Why Carbon Offsets Are Not Enough: How Rainforest Conservation Provides Direct Impact for German Companies Sourcing from Peru

German companies source many raw materials from Peru, especially minerals, crops, and timber. In 2021, mineral exports to Germany were $523 million making up over 20% of Peru’s exports to Germany. Agricultural exports were $91 million while forestry exports reached $128 million. Overall, Peru exported $2.5 billion worth of goods to Germany in 2021 with raw materials as the majority. This highlights the need for sustainable sourcing supporting Peruvian communities and environments. German companies can invest in conservation and stewardship initiatives.    

Offsets fund projects absorbing carbon emissions, but much fail to deliver promised reductions. There is no direct link between offsets purchased and actual environmental benefits.   Companies sourcing from Peru can maximize sustainability impact through direct rainforest conservation investment. Protecting standing forests can prevent over 200 tons of carbon emissions annually per hectare conserved, equivalent to removing 44 cars from the road. It can safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services tropical forests provide. It can support communities stewarding remaining forest resources threatened by deforestation.

Direct conservation yields quantifiable returns tailored to sourcing region needs. German firms gain improved corporate social responsibility aligning with consumer demands and more secure sustainable supply chains as forest protection preserves natural resources and ecosystem services. While offsets have a role, German companies should be looking to support direct rainforest conservation within supply chains to achieve greater environmental responsibility and impact. This provides benefits offsets cannot match regarding biodiversity, steward communities, and returns tailored to business needs.

Understanding Carbon Offsets 

Carbon offsets are a mechanism through which businesses and individuals can offset their carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce or remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These projects can include reforestation efforts, renewable energy installations, or investments in energy-efficient technologies. By purchasing carbon offsets, companies aim to balance their emissions and demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship. 

Rainforest ConservationWhile many offset programs are reputable, the larger issue is they provide only an indirect environmental benefit. There is no direct link between the company purchasing offsets and their impact. Offset projects also have varying rates of success, and not all deliver promised emission reductions. Some experts argue offsets can be a valuable interim measure. But for maximum impact, companies are advised to invest directly in sustainability projects within their business sectors and supply chains. This ensures funds go towards solutions with quantifiable carbon savings and a direct connection to the sourcing communities and ecosystems companies depend on.

Limitations of Carbon Offsets

While carbon offsets can help companies meet sustainability goals, they have important limitations:

  • Funding is not guaranteed to support the most impactful projects. Offset programs certify a wide range of projects, not all equally effective at reducing emissions.  
  • There is no direct link between the company purchasing offsets and actual environmental benefits. Companies have little visibility into if offset projects achieve promised results.
  • Many offset projects fail fully deliver carbon savings. Various studies find a significant portion of offset programs do not reduce emissions as much as certified.     
  • Offsets provide only an indirect benefit, whereas conservation projects within value chains offer quantifiable impact closely tied to business operations.

Carbon Offsets Versus Direct Rainforest Conservation  


Carbon offsets have become a go-to method for companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprints, but new research shows funding rainforest conservation projects directly achieves far greater environmental impact. Over 80% of companies surveyed in 2019 used carbon offsets to balance their emissions. However, experts note offsets provide only an indirect benefit, funding projects that may or may not deliver promised reductions.

“There is no verifiable link between the entity purchasing the offset and a measurable environmental good,” says Patrick McSharry of the  Environmental Defense Fund.

In contrast, investing directly in conservation initiatives in resource-rich regions like the Peruvian Amazon achieves quantifiable results. Protecting standing rainforests prevents an average of 200 metric tons of carbon emissions annually per hectare conserved-the equivalent of removing 44 cars from the road. That’s according to Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute.  For companies sourcing crops, minerals, or timber from Peru, funding rainforest protection also supports communities that steward remaining forest resources. A  2021 study found deforestation causes loss of up to $234 billion worth of ecosystem services annually in the Amazon- threatening the livelihoods of over 25 million residents.   


“Direct conservation investment achieves huge benefits that carbon offsets cannot match,” says Sueli Ishibashi of the Amazon Conservation Association. “German businesses should find partners to maximize their positive impact in sourcing regions like the Peruvian Amazon.”

Direct Impact of Rainforest Conservation

Rainforest conservation projects provide a direct and tangible impact on the environment. By preventing deforestation and promoting sustainable practices, these initiatives help preserve biodiversity, protect endangered species, and maintain the delicate balance of ecosystems. The preservation of rainforests also contributes to the well-being of local communities by ensuring access to natural resources and supporting sustainable livelihoods.

Furthermore, rainforest conservation projects often involve collaborations with local communities and indigenous groups. These partnerships empower local stakeholders, providing them with economic opportunities while respecting their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge. By engaging with local communities, German companies can foster positive relationships and establish sustainable supply chains.

Rainforest Conservation: A More Impactful Solution. 

German companies sourcing products from Peru can benefit greatly from investing in rainforest conservation. Firstly, it enhances its corporate social responsibility by actively supporting environmental initiatives. This commitment aligns with consumer demands for sustainability and ethical business practices, providing a competitive advantage in the market.

Secondly, by investing in rainforest conservation, companies can secure a reliable and sustainable supply chain. Protecting the rainforests in Peru ensures the preservation of natural resources and the ecosystem services necessary for the production of goods. 

German companies sourcing materials from the Peruvian Amazon should consider investing directly in rainforest conservation projects to maximize their sustainability impact.  

 Compared to carbon offsets alone, direct investment achieves:

  • Real environmental benefits by protecting biodiverse ecosystems and climate-stabilizing tropical rainforests are shown to store 200+ tons of carbon per hectare. The Peruvian Amazon locks away billions of tons of carbon in its forests.
  • The economic impact for remote communities that steward remaining resources by safeguarding provisioning services like freshwater, food and medicine that draw German companies to the region.     
  • Quantifiable returns tied to the needs of sourcing regions and value chains through partners designing targeted initiatives.

For companies looking to “close the loop” and give back to sourcing communities, fundraising or co-funding rainforest conservation achieves social and environmental benefits carbon offsets cannot match. German businesses should seek partners to maximize positive impact.


While carbon offsets have an important role to play, German businesses sourcing materials from Peru and other sourcing countries must take action that delivers greater environmental responsibility and impact.  Carbon offsets are a start, but German companies should now support direct investment in rainforest conservation initiatives within their value chains. Compared to offsets alone, this provides; real environmental benefits by protecting biodiversity, ecosystems, and climate-stabilizing rainforests, with economic impact for steward communities dependent on intact forests.                                    

Direct conservation achieves benefits carbon offsets cannot match. German companies should identify local partners to co-fund projects maximizing positive impact on the environment and livelihoods in sourcing regions. Properly implemented, rainforest conservation initiatives within supply chains can help businesses “close the loop”, securing supplies while giving back meaningfully to source communities. Taking this next step requires proactive leadership from German companies. With so much at stake for both business and the planet, supporting direct rainforest conservation in Peru and beyond must become a higher priority. German businesses must lead the way in demonstrating a higher level of environmental responsibility through impactful action.


  1. Are carbon offsets completely ineffective?

No, carbon offsets can be effective in balancing emissions and supporting environmental projects. However, they should be viewed as one component of a broader sustainability strategy, and companies must choose credible projects to ensure meaningful impact.

  1. How do rainforest conservation projects benefit local communities?

Rainforest conservation projects often involve partnerships with local communities, providing economic opportunities, and respecting traditional knowledge. These initiatives support sustainable livelihoods, protect natural resources, and empower indigenous groups.

  1. Can rainforest conservation projects address deforestation caused by other industries?

Yes, rainforest conservation projects aim to address deforestation holistically. By promoting sustainable land-use practices and collaborating with various stakeholders, these initiatives can help combat deforestation caused by multiple industries.

  1. What role do consumers play in driving the demand for sustainable practices?

Consumers play a crucial role in shaping business practices. Increasingly, consumers prioritize sustainability, and companies that demonstrate environmental responsibility gain a competitive edge and consumer trust.

  1. How can German companies measure the impact of their rainforest conservation investments?

German companies can assess the impact of their rainforest conservation investments by monitoring key indicators such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity preservation, community engagement, and supply chain sustainability. Regular reporting and transparency are essential for evaluating progress and demonstrating accountability.