With climate change at the top of the agenda, businesses are more aware than ever of the impact they can have on the world and the environment in terms of their carbon footprint. So naturally, businesses all over the world are keen to find ways of reducing their carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable.
Back in 2012, Marks & Spencer became the first major retailer to go carbon-neutral thanks to credits earned under the Verified Carbon Standard, with many other retailers, such as the Co-operative Group, following suit.
But what is the Verified Carbon Standard, and how can it help your business reduce its carbon footprint, or better yet, get rid of it completely? Here we answer 7 questions about carbon offsets standards and carbon offset verification you may have about the Verified Carbon Standard.
1. What is the Verified Carbon Standard?
The Verified Carbon Standard, or VCS, is one of several voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) programs used by individuals and businesses around the world to ‘offset’ their carbon emissions. According to Verra, the organization behind the VCS, since its launch in 2006, more than 928 million tonnes of carbon and other GHG emissions have been reduced or removed from the atmosphere thanks to the 1,804 projects certified by the VCS Program. To put that into perspective, that equates to over 200 million cars being taken off the road for a year.
2. What does the Verified Carbon Standard do?
The VCS ensures that emission-reduction projects are delivering on their promise to reduce carbon emissions using a rigorous set of rules and requirements. VCS projects cover a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, waste handling, agriculture, mining, transport, and forestry, to name a few. Once a project is certified, it can be given tradable GHG credits, which can then be sold on the open market and ‘retired’ by individuals and businesses to offset their own carbon emissions.
3. Why do businesses need ways to ‘offset’ their Carbon Emissions?
Although energy efficiency and other measures implemented within a business will make a huge dent in its carbon footprint, it’s very unlikely that these alone will get rid of their carbon emissions completely. If businesses want to get rid of their carbon footprint in its entirety, they need to look further afield. Marks & Spencer had the same issue but were able to offset the carbon emissions they couldn’t neutralize themselves by supporting a project in Kenya working towards protecting a patch of endangered rainforest – a project that, incidentally, was VCS-certified.
4. What kind of projects are Certified by the Verified Carbon Standard?
Projects can offset greenhouse gases in three main ways. They can work at removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere - an example of this would be planting trees. They could also avoid the creation of carbon emissions in the first place, for example, renewable energy. They could even remove and destroy carbon emissions altogether, such as by removing methane gas from wastewater for use for fuel. Once greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, they quickly spread around the world, so whether you’re supporting a cookstoves project in Kenya, a reforestation project in Cameroon or preventing deforestation in Paraguay, you’re still doing your bit to tackle climate change.
5. How do I know VCS projects are legitimate?
To be considered for the VCS, projects must adhere to a set of strict rules and requirements. They outline the standards and processes which all projects must follow to be certified. Once certified, all VCS projects must face audits by qualified independent third parties and Verra staff to ensure that standards are met. The program is also supported a multi-stakeholder body called VCS Program Advisory Group, which ensures the VCS is operating effectively to combat climate change. Details about certified VCS projects are listed publicly in the Verra Registry, which enables the transparent listing of information on projects, issued and retired units, and enables the trading of units.
6. Why do we need Standards for Carbon Emissions-Reduction Projects?
It would be easy for projects to claim that they are working properly at reducing carbon emissions if this is not the case. And without legislation in place to make sure these projects are checked and audited, who’s to know for sure?
If you choose to support a project which operates under a standard like the VCS, you know that the project has undergone strict rules to be certified and continues to be monitored for best practices. Having regulations in place means that high standards can be achieved and maintained, which will ensure carbon reduction projects are sustainable and efficient, and above all, trustworthy.
7. Can I buy the cheaper offsets?
This is a decision that only you can make. On the one hand, if we buy up all the cheap offsets available, more money will be put into the most efficient emission reductions. And this would cause a price increase, driving even more money into more expensive technologies. However, investing in high-quality carbon offsets will have a bigger impact on biodiversity, common welfare, and the environment. But it’s up to you to weigh up the argument either way and make an informed choice.
Have a look at what our CEO answered when someone asked this question in our latest videoupdate:
We can all put measures in place to reduce our own carbon footprint, but for businesses looking to offset the remaining carbon emissions they can’t get rid of internally, supporting an emission-reduction project is a great way to do this. And by choosing a project which has been certified by the Verified Carbon Standard, you have peace of mind knowing that your remaining emissions have been stamped out and you are truly carbon-neutral, which is an amazing feeling.