In What it's Like we ask people working in a variety of roles across the range of sustainability sectors to tell us about their organization, their work and their career path. In this edition of What it's Like, we hear from Max DuBuisson, Policy Director at Climate Action Reserve, a nonprofit carbon offset registry.
What is Climate Action Reserve's Mission and Core Strategy?
Our mission is to promote the use of market-based mechanisms to mitigate climate change. Our main strategy involves the creation of high-quality carbon offsets, serving both the voluntary carbon market and the CA compliance carbon market. We are also pursuing other opportunities to support this mission, such as a registry for required GHG mitigation activities under the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and GHG impact assessments for investments (Climate Impact Score).
Tell us about your role.
I support the development, maintenance, and interpretation of methodologies for the creation of carbon offsets. As Policy Director I oversee a team of folks dedicated to ensuring rigor, transparency, and practicality in the rules and guidance we develop for project developers in the carbon market. We also engage in carbon policy work for external clients, such as the governments of Ontario and Quebec. A typical day includes a few internal meetings, checking in on ongoing initiatives, and external meetings, engaging with stakeholders on technical issues and business developments. My day also generally involves some technical work, usually with Excel spreadsheets, GIS analysis, or document review.
How did you get the job- what has been your career path?
I joined the Reserve in 2008 as a Business Development Associate, after a fairly indirect path. I finished a BS in Biology from Davidson College in 2003 and promptly headed to Los Angeles, where I worked in retail for three years. After it became clear that I couldn’t land a science-related job without additional training, I entered the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara, where I completed a Masters of Environmental Science and Management, with a focus on eco-entrepreneurship and corporate environmental management. During that time I completed several internships, including the UCSB office of sustainable procurement, Pacific Gas & Electric, and as a research assistant to a professor. After a brief stint with a wind power development company, I landed at the Reserve.
Describe Climate Action Reserve's work culture- what's it like to work there?
The Reserve is a great place to work. Over the years I’ve had the honor of working with many different colleagues, but there’s always been a core culture of respect, environmental ethics, and commitment to quality of work. It’s an environment where you know you can expect hard work, but also a light-hearted atmosphere.
Describe the sector in which Climate Action Reserve operates.
We are a relatively small (~22 employees) nonprofit organization with an environmental mission. We try to work with a diverse range of stakeholders, including government, industry, academia, and other NGOs. In some ways we compete with other carbon offset registries, such as ACR and Verra, but in other ways each of us offer different services and strengths, such that there is space for each organization to exist.
What do you love and hate about your job?
I love the constant challenge and mental stimulation presented by working in carbon offsets. It is an interesting space with passionate stakeholders, and the projects themselves have amazing stories as well as environmental benefits. The Reserve has been a great organization due to the commitment to quality, as well as the great staff. I would also be remiss not to mention their incredible flexibility with work situations, given that I left LA 5 years ago and moved to CT without missing a beat. Although “hate” is a strong word, if I had to list a gripe, it would be the limitations of working for a small nonprofit. It’s not easy trying to find economically-attractive solutions to climate change while also searching for sources of funding to support your work. Fighting against “mission creep” is a constant battle for many nonprofits, and I think the Reserve does a good job of staying true to its mission.
What advice do you have for job seekers interested in working in your industry?
Do anything! Do everything! Staying busy is the number one thing to keep in mind. Even if you’re volunteering, try to ensure that there are aspects of the work which could transfer to the job you ultimately want. Also, recognize that life is a journey, and you may not take a direct route to your ultimate career…and that’s ok. And never underestimate the power of networking. As much as my younger self wanted to deny it, that’s really how the world works.
Where can people find you?
What is your favorite animal?
No question: the octopus. Eight arms, highly intelligent, able to change colors. Amazing.