THINK PIECE

Cash for Carbon

Although it's admirable for McDonald's to fund, say, a million-dollar clean-water project, clean water is not what McDonald's does best. Selling burgers is. Or at least that’s what Evan Thomas argues in a piece in Good Magazine. Thomas says that despite good intentions, foreign aid and charity work has left the world "littered with failed water, energy, and public-health projects." Thomas is a vice president for Manna Energy Ltd., which is experimenting with a for-profit model for selling carbon credits to help fund water-purification systems in African schools, and he argues that his organization's model could bring accountability to foreign-aid programs. There are far fewer accountability mechanisms in place in developing nations as in the Western business world, where regulators hold companies accountable and investors make sure new ventures are worth the cash. With many nonprofits, future funds are not contingent upon success (and success is self-reported by the organization anyway), so many projects fall into disuse just a few years after they got off the ground, he says. But, if a for-profit company doesn't deliver as promised, "you’re not going to get more business in the future."