The BOSS Federation is the trade association which serves the UK office supplies and services industry by providing a range of initiatives, cost saving benefits and services, to enhance the business performance of its members.
Carbon offsetting involves ‘cancelling out’ greenhouse gas emissions by investing in schemes that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. This is done on a like-for-like basis so that for every tonne of CO2e that is emitted, an equal tonnage of CO2e is offset through investment in carbon offsetting schemes.
Offsetting should only be utilised after there has been a thorough calculation of carbon emissions (including all relevant greenhouse gases) and these emissions have been reduced to a minimum.
There are three main methods of carbon offsetting:
Sequestration – usually planting trees so as they grow they take carbon out of the atmosphere naturally and assimilate it into their tissue.
Renewable energy – investment in energy production that otherwise would have been produced from GHG emitting sources.
Energy conservation – investment in projects that save energy and so save potential future carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting is the last key step in achieving a ‘carbon neutral’ status after first undertaking carbon calculation and carbon reduction.
The increasing global move toward a low carbon economy has led to the development of emission trading schemes where organisations can offset all their carbon emissions so that they are ‘Carbon neutral’. Companies can then take this a step further and offset more carbon than they produce (and are therefore become carbon negative) and can then sell their ‘carbon credits’ to other organisations that produce more carbon than they offset (carbon positive) so that the overall system remains carbon neutral.
There has been some controversy over offsetting as some rogue offsetting companies have been double counting their offsetting credits i.e. taking payment for offsetting two tonnes of carbon from two different investors and then only paying for one tonne to be offset in their place. Other scams include taking money to invest in carbon reduction programmes that were already going to happen without the extra investment therefore the offsetting money has not actually added anything to overall net emissions reduction.
The Government and international community as a whole fully support offsetting as a valid method of tackling Climate change. The UK government is currently undertaking a review of the offsetting industry and is due to release a report this Autumn which will set out standards for a voluntary code of practice for off-setters. In the meantime it is advisable to use only those offsetting companies that have been verified by an independent third party.
Carbon offsetting can play a key role in carbon management strategies but it should always be utilised as an additional tool, and not as a substitute for, carbon reduction so that any business may gain the optimum environmental, economic and commercial benefits of effective carbon management.
Links to useful websites