Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Primary Reader: Dr. James Hagan, University of Pennsylvania

Secondary Reader: Ira Feldman, University of Pennsylvania

Tertiary Reader: Dr. Roger Raufer, Private Consultant


There is no need to choose between preventing climate change and promoting economic growth and development. In fact, many sources now agree that responding to climate change will create significant business opportunities. This paper examines the role that one of those opportunities—the voluntary carbon market—plays in helping business grow sustainably and in promoting innovation. Carbon markets and credits, which are an increasingly popular way of limiting the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions, are a great example of an effective climate change response with potential business implications. While the world of carbon markets is increasingly uncertain, the voluntary market remains a source of growth and innovation. The three cases examined here showcase different traits and capabilities of the voluntary carbon market (VCM). We learn that the VCM is capable of supporting small businesses with unique business models in Africa, of helping large businesses achieve corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals in the United States, and of promoting conservation and increasing the value of ecosystem services in Peru. The VCM is thus an important resource for promoting sustainable development across the globe and is a powerful complement to existing mandatory carbon markets.



Date Posted: 10 April 2015