Police board requests investigation into carbon-offsetting foundation

The carbon offsetting scheme may be in breach of Finland’s strict fundraising laws.

Antero Vartia Image: Laura Railamaa / Yle

Compensate, a carbon-offsetting scheme established by former Green Party MP Antero Vartia, is to be investigated by the police over possible breaches of fundraising laws.

The National Police Board requested the investigation after a long-running saga in which the Compensate founder has asked the board to rule on how his non-profit can operate its monthly subscription carbon offsetting service.

Finnish law requires that fundraising requires a permit if donors do not receive anything in return for their money. The issue with monthly carbon offsetting contributions, then, is whether or not carbon offsetting is a genuine service or product.

Senior Inspector Jouni Kitunen of the Police Board confirmed to Yle that the request had been made.

"The National Police Board is of the opinion that the foundation’s operations are fundraising, for the purposes of he fundraising law, because there is a danger of mixing fundraising for charitable purposes and commercial activities," said Kitunen.

"Under this model it is very difficult to understand whether the donor is making a donation or buying a genuine product or a service."

Vartia told Yle he was surprised by the investigation, as he had been in discussions with the board since September and had filed a fundraising permit application in early December.

He is a well-known entrepreneur in Finland, having co-founded the Löyly sauna complex before selling his stake to co-founder Jasper Pääkkönen to focus exclusively on the carbon-offsetting venture.

Compensate functions as a foundation, which in turn wholly owns a company which purchases carbon offsets. Users can calculate their carbon footprint and subscribe to pay a certain amount each month which Compensate promises to then spend on carbon offsets to mitigate climate change.