Key Considerations for Companies When Purchasing Carbon Offsets

Key considerations when purchasing carbon offsets - Northmore Gordon

As businesses worldwide increasingly recognize the importance of sustainability, the demand for carbon offsets has surged. Carbon offsets allow companies to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in projects that either reduce or remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, with the growing market for carbon offsets, it becomes crucial for companies to navigate the landscape carefully. In this article, we will explore the essential criteria that businesses should consider when buying carbon offsets to ensure they make informed and responsible choices.

Carbon Offset Criteria:

  1. Methodology
    Companies must scrutinize the methods employed in carbon offset projects. Whether it’s reforestation/Afforestation, Carbon removal, or methane capture, understanding the methodology is vital in determining the actual impact of the offset. Aligning your organization’s goal and scopes with high quality carbon offsets is critical. For instance, projects utilizing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies directly capture emissions from industrial processes and power plants, preventing them from entering the atmosphere. On the other hand, nature-based solutions such as afforestation and reforestation leverage the natural ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon. Understanding these methods helps companies gauge the actual impact of the offset and its contribution to emission reduction.
  2. Technology vs Nature-Based Solutions (NBS)
    Evaluate the balance between technological solutions and nature-based solutions. Tech-based projects may include carbon capture technologies (avoided emissions), while nature-based projects involve activities like afforestation and reforestation (sequestration / removal). A strategic mix can provide a more comprehensive approach to carbon mitigation. Striking a balance between these two approaches ensures a comprehensive and sustainable carbon offset strategy.
  3. Vintage
    The vintage of carbon offsets refers to the year in which the emission reductions occurred. Companies should consider the vintage to ensure that the offsets align with their current emission levels and goals. This consideration prevents the purchase of outdated offsets that may not contribute effectively to a company’s current sustainability targets. Other target frameworks allow for some flexibility with vintage and act as a good yardstick for procurement.
  4. Countries/Location/Market Boundary
    Geographical considerations play a significant role in the effectiveness of carbon offset projects. Companies should assess whether the projects are in regions where emissions reductions are critical and whether they align with global climate goals. To avoid greenwashing, considering market boundaries ensures that the offsets adhere to international standards and contribute meaningfully to the global effort to combat climate change.
  5. Price Range
    While cost is a factor, it should not be the sole consideration. Assess the price range of carbon offsets to ensure it aligns with your budget, but also consider the impact and quality of the projects associated with the offsets. the price of carbon offsets varies based on project type, location, and vintage. Cheaper offsets may not always guarantee the same level of emission reduction or removal. Companies should evaluate the cost-effectiveness of offsets by considering the quality and impact of the underlying projects. Some frameworks require third-party audit for verification of the projects.
  6. Registry Preference
    Choosing carbon offsets registered with recognized carbon registries is crucial for transparency and credibility. Well-established registries, such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) or the Gold Standard, ensure that emission reductions are accurately measured, reported, and verified. Companies should prioritize offsets that adhere to these standards to build trust in the offset’s environmental integrity. CORCs (Carbon Removal Credits) by Puro Earth registry is another wonderful example of high-quality credits.
  7. Quantity
    Accurately assessing the quantity of carbon offsets required involves a detailed understanding of a company’s current emission levels (Scope 1 ,2 and 3 measurement) and reduction goals. This may require collaboration with experts in emissions accounting and carbon offsetting to calculate the precise number of offsets needed to achieve carbon neutrality.
  8. Diversity of Projects
    Building a diverse portfolio of carbon offset projects minimizes risks associated with a single project type. Including Afforestation/reforestation, Human induced regeneration (HIR) and methane capture projects, among others, ensures resilience against potential fluctuations in the efficacy or viability of any one project. This diversification enhances the overall impact of a company’s carbon offset strategy.
  9. Alignment with Standards (CCP/Oxford/CORSIA)
    Ensure that the chosen carbon offset projects align with reputable standards such as the Carbon Clean Solutions (CCP), Oxford Standard, or CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). Compliance with these standards enhances the credibility and environmental integrity of the offset.

Purchasing carbon offsets is a strategic step toward mitigating the environmental impact of business operations. By delving into the technical intricacies of each criterion, companies can make informed and strategic decisions when purchasing carbon offsets. Technical expertise and a comprehensive understanding of these considerations will empower businesses to select offsets that not only align with their sustainability goals but also contribute meaningfully to the global fight against climate change.

Northmore Gordon has experience establishing a carbon offset criteria suitable for your business, Procurement of high-quality carbon credits and third-party verification.

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