LiveNeutral shifts into drive

A nonprofit environmental organization based in the Presidio has found a formula for growth, adding consulting services to major businesses such as agricultural chemical giant DuPont to its original carbon-offset business.

LiveNeutral, originally called DriveNeutral, started as a project by several masters in business administration students at the Presidio School of Management in 2005. It is still run by MBA grad Jason Smith, 29.

Devoted to educating people about climate change, its newest venture involves developing internal Web sites for major companies so employees can learn about what the company has done to change its environmental footprint, and make changes to their own lives, Smith said.

EI DuPont de Nemours & Co. (DD) and American Electric Power Co. Inc. (AEP) are among its first clients in the new field, which has allowed LiveNeutral to hire three more staff members, Smith said.

“We integrate their branding elements with our own Web site — with, of course, added copy to teach folks about DuPont’s stance on the environment,” Smith said. DuPont reduced its greenhouse gas emission more than 70 percent below 1990 levels, according to a spokeswoman.

“That’s pretty much unprecedented in the corporate world,” Smith said.

A DuPont spokeswoman confirmed that DuPont is using LiveNeutral’s services, but declined to comment further.

LiveNeutral hopes to find new clients, add a couple more staff members and start offering internships, Smith said. It continues to host its own Web site, www.liveneutral.org, which offers tips for people hoping to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by their drives, airplane flights and other activities, and sells “carbon offsets” through the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The exchange allows companies to make voluntary but legally binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to sell “credits” for surpluses to other companies that are not meeting their stated goals.

“There’s some debate over the relative worth of carbon credits,” said Sharky Laguana, owner of San Francisco van-rentals-to-rock-bands company Bandago, which recently bought enough credits to offset its entire fleet through LiveNeutral. “I wanted something that was verified and audited by a third party, and the easiest way to do that was to go through the Chicago Climate Exchange.”

LiveNeutral is not the only carbon-offset enterprise in The City. TerraPass, a for-profit company, is also headquartered here, and the sector is booming, Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorn said. The club, concerned about a lack of regulation, advises people to make changes in their own lives first, he said.

kwilliamson@examiner.com


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