How to offset your carbon footprint and emissions

Carbon offsetting is a scheme designed to counterbalance carbon emissions by investing in projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

How does carbon offsetting work?

Ian Hopping, Senior Energy and Carbon Consultant at Auditel explains:

“It works by calculating the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a business or individual and then purchasing offset credits equivalent to that amount. These credits are generated from projects such as renewable energy, reforestation, or methane capture, which result in carbon reductions or removals. By purchasing and retiring these credits, a business can claim to be ‘carbon neutral.’ To become ‘verified carbon neutral,’ a business must undergo a rigorous process of measuring, reducing, and offsetting its emissions, and have its claims independently verified by recognised certification bodies.”

Criticisms around being carbon neutral

Being carbon neutral has faced several criticisms:

  1. Critics argue that carbon offsetting can create a false sense of accomplishment, allowing businesses to continue emitting greenhouse gases without making substantial efforts to reduce their own emissions.
  2. Some claim that offset projects may not always deliver the promised carbon reductions, leading to concerns about the integrity and effectiveness of these projects.
  3. Another criticism is that carbon offsetting can perpetuate environmental injustices, as offset projects are often located in developing countries, potentially causing negative social and environmental impacts on local communities.
  4. Lastly, critics argue that carbon neutrality should not distract from the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy. They emphasise the importance of directly reducing emissions rather than relying solely on offsetting.

How can you become verified as carbon neutral?

The most efficient way to demonstrate your carbon neutrality is by ensuring that your business obtains PAS 2060 verification from a UKAS certified body such as the British Standards Institution (BSI).

To achieve ‘verified carbon neutral’ status under PAS 2060, there are specific requirements to follow:

  1. it is necessary to demonstrate consistent year-on-year reductions in actual carbon emissions, prioritising decarbonisation efforts within your business.
  2. It is essential to clearly define the boundaries of the carbon footprint you aim to neutralise. This considers all significant emission sources and employing recognised methodologies like WRI GHG protocols, Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, or ISO 14064-1 for accurate calculations.
  3. Lastly, offsets must be sourced exclusively from Kyoto-compliant schemes or high-quality voluntary schemes that adhere to stringent reporting and accountability principles. By obtaining ‘verified carbon neutral’ certification through BSI PAS 2060, you can establish trust, as it avoids reliance on self-certification and demonstrates internationally recognised standards, while mitigating criticism and scrutiny associated with basic carbon neutrality.

Will carbon offsetting the answer to climate change?

While carbon offsetting can play a role in mitigating climate change, it is not a comprehensive solution on its own. Climate change requires a multifaceted approach that includes not only offsetting but also reducing emissions at their source through energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable practices.

Moreover, transitioning to a low-carbon economy, investing in research and development of clean technologies, and implementing policy frameworks are crucial elements in tackling climate change effectively.

Carbon offsetting should be viewed as a supplementary tool in conjunction with broader efforts to achieve substantial emissions reductions and sustainable development.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in finding out more about steering your business towards offsetting carbon emissions, please get in touch with a member of our Business Services team on 01903 234093.