As the number of carbon offset providers and projects grows, so the choice of offsets for prospective purchasers has become more complex.
Add to that increased consumer awareness and engagement in sustainability, climate change, and social responsibility programs, and it’s clear that choosing the right offset provider has never been more important.
How can businesses identify a provider who understands their needs and can offer meaningful and effective offset projects?
Do Your Internal Processes Match Your External Actions?
It’s a simple matter to buy carbon offsets: Allocate a budget, find a provider, and buy the offsets. But many of the benefits of doing so will be lost if there’s a conflict between this and what the company does internally.
Organizations can easily find themselves accused of ‘greenwashing’ if they have failed to take meaningful steps to modify their internal operations, and instead rely on offsets to absolve themselves of climate guilt.
The old mantra – reduce what you can, offset what you can’t – still applies, so businesses should ensure they have cut carbon emissions in their own operations as far as practically possible in addition to investing in offsets.
For some companies, the majority of their greenhouse gas emissions come from their supply chain, so it’s advisable to address that too, since offsetting against only a tiny proportion of your overall footprint will also invite criticism.
Can You Match Your Offsets to Your Corporate Principles?
Different types of carbon offset projects are better suited to certain types of business. Your perfect offset is one that reinforces your brand and enhances your reputation for social responsibility.
For example, farm methane reduction projects, such as biogas digesters, are a popular offset project for businesses that rely on those farms for their supply chain, such as Ben & Jerry’s Homemade.
A local biogas project is a great offset investment for a restaurant or food business, demonstrating a direct connection to the supply chain and the local community. However, even this apparently simple choice has its pitfalls. The ethos of the farm must also fit with your business, so a vegan restaurant may not wish to support a dairy farm!
The type of project itself may not be as important as the fact that it is local – or at least in the same state or country. Land use offset projects can help preserve and improve important habitats, including forests, grassland and wetlands, which can hold great appeal for diverse groups of stakeholders despite not being directly relevant to your own business activities.
And local doesn’t necessarily mean close to your headquarters. Local could be near the growers of ingredients you use, so look globally at projects such as clean water projects or cooking stove projects, which bring public health improvements as well as economic and environmental benefits to communities in emerging economies.
Key Questions to Ask Prospective Carbon Offset Providers
There are a few key questions to ask any prospective carbon offset provider before investing in an offset project.
- Are your offsets guaranteed real, permanent, additional, not vulnerable to leakage, validated and verified?
- Are the offset projects accredited by a recognized third party?
- Do your offset projects deliver additional social, environmental and economic benefits in the communities where they are located?
- Can you offer a range of projects that match my business philosophy and will resonate with my customers and stakeholders?
The best carbon offset providers can help you develop a tailored offset initiative, to maximize the co-benefits such as supporting small businesses in your supply chain, or strengthening communities in countries that supply your raw materials.
NativeEnergy Help Build™ projects use innovative carbon financing to develop custom initiatives with benefits that directly align with your company’s strategies and values.
To find out more about how NativeEnergy can help you identify, structure and develop a unique carbon offset project, contact us today.