Carbon offsets: the sequel (or, how to do it properly)
So, reading Green Future’s Special Edition, ‘Offset positive’, has convinced you that offsetting can be a good thing and is no longer something to be sniffed at. But how can you go about it successfully – avoiding the bear traps that so many have fallen into, which have contributed to the credibility challenge that offsets currently face?
Here are my five top tips to offset with confidence:
Carbon offsetting has to be part of a hard-hitting carbon management programme with big, bold, audacious and absolute carbon reduction targets at its heart. Without clear plans to avoid emitting carbon in the first place and reducing any unavoidable emissions, your offset programme might not pass the greenwash test.
Link the offset programme to your broader sustainability strategy, and even better, your core business. So, if you are in the business of transport, invest in offset projects which deliver mobility benefits (for example new modes of low or no carbon travel). If you are a big food brand (or even a small one), invest in projects that improve health and well-being. Also, try to invest in those geographies where you have operations and/or where you have key suppliers. In other words, offsetting should be part of an integrated strategy for the business – and be relevant to the business and its products and services. This has an added advantage: you’ll be able to communicate the successes more easily to your customers.
Go for a mixture of top notch, uber-assured gold standard projects, as well as the odd, slightly more experimental ones. Offsetting can be a really creative way of financing innovation and experimentation down your value chain. How can you reduce carbon down the value chain, encourage new ways of doing business (new production processes, for example), as well as improve livelihoods – and ultimately secure the future of your supply base?
Conversely, avoid buying too many credits from boring old trading schemes. This is until such time as there is a proper cap on these schemes, which will force the overall reduction in emissions, as opposed to just encouraging meaningless flows of carbon cash from one country to another.
When deciding on your offset provider, go for one that has the ICROA badge (the International Carbon Reduction Offset Alliance). These organisations have to be serious about offsetting and adhere to sound standards, which are needed to ensure that your investment really does deliver the promised carbon avoidance or reduction.
Really, why wouldn’t you?