ReFi Deep Dive: Return Protocol

ReFi Deep Dive: Return Protocol

Return Protocol is our latest featured ReFi project, on Season Two of the ReFi Podcast. They are "building infrastructure for the regenerative economy by providing consumers, businesses and communities with automated, verifiable and incentivized social climate action." What does that all mean? Let's take a look!


Return Protocol describe themselves as an 'automated climate action' solution, set to launch in Q4, 2022. They are focused on addressing current shortcomings in the voluntary carbon market (VCM), while scaling up and diversifying available on-chain regenerative assets. In brief:

  • Return is building infrastructure to make climate action passive, attractive and more effective.
  • They empower individuals, businesses and communities to fund actual climate action by leveraging DeFi mechanics and soul-bound tokens, creating more demand and impactful supply.
  • The beta launch of Return’s platform is expected in Q4 2022.

The Challenge

Our current climate crisis requires urgent and large-scale action to avert the worst consequences in the coming decades. Atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations must stabilize and decrease over time to give our species and our planetary co-inhabitants a chance at a sustainable future.

While carbon credits have become an increasingly accepted method for individuals and organizations to offset their residual GHG emissions, demand and supply challenges with both the on and off-chain voluntary carbon markets (VCM) persist. Addressing these challenges is key to fully unlocking and realizing the power of this climate solution.

Return views the fundamental challenge from both the supply and demand side:

  • Even though the VCM expected to significantly grow over the coming decades, there is currently not enough demand for environmental assets to address the climate crisis.
  • Even if demand for these assets was sufficient to address the climate crisis, there is not enough supply.

The limitations of the carbon market are something of a catch-22. With no demand for carbon credits, projects that avoid or mitigate carbon reductions are not incentivized to invest and scale up their solutions. Likewise, if there is no supply of innovative, high quality emissions avoidance or carbon removal projects in the carbon markets, demand will stay low.

Return's Approach

So how does Return propose to address these issues? By kick-starting demand with a passive, automated approach to helping individual users and businesses offset their on-chain emissions, and direct staking yield toward projects of their choosing.

Soul-Bound Social Proof

Social proof, or being able to visibly and publicly document actions you've taken, has long been a key motivator for a wide range of human behaviours. If we know our friends and neighbours are taking more action on climate change than we are, we will feel compelled to step up our own actions. Visualizing social proof of climate action, including offsetting with carbon credits, in an accessible, transparent and compelling way is especially challenging. Until this is solved, the client or customer experience in navigating the VCM will remain slow and complicated, limiting the potential for mainstream adoption.

At the core of Return Protocol's approach to solving both demand and supply side challenges with the VCM is their 'soul-bound' token (SBT). For those unfamiliar with the term or perhaps just a tad commitment-phobic, this rather intense-sounding phrase simply indicates a token that is permanently tied to a wallet address that you provide, and is not meant to be traded. In Return's system, the SBT is used to automate and track carbon offsetting activity carried out on your behalf.

There are three key steps in the Return Protocol passive climate action process, all powered by their unique SBT:

Overview of Return Protocol's Passive Climate Action Approach

While the soul-bound token makes automatic offsetting of transactions tied to a wallet possible, the Return dashboard will provide a high-level overview of all staking yields, climate impact and governance actions taken by your wallet.

Having this information publicly shareable is intended to leverage our innate tendencies to engage in social comparison. Yet, instead of fuelling un-productive behaviour like the compulsion to buy the latest smartphone or travel, the Return dashboard is intended to create a virtuous cycle of climate-positive behaviours.

What's Next for Return?

Return is looking to engage with the ReFi community, to gather feedback and input from the community as they continue to plan for their launch. As of today, some of the potential Return Protocol ideas and integrations in the works include:

  1. Return for business: Offering the same simplified and incentivized climate action, but tailored for businesses.
  2. Soulbound token skins: Allowing users to customize the characteristics and overall design of their soul bound token.
  3. Return for communities: Enabling a business and its community to contribute together towards climate action.
  4. Lens Protocol integration: Integrating Lens’ social graph model to build out the “social proof” elements of your soul bound token even further to enable proof of climate action to scale.
  5. Community fund cohort one: Host the first vote for you to decide which climate projects or objectives the community pool of yield will go towards.

If these ideas resonate with you, you can read more and connect with Return with the resources below!

Key People

Kieran White - Co-Founder and CEO

Andrew Porter - Co-Founder and Key Builder


Return Protocol - Website

Return Protocol - Twitter

Return Overview - Medium