Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Purchasing carbon offsets

Purchase carbon offsets

Your business should measure and, where possible, avoid and reduce emissions. This can also help your business save energy and money in the longer term. However, there are emissions that cannot be avoided, and you may wish to balance the impact of such emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets.

Offsetting involves paying someone, somewhere else, to save emissions equivalent to those you have produced. These emissions savings - or 'carbon credits' - come from a variety of projects in a number of different countries. However, you should remember that offsetting alone will not necessarily make your company carbon neutral.

How can you check the quality of offset products?

To help you choose good quality offsets make sure you use an offset provider that can:

  • calculate your emissions accurately
  • deliver credits within a year of your buying them
  • declare clearly how much the credits cost per tonne
  • provide you with information about the role of offsetting in tackling climate change and advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

If you intend to purchase carbon offsets, you should take the time to check that you are confident that the offsets represent real, independently verified emission reductions or offer other benefits - such as environmental or social - that you would like to support.

For information on getting involved in creating carbon offsets, rather than simply purchasing offsets, see the page in this guideline: International climate change projects and the carbon offset market

Becoming carbon neutral

Many businesses want to become carbon neutral - ie to reduce or offset their emissions so that their total net emissions are zero. The business benefits of this include:

  • demonstrating a clear commitment to tackle climate change
  • engaging employees and consumers on environmental issues.

Under the government's definition, becoming carbon neutral involves three stages:

  • calculating emissions - determining which emissions you're going to calculate, and collecting activity data on these
  • reducing emissions - assessing what reductions you can make and deciding how to achieve this
  • offsetting residual emissions - acquiring carbon credits to offset any emissions you can't reduce.

The British Standards Institute (BSI) has also developed a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2060 on carbon neutrality.

BSI: PAS 2060  Carbon Neutrality

Further information

Carbon Trust: Carbon footprint calculators

Carbon Trust: Energy reduction resources

In this Guideline

How climate change affects your business

How to cut carbon emissions from energy use

How to cut carbon emissions from business travel

How to cut carbon emissions from business buildings

How to design low-carbon products

How to find suppliers of low-carbon products

Tax breaks to encourage energy efficiency

Comply with emissions trading requirements

International climate change projects and the carbon offset market

How to get involved with Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation projects

Purchasing carbon offsets

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