Barbara Baarsma appointed CEO of the Rabo Carbon Bank

The top economist will lead a bank where carbon is the currency

On March 1, Barbara Baarsma, current chair of Rabobank Amsterdam, will start as CEO of the Rabo Carbon Bank. This new business initiative is developing propositions that will enable customers to contact the bank not only for financial transactions but also for buying and selling CO2 credits. The Carbon Bank develops projects that store CO2 in the trees and soil, in cooperation with farmers. The bank then mediates between parties that store CO2 and companies that want to reduce or compensate for their emissions. Under Baarsma’s leadership, Rabobank will accelerate and develop this initiative.

Rabobank launched its first Carbon Bank product on January 29, 2021: an agroforestry initiative in African countries. This initiative focuses on tree planting by 15 million small-scale farmers. By 2025, the goal is to capture about 150 megatons of CO2 equivalents (about 0.5% of annual global emissions). These farmers sell the units of bonded carbon to large corporates, which can compensate for their emissions. This CO2 storage not only provides farmers with a new source of income, the trees planted also improve their agricultural land and generate additional income through, for example, fruit harvesting.

Not money but carbon as currency

"Monetary appreciation of environmental goods has always fascinated me as an economist. My thesis at university was about it and I did research on how goods, which are not priced on the market can be priced with a price tag," says Barbara Baarsma. "That’s what the Rabo Carbon Bank is all about. It’s a bank where not money but carbon is the currency. It is fantastic that I can do this as a Rabobank banker."

Contributing to a climate-neutral economy & future-proof food system

Baarsma: “As a banker I feel like I’m a servant of the real economy. With the Rabo Carbon Bank we are realizing a new business model for the bank with which we can accelerate the movement toward a climate-neutral economy and stimulate a future-proof food system. This is an excellent opportunity for our cooperative bank. We are active throughout the food value chain. Not only do we have a global network in Food & Agri sectors, we also serve the major players in the market who want to address their CO2 emissions. We will work together with them to reduce their emissions and offer them validated CO2 storage capabilities with the Carbon Bank.”

Driving and strengthening carbon banking

“In order to achieve the Paris climate goals, it is essential that companies become more sustainable and reduce their net CO2 emissions to zero,” says Wiebe Draijer, chairman of Rabobank’s managing board. “Everyone has their role to play. Rabobank does this, among other things, by focusing on carbon banking. Thanks to Barbara’s expertise and determination, we can drive and strengthen this new development within the bank.”

Berry Marttin, member of the group board and responsible for Wholesale & Rural: “I’m delighted to have Barbara on board. In the near future, we will further set up and expand the Rabo Carbon Bank with various projects and initiatives. Ultimately, we want to involve the entire value chain in this movement.”

Baarsma has been the chair of Rabobank Amsterdam since January 1, 2019. The process for finding her successor has started.

Curriculum vitae Barbara Baarsma

Barbara Baarsma joined Rabobank in 2016. Until 2019 she was Director of Knowledge Development and responsible for RaboResearch. In this capacity, she developed the Rabobank-wide knowledge agenda and the design for the knowledge organization. From 2019 to March 1, 2021, she was chair of the executive board of Rabobank Amsterdam. In addition to her work at Rabobank, Baarsma is professor of applied economics at the University of Amsterdam. She is also chair of the Bank Council of DNB and a member of the Monitoring Committee Corporate Governance, the Dutch Committee for Entrepreneurship and the Advisory Board of the Taskforce Korte Keten (short chains). From 2012 to 2019 she was crown member of the Social Economic Council (SER).

Published: February 15 2021, 06:00 CET

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