Founded in 2005, the Voluntary Carbon Standards (VCS) program has become one of the world’s most widely used carbon accounting standards. Operated by the Voluntary Carbon Standards Association (VCSA), the VCS program has revolutionized the voluntary carbon market by developing trusted tools, such as standardized methods that streamline the project approval process, reduce transaction costs and enhance transparency. As the international carbon market continues to evolve, VCS has brought new program innovations that allow for emission reductions on a large scale. Today, a growing professional staff with offices around the world manages the VCS program.
In just a few short years, more than 1,180 registered projects have collectively removed over 130 million tons of emissions from the atmosphere, a number roughly equivalent to removing 28 million cars from the road. The records for these and many ongoing projects is maintained in the VCS Project Database. This storehouse of information and methodologies is used to validate projects per VCS criteria and to issue verified carbon units (VCU) under the program. Every VCU can be tracked from issuance to retirement in the database, allowing buyers to ensure every credit is real, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered, and fully traceable online.
“The challenge we faced was that VCSA and the carbon trading marketplace were growing extremely fast, and we were handling all the project tracking and client interactions through Excel spreadsheets,” says Elizabeth Silverstein, Program Officer for VCSA. “To keep pace with our growth, we needed a much more sophisticated CRM software solution to manage it all. So we turned to Affiliated for help.”
“We’re not a typical salesoriented business, yet Affiliated was able to figure out how to adapt the CRM tool to meet our unique needs. Their team’s ingenuity helped us to improve the way we do business.”
– Elizabeth Silverstein, VCSA Program Officer
Affiliated Implements Microsoft Dynamics CRM
In mid-2013, the Washington, D.C-based VSCA contacted Affiliated, located in Columbus, Ohio, to help improve their business processes. After conducting an extensive business review, Affiliated recommended Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Online. Being a cloud-based solution, it eliminated any maintenance or hardware issues, which was important to VCS because they had no IT staff.
In less than six months, Affiliated designed a unique solution for VSCA by configuring and customizing Dynamics CRM, implementing the solution, and training the VCSA staff located in offices worldwide. “What we appreciate the most from Affiliated is their flexibility in tailoring CRM to our business model,” says Silverstein. “We’re not a typical client in a sales-oriented business, yet they figured out how to adapt the CRM tool to our unique needs.”
Centralizing Global Knowledge
VCS stakeholders include multinationals, governments and local villages from more than 50 countries. It’s the role of VCSA to bring both breadth and credibility to the vital function of calculating and monetizing greenhouse gas (GHG) performance across the full spectrum of the global economy. Tracking workflow on projects and methodologies, therefore, is key to verifying the authenticity of carbon units on projects as diverse as setting up a wind farm to saving a forest.
With Dynamics CRM installed, VCSA greatly improved the way it manages and tracks critical interactions with stakeholders, such as meetings, inquiries and basic contact information. CRM streamlined the way VCSA is able to track ongoing projects and methodologies, track payments received or outstanding, and share links with relevant documents. “Compared to our old system where we emailed spreadsheets to one another, CRM saves us tremendous time and labor,” Silverstein says.
“Affiliated and Microsoft Dynamics CRM has helped us become more efficient with our time while centralizing information and knowledge for staff and stakeholders worldwide”
– Linda Price, VCSA Office Administrator
Automating Key Workflows
As a worldwide operation, centralizing all information, knowledge and project histories has made life easier for VCSA’s global staff as well. For example, each approved decision — say, a carbon unit verified on a farm in Tanzania — is now stored within the CRM system, creating an audit trail that’s easy to review, at any time, from anywhere. “Data that could take a day to retrieve because of time zones, now takes seconds,” Silverstein says. The CRM solution also automates critical workflows, such as regular project reviews, that staff previously tracked manually. Today, that approach would be problematic, due to the rapid growth of voluntary carbon trading and the heavier workloads of VCSA’s global staff.
“We now control 60 percent of the global voluntary carbon market,” Silverstein says. “Affiliated’s implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is helping us grow and keep pace with the expanding market. At the same time, we’ve become more responsive and transparent to stakeholders, which truly sets us apart. We’re a more efficient organization today.”
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