Sustainability

Carbon offsetting: solution or greenwashing?

Investing in certified emission reductions does not reduce your company’s footprint directly, but the footprint of others.

Carbon offsetting brings solutions to different environmental and social problems, and if accompanied by impact reduction strategies, it can be part of the solution to climate change.

Carbon offsetting consists of reducing or removing from the atmosphere the same amount of emissions as those generated. Each tonne of CO2 eq. reduced or removed from the atmosphere is equivalent to one carbon credit.

Carbon offsetting can sometimes be categorised as greenwashing. This is because investing in Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) does not directly reduce your company’s footprint, but the emissions generated by others. As such, carbon offsetting means investing in carbon capture or renewable energy generation projects.

In which cases does carbon offsetting become greenwashing?

  • When investing in voluntary projects that do not offset the total emissions generated.
  • When carbon offsets are not accompanied by emission reductions.
  • When two entities are responsible for the same emissions offset.
  • When investing in projects that are reversible in the long term, e.g. investing in reforestation projects where trees will be felled or burned, returning the captured emissions to the atmosphere.

However, certified carbon offsetting can have many environmental and social benefits.  

Environmental benefits.

Within offset projects, there are two categories depending on whether they reduce emissions being generated or capture emissions already generated.

Emissions reduction.

  • Renewable energies: these projects manage to avoid the generation of emissions through clean energies (solar, wind, or hydro). This provides an incentive to minimise dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Energy efficiency: this involves introducing energy efficiency methods in less developed communities. For example, through water sanitation projects, such as replacing the burning of wood to boil water with the maintenance of wells.
  • Methane capture: using methane from human or agricultural waste to generate energy. This also benefits communities by reducing the amount of waste.

Emissions removal.

  • Conservation: these projects help to capture CO2 and also maintain biodiversity, which is essential for food security. The most commonly used conservation projects are in forests, but there are also others, such as in oceans through mangroves.

Social benefits.

Certified projects carried out in developing countries help the economic development and independence of these communities. Social benefits include:

  • Introduction of new technologies in the communities.
  • Creation of employment that does not put the health of workers at risk.
  • Women’s inclusion allows overcoming the risks associated with gender disparity.

Carbon offsetting brings solutions to different environmental and social problems, and if accompanied by impact reduction strategies, it can be part of the solution to climate change. Let’s commit to a transition to a safe, clean and sustainable future.

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