Carbon Offsets

1. How does your company measure up when it comes to the environment? If you are starting from scratch, then high on your list of priorities will be investigating your contribution to global warming.
2. It would be excellent if we could all switch to renewable energy tomorrow, thereby cutting out emissions at a stroke and putting the brakes on climate change. However, this is not going to happen. What we need to do is switch to low-carbon fuels wherever possible and reduce our emissions by using energy more efficiently.
3. Carbon offsets balance out your emissions by making an emissions reduction elsewhere on your behalf. In effect, your emissions are cancelled out by the reductions, making the original activity climate neutral.
4. The first step in the process is to determine what your company’s emissions are. This may be from its entire operation, or it may be from a particular part, such as air travel, the car fleet or energy use.
5. When carbon offset are mentioned, most people think of planting trees, otherwise known as “carbon sequestration’.
6. Trees are a great communication tool, but they are not going to save the planet from global warming. Society cannot go on taking oil and coal from underground and try to store its pollution in a thin layer of trees on the earth’s surface.
7. Farther than try to soak up emissions in trees, you pay to reduce somebody else’s fossil fuel use. This could be a renewable energy project that means less coal is burnt. Alternatively, it could be an energy efficiency project that means less electricity is used. Electricity is mostly generated from fossil fuels, so using it more efficiently means that CO2 emissions are reduced.
8. The projects usually have other positive benefits, such as saving on energy costs, improving air quality or general development in the host community. Sequestration projects also have significant social benefits in terms of employment and ecological benefits for wildlife. All these aspects can add to the story that you are telling stakeholders.
9. Some companies are able to offset the entire CO2 impact of their operations. This is often possible for service companies or those that don’t have large energy bills. An alternative is to pick one area of operations, such as company air travel or the company car fleet.
10. A number of travel companies now either offset these emissions from their customers flight or give them the chance of doing it as an extra.
11. The Co-operative Bank has built its reputation on its ethical and environmental standards. Then it re-entered the mortgage market in 2000, it wanted something that would make its mortgages stand out from the rest. Interest rates are boring; the bank wanted something else to talk to customers about, and Climate Care fitted its profile well. The Co-operative Bank now offsets 1 tonne of CO2 emissions for each of its customers every year for the life of their mortgages. This amounts to 20 percent of the emissions from the average household’s gas and electricity. The bank can now talk to customers about the projects that is has funded around the world, as well as the more mundane subjects that surround mortgages.
12. High-quality carbon offsets give companies the opportunity to repair their contribution to global warming – either from their operations or on behalf of their clients. The main benefit as far as the climate is concerned is the reduction in carbon dioxide. From the company’s point of view, just ‘doing the right thing’ is not usually enough; there needs to be a commercial driver before funds are committed. The driver may be a need to communicate a new message with customers or simply the raising of the company’s corporate social responsibility profile. Offset projects not only stimulate CO2 Reductions, but often run in parallel with the wider aims of sustainable development giving companies a powerful story to communicate to stakeholders.

Carbon Offsets
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