On 17 January 2023 Australian Mutual Bank was contacted by the ABC’s Four Corners television program. Four Corners advised that they had investigated a carbon offset project in Papua New Guinea and that they wanted to discuss their concerns with Australian carbon neutral businesses that had bought some of the project’s carbon offsets.

As part of Australian Mutual Bank’s commitment to sustainability, we took up the carbon neutrality challenge in 2021. We followed the government’s Climate Active website guidance and we are proud of our carbon neutrality status and that we have materially reduced our emissions.

In order to achieve carbon neutrality we purchased 269 carbon credits, to a value of approximately $7,000, from the NIHT Topaiyo REDD+ Project in December 2022.

The PNG project is accredited by Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the voluntary offsets market.

When deciding on the supplier of the carbon credits, Australian Mutual Bank's employee working group decided on a mix of domestic and international offsets. The Papua New Guinea project was chosen as PNG is our closest neighbour and the prevention of deforestation would have a positive impact on economic and social wellbeing of the local communities.

According to the project's website, NIHT Topaiyo REDD+ is an initiative intended to end deforestation from unsustainable logging practices on the island province of New Ireland and works to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect Papua New Guinea’s rich and increasingly threatened biodiversity.

The project contributes to better sanitation, clean energy, educational opportunities and employment for locals of New Ireland, with landowners receiving 56% of profits from the project’s revenue (source: https://www.nihtinc.com).

When initially deciding to participate in the carbon neutrality challenge, Australian Mutual Bank's emissions were calculated and audited. From this initial benchmark, steps to avoid and reduce emissions have been implemented and we have reduced our carbon emissions by 35% in 2022.

Australian Mutual Bank is a relatively low emission emitter and offsets are purchased only for the residual emissions that we are making continuous efforts to reduce. Our aim is to reduce our emissions, not to buy offsets. However, we recognise that the residual emissions that we can’t avoid should be offset.

Australian Mutual Bank is also very disappointed that the PNG project’s integrity is under question, as the purchase of this modest amount of offsets was done in good faith and for a good purpose.

Australian Mutual Bank and other small and medium enterprises must have faith in a carbon offset accreditation system as it would not make sense for us to conduct our own due diligence. We don’t have the internal skills to make such judgements, and we would likely be creating materially more emissions that we would then need to further offset.

Our deeper concern is that mistrust of the carbon offset project accreditation system may cause organisations to not begin their own carbon neutrality pursuit and carbon emission reduction and this would be a poor outcome.

Australian Mutual Bank expects that the Verra carbon offset registry will consider this controversy and take necessary action to ensure the ongoing integrity of the project.

Australian Mutual Bank will continue to monitor this controversy and we will take any necessary actions to ensure that the projects we support align with our sustainability objectives.

Mark Worthington

13 February 2023