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From technical documentation to global conferences, the use of the acronym “MRV” has become widespread. What does it mean and why does it matter in the race to achieve net-zero emissions goals? What do you need to know about MRV solutions—and the provider who has built them—when planning your sustainability projects?
With more than five years of experience with multibillion-dollar consumer brands, Indigo Ag is the leader in MRV solutions in agriculture. Here Chris Brown, Senior Director of Product Management at Indigo Ag, breaks down MRV for us.
Let’s start at the beginning: What is MRV?
Chris Brown: MRV stands for “monitoring, reporting, and verification,” although some variations exist where the “m” stands for “measurement.” Originating from the carbon crediting world, MRV ensures the credibility of environmental impact assessments and interventions.
Is there a standard way of thinking about MRV?
C.B: No, MRV solutions vary. Different providers offer diverse approaches that come with different confidence intervals and that support a range of projects, from carbon credits to scope 3 accounting. If you want your company's sustainability projects to pass any policy, compliance, or, regulatory tests that are sure to come in the near future, take a good look at what MRV providers have to offer on a case-by-case basis.
What differentiates MRV solutions?
C.B: When it comes down to it, every MRV solution has its own strengths and weaknesses. There can be variations in how emission sources and cycles are understood and calculated, what data from the environment are collected and assessed, and which outcomes are understood in the end—either greenhouse gas abatement, or removal, or both.
C.B: Consider these three aspects:
- Clear source of data: Buyers should understand how numbers are generated and how confident their provider is in those numbers.
- Emission sources: Differentiate between GHG sources, the drivers of the emissions, whether the emissions changes are reversible (removals) and irreversible (abatements) emissions (and ideally be able to calculate both).
- Future implications: Ensure the provider is prepared for ongoing obligations and understands permanence and/or auditing requirements. You’ll want the results of your projects to endure for a long time—the MRV program you choose will need to last just as long.
How would a potential buyer begin to evaluate MRV solutions?
C.B: First, get a wide and diverse group of employees together—everyone at your company who will be impacted by this decision. Involve stakeholders from procurement, sustainability, and strategy. And then make sure everyone has the resources they need to understand what they’re actually looking at—what’s important about it and what’s not. Go as deep as you can in understanding the program you’re potentially going to purchase—don’t just check a box.
When the time comes, how would that buyer choose an MRV solution?
C.B: Kick things off by sending out a thorough request for proposal (RFP). Check out vendors based on quality, long-term impact, and if they meet your standards. Don't hesitate to chat with several vendors—it's a fast-moving market. Make sure the MRV program you're looking at is transparent about how they achieve results and open to an audit in the future. (It’s likely to be required at some point.)
How should you stay connected with this MRV provider?
C.B: Most of the communication traditionally happens around the annual reporting cycle, but getting updates from your provider more often is quickly becoming the new normal. Push for more timely insights so you can track progress as the year goes along.
What makes Indigo Ag’s MRV solution high quality and a leader in the industry?
C.B: First and foremost, we bring a wealth of experience in carbon crediting and scope 3 emissions accounting. Through direct farmer engagement, low-cost but high-touch technologies, and a strategy of continuous improvement, we have a track record of helping the biggest brands in the world—from Anheuser-Busch to Nestlé—reduce freshwater usage and greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chain.
We've acquired and built a stack of capabilities needed to conduct field-level MRV at scale. At the foundation of the stack, we have tools to help capture and verify farming practice data. We acquired remote sensing and satellite capabilities for field identification and practice identification. We have integrations with major tractor and farm management systems to bring in data already captured in other systems. Our goal is to make capturing that data efficient, but also credible.
The next layer of our MRV stack is then tracking all of that information and processing it, getting it into the right formats, running checks on it, bringing in additional data sets that you can overlay with it. We prep that data to run through our proprietary soil modeling technologies, which produce numbers for natural cycles for the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the methane cycle (if relevant), as well as field-level emissions outside of these cycles – fertilizer emissions, tractor emissions, irrigation pump emissions. Once the data has gone through our entire MRV system, we have a really thorough understanding of a field's full carbon footprint.
We ensure that the outputs from our projects are accounted for, and reported in line with relevant standards, protocols, and frameworks, so that you can have confidence that project outputs are both robust and fit for purpose. Our carbon offsets are registry-issued by the Climate Action Reserve, and have passed rigorous third-party validation and verification checks. On the scope 3 side of things, Indigo is tapped into key working groups with standard setters, such as GHG Protocol and Value Change Initiative, and continuously aligns our practices with the latest developments in scope 3 requirements. Staying at the leading edge of this policy landscape is a commitment we take seriously, as it ensures that our clients not only meet current standards but are well-prepared for future changes.