In today’s fast-evolving corporate landscape, climate change is increasingly recognized as a critical factor affecting business operations and public relations. As companies face mounting pressure to address their carbon footprints and contribute to a sustainable future, the role of voluntary carbon offsets is coming under increasing critique.
When carefully executed, carbon offset partnerships can help reduce emissions while presenting strategic opportunities for businesses to align with climate goals and demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship.
But first, businesses must navigate around the increasing supply of carbon offset opportunities—including the pitfalls of greenwashing or investing in offset projects that fail to deliver their promised emission reductions.
So how can a company evaluate a potential carbon offsets partner and program? Let’s take a look.
Transparency and Data Analysis
When it comes to transparency, there is no substitute for a direct partnership. Choosing a direct partner over a deal brokered by a third party allows for close evaluation and collaboration. The ability to provide transparent data and analytics empowers companies to monitor the progress of their carbon offset initiatives and communicate their environmental impact effectively.
Look for: partners who prioritize transparency and who accurately measure and track emissions reductions. Ask for baseline data to ensure real and additional emissions reductions.
Evaluating Additionality Impact
Projects that achieve “additionality” refers to actual emissions reductions beyond what would have occurred under business-as-usual scenarios or would not have occurred without the financial support of the offsets. This aims to avoid double-counting emissions reductions and ensures that companies and investors can have confidence that their carbon offset investments are making a genuine and positive contribution to mitigating climate change. Companies can demonstrate further additionality by investing in additional carbon drawdown and storage over and above the emissions they produce.
Look for: a carbon offsets partner and project that has a measurable and net-positive impact on the environment. Ask about how additionality is evaluated to ensure the project aligns with your sustainability goals and actively contributes to climate action.
Building Collaborative Ecosystems
Financial technologies thrive in collaborative ecosystems and the same principle applies when selecting a carbon offsets partner. That’s why the best carbon offset providers are going to be very selective about the companies they partner with. Collaborative initiatives are not only more effective and long-lasting but can lead to the development of new technologies, financial instruments, and market mechanisms that advance the transition to a sustainable economy.
Look for: a partner who provides and also demands standards and transparency from their potential clients, for example, by requiring that the potential client demonstrate that they have first reduced their carbon emissions before turning to offsets.
Prioritizing Community Impact
In today’s climate-conscious world, a carbon offsets partner that prioritizes both community and interconnected environmental benefits like biodiversity is essential. By focusing on community and ecosystem impacts, a strong partner ensures that carbon offset projects go beyond mere emissions reduction. Carbon offset partners can foster social equity, empower local economies, and create lasting change.
Look for: a partner that engages with local communities and involves them in the decision-making process. Ask how they are impacting the lives of people and environments in the regions where these initiatives are implemented.
Uplifting Indigenous-Led Climate Justice
Acknowledging the historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism on Indigenous communities, climate justice demands that their knowledge, rights, and voices be central to environmental decision-making. Prioritizing Indigenous-led initiatives is not only a matter of equity and respect for Indigenous sovereignty but also essential for achieving effective and sustainable climate solutions.
Look for: a carbon offsets program that fosters meaningful partnerships and co-management with Indigenous communities.
As the sector continues to embrace sustainability and integrate environmental considerations into business strategies, choosing the right carbon offset partner is paramount. By evaluating partners based on their additional climate impact, data transparency, collaborative ecosystems, and community and Indigenous partnerships, your company can make informed decisions that align with their values and truly contribute to a more sustainable future. Together, we can harness the innovative power of the sector to drive positive change and combat the climate crisis through impactful carbon offset investments.
Community Forests International is a registered Canadian charity that has been working for over a decade to create natural carbon and climate solutions. We work in partnership with invested companies to create opportunities that store carbon, preserve forest ecosystems, and create regenerative economic opportunities for rural communities. This includes creating Eastern Canada’s first forest carbon project in 2012 and the first community-led carbon pilot in 2022.
Rebecca Jacobs is the Digital Communications Manager for Community Forests International. With a background in environmental governance and international development, Rebecca has over a decade of experience in communications in the environmental non-profit and social enterprise sectors. Rebecca works to support and empower Community Forests International’s wider community with the knowledge and tools needed to be part of the movement for a thriving future.