What are carbon offsets?
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “a carbon offset is an emission reduction credit from another organization’s project that results in less carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than would otherwise occur. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tons of CO2-equivalents (or 'CO2e') and are bought and sold through a number of international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms.”
There are a number of benefits in offsetting your carbon emissions. Not only you’re protecting the environment, you’re also gaining a competitive advantage by communicating your carbon offset programs, potentially leading to more customers and higher revenues. You’re also boosting employee satisfaction, and retaining and attracting top performers.
When looking to buy carbon offsets for your green marketing department, you should consider the following criteria:
1. Determine how much you want to offset
While it is recommended you compensate at least 100% of your carbon emissions, you might choose how many carbon offsets to buy based on a specific initiative or program. Some companies buy carbon emissions to compensate for their business trips, while others use offsets to balance the emissions of a production plant or a branch office. In reducing carbon emissions, anything is better than nothing.
2. Decide how you want to offset
There are many ways you can offset your carbon emissions: you can choose to fund tree-planting, solar-energy or wind-energy projects.
3. Ensure you’re getting additional carbon offsets
Check if the carbon offset provider is increasing the company’s emission reductions based on your offset payment (i.e., that the offsets you paid for are actually being emitted).
4. Look for an industry standard
There are many carbon offset standards and each works differently. The most popular ones are the Gold Standard and the Voluntary Carbon Standard.
Here are some of the most recognized carbon offset suppliers in North America:
- Native Energy: based in Charlotte, VT
- Carbon Zero: based in Toronto, ON
- Carbon Trust: based in Portland, OR
- Carbon Fund: based in Silver Spring, MD
- Zero Footprint: based in Toronto, ON
- ERA: based in Vancouver, BC
Most of these companies also provide a free carbon calculator.
If you’re looking for more information on how to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint, you can read ‘A Consumers’ Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers’, by Clean Air, Cool Planet or ‘Doing Business in a New Climate’, by the David Suzuki Foundation.