Carbon offsetting is a way for both individuals and businesses to compensate for their emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and other greenhouse gases created by activities such as travel and energy use. By funding projects that reduce carbon emissions, or capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a business can offset its carbon emissions.
In this article we’ll cover how carbon offsetting works, and how as a business you can start to offset your carbon emissions to both help the environment and remain compliant. However before going any further, let’s cover some key terms you need to know.
Carbon offsetting terminology
- Carbon neutral: Companies become carbon neutral when they have fully compensated for the emissions they produce via carbon offsetting (i.e. their carbon offsetting has resulted in no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere).
- Net zero: Net zero refers to making changes to reduce carbon emissions to the lowest possible amount without relying significantly on carbon offsetting.
- CO2 & CO2e: Carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalent (i.e. methane or nitrous oxide).
- Carbon credit: A carbon offsetting certificate or tradeable permit that gives the holder of the credit the right to emit one tonne of CO2e.
- Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an individual, business, product or event.
How does carbon offsetting work?
For businesses and individuals that are aiming to become carbon neutral, it usually means that they participate in carbon offsetting projects. This is often done through the purchase of carbon credits. The funds used to buy carbon credits are used to support existing environmental projects to capture (or reduce) an equivalent tonne of CO2e from the atmosphere.
In general there are two types of carbon offsets: compliance and voluntary. Voluntary carbon offsets are purchased of your own volition to help the environment. Compliance carbon offsets are a legal requirement created by governments, companies and other entities in order for businesses to comply with the caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they’re allowed to emit per year.
How can a business start offsetting carbon?
Carbon offsetting is a strategy that’s been adopted by many businesses and organisations around the world, from large brands such as Microsoft and Unilever to smaller local organisations. No matter the scale of your business, offsetting your carbon footprint to reduce environmental impact is always a worthwhile cause. Here are just a few of the ways your business can start carbon offsetting.
1. Analyse your carbon footprint
Before you start to look at carbon offsetting, you need to understand your company's carbon footprint: the amount of CO2e released into the atmosphere as a result of your business activities. There are a few ways you can achieve this, the two main being:
- Use an online business carbon footprint calculator such as Carbon Footprint or Carbonfund.org.
- Hire an expert to create a detailed carbon footprint report, highlighting where you can offset your carbon footprint.
2. Join a carbon offsetting scheme
There are many carbon offsetting schemes available to businesses. However not all schemes are equally effective, so it’s important to choose the one that’s right for your business and has the desired impact. Investing in a high-quality scheme doesn’t just offset your carbon emissions, it’ll also provide additional benefits such as clean drinking water, biodiversity, food security and so much more for communities around the world.
Every offset type has its own strengths and weaknesses; overseas schemes are often considered higher risk as there’s an uncertainty about the science and their permanent effects. Make sure to do your research into the scheme, and if it’s verified to certain standards, such as the Gold Standard.
3. Reduce your carbon emissions through alternatives
Carbon offsetting is not a replacement for taking sustainable actions to reduce the impact of your business on the environment. Other than carbon offsetting, there are a whole host of steps businesses can take to become net zero, including:
- Use sustainable suppliers accredited to ISO 14001
- Switch to renewable energy and green office equipment
- Introduce recycling into operations and using a recycling service
- Switch to eco-friendly transport and business operations (such as video conferencing)
- Adopt an environmentally focused culture with both your employees and customers.
The future of carbon offsetting for the UK
As of April 2021, the UK government will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, with the ultimate goal of becoming net zero by 2050. Within this, they’ve said businesses need to pioneer with new technologies and green innovations to lay the foundations for net zero emissions.
At Shredall SDS Group, we’re committed to helping businesses become greener, including ourselves. Not only did we win Paper Recycling Business of the year 2021 for our environmental commitments, but we also continue to adopt an eco-friendly approach to 100% of our recycling and shredding services, as set out in our ISO 14001 Environmental Certification.
Simply setting up a regular recycling service to lessen your business’s waste output will help to reduce your carbon footprint. Get started today by contacting our team about combining your document management and recycling responsibilities with your environmental impacts.