Climate + Change + Communications

Carbon Footprint?

Carbon Balanced or Carbon Neutral?

Business is facing up to sustainability and corporate social responsibility agendas to ‘do the right thing’.  There is peer pressure and expectation from staff and clients alike.  Many are going further, seeing the business benefits they can secure in terms of improved reputation, securing new contracts, retaining staff and improving efficiency.  Big players like Microsoft and Marks and Spencer are committed to being carbon neutral.  Facebook and Google are measuring and reporting on their carbon footprints.

One big lesson from the evolution of carbon management over the last decade, is that a balanced approach is needed to tackle the scale of the challenge presented by rising (c)arbon levels in the atmosphere.  Carbon Balanced is an alternative term for carbon neutral.  When CLEVEL introduced the terms Carbon Footprint and Carbon Balanced in 2001, it was to ‘brand’ an approach that gives equal weight to both carbon reduction inside an organisation and carbon offsetting outside.  This made it distinct from the simpler idea  of being carbon neutral and just offsetting away your impact while getting on with business as usual.

“no one can reach zero without offsetting” Sally uren, CEO, forum for the Future

Things have moved on and the merits of the balanced approach are fully recognised – not just the importance of innovation and investment in carbon reduction, but also that fact that this cannot happen overnight, and so offsetting is essential.  Our view has always been that at the beginning of Carbon Balancing, carbon offsets start off high, and then reduce each year as the twin horns of more energy efficiency and renewable power generation squeeze the carbon footprint down.  But for part of the footprint, more efficiency and renewables is not practical, so offsetting is needed for these ‘hard to treat’ co2 emissions..

What has also become more widely recognised is that offsetting projects can go way further than just carbon reduction offsite.  A new generation of project developers have other agendas as well as carbon.  They are using money brought in from the sale of carbon credits to also protect ecosystems and crucially, some are developing their projects with not just community participation, but also ownership.  These are the kind of balanced projects that are offered through CLEVEL.

Carbon Balanced Business Case