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Toco Turns Local Economic Activity into Environmental Wealth

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Toco's Paul Rowett

Stellenbosch resident and businessman, Paul Rowett, along with his co-founders Joe Pretorius and Niel Schoeman, have found a solution for communities such as Stellenbosch to  work together to reduce their carbon footprint by creating a currency called Toco. The initiative removes carbon from the atmosphere and supports global efforts to halve carbon emissions by 2030.

Toco is short for Tonne of OCO, the molecular formula for carbon dioxide. The platform enables easy climate action by turning everyday purchases into carbon reductions.

Each Toco represents one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere, and which has been independently verified as carbon emission reductions. It can be used to pay for services and products, or to count achieved carbon reductions.

According to Rowett, Toco’s mission was born out of the founders’ own sense of frustration: “We realised that until society could become far less dependent on fossil fuels or habitually start placing more value on natural resources, the world would need climate action solutions that could put the power back into the average person’s hands. Instinctively, we knew it had to be something everyone could adopt into their daily lives with relative ease. Money and daily transactions ticked all those boxes.”

Rowett explains the importance of this solution to retail, “We know that we cannot survive without our natural resources on the planet, but currently there aren’t enough incentivised ways to prioritise natural resources. Whether it’s buying a coffee at a coffee shop, a glass of wine or lunch at a restaurant, or whether it’s to attend a yoga class or get a haircut, we’re asking the community that instead of spending in Rands, they spend in Toco. And every time they spend in Toco, they exchange tons of carbon for goods and services.” “We’re trying to make climate action easy for everyone,” he added.

With the team’s combined decades of business and tech experience, the solution came into being a carbon-based currency and global payment platform. The result is that “money” can be stored as tonnes of carbon in a digital wallet on mobile phones, turning everyday purchases into climate action. Toco’s blockchain-based payment platform supports all financial, regulatory, and compliance systems.

Unlike cryptocurrencies, Toco’s blockchain is non-anonymous and permission, requiring users to verify their identities (similar to opening a bank account). Commenting on the role technology plays in their business operations, Rowett said they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without technology.

“Our favourite use of technology is blockchain, because of its infinite scalability, security and use case as a payments network. We are not a cryptocurrency because we are centralised and verify all the users, meaning they are traceable,” says Rowett. With the Stellenbosch project, the team set out to demonstrate how communities and businesses alike could collectively create demand for carbon removal through something as simple as their daily transactions.

“Since launching, we’ve had phenomenal buy-in from both merchants and the community of Stellenbosch,” says Rowett. “There is a groundswell of excitement every time the penny drops that this is not only an evolution of money – it is a practical way to take care of the planet. Yes, it is money. But reimagined, responsible and digital.”

In the next three to six months, the team will continue focusing on the adoption of Toco, and to get even more users engaged and signed up. Plans are already underway to introduce the initiative into the rest of South Africa, and then the rest of the world.

Rowett concludes: “The community of Stellenbosch can be proud of the difference it’s already making – they are the early pioneers of a new economy based on reducing carbon, not creating it. Stellenbosch is leading the way to show the world how a community’s collective action has the power to make the seemingly impossible idea of reversing climate change a reality.”

To connect with Toco, visit their website at www.tocos.org

Text: Editorial Desk | Image: Supplied