their own footprint.

What does Carbonbase do?

We’re building on blockchain a universal public record so people can show their contributions to mitigating climate change. It comes with a loyalty program with incentives for referrals – if you bring more people to the network – or do more to contribute to offsets.

There are four components to Carbonbase. First is the calculator and the offset tool. Second is a unified green account. There are a lot of activities out there, a lot of tech solutions, to develop carbon markets, but they’re fragmented. We want to integrate these.

Third, once these other aspects are set up, we want to facilitate community interactions to drive participation. The final aspect is a blockchain to record everything.

What does this look like in practice?

one example: Ant Forest, run by Ant Group, which is the world’s largest consumer-facing app for taking action against climate change. They have around 500 million users contributing to the planting of 100 million trees in China. That’s really impressive. But Ant Forest operates within the closed loop of Alibaba, and it’s only available in China.

Now imagine a multi-stakeholder version of this, and that’s Carbonbase. Today we are facilitating the purchase of carbon credits. Next we are going to work with project developers to drive individual and institutional interest in building more projects, creating more demand guarantees for project offtake. There are hundreds of thousands of projects that invest in offsetting their emissions, and we want to scale that.

To date, investors can’t be confident of a company’s offset claim without a lot of manual checks. With IoT and data science we can see what’s happening in supply chains and company business operations, and develop real-time measurements of personal or corporate footprints.

What else do we need to know?

The carbon offset world is a voluntary market, with NGOs certifying the claims of huge corporations. There’s huge potential to apply measurements, obtain data from remote sensors at the point of offset, and to capture the local context, be it at a power plant, or in the rainforest, or at a distribution point.

Blockchain serves as the pathway for all of this information. It can solve problems regarding the opacity of carbon offsets being handled by so many unknown actors.

When big companies make a commitment to be carbon neutral, it should be taken seriously by their shareholders. These companies will need to invest more to ensure the source of their carbon credit is legitimate, and that the offset process has been correct. That’s how we can help. It’s their reputation on the line.

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