It's true that carbon offsetting has its most productive fit when included within an overall Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, but if you intend to include this element how do you decide which provider or offset type fits your organisations ethos? Furthermore, how does an offsetting strategy compliment the CSR strategy you’re putting in place – is it standalone or integrated into your policy?

When considering an integrated offsetting policy there are perhaps two types of carbon credit that are available and it depends on what you want to achieve with your investment. As long as you’re happy that the projects are correctly administered then both will answer your carbon mitigation process.

The first type is the standard energy efficiency projects, which often tend to lend themselves to a ‘commodity’ type sale – i.e. where a company wishes to simply offset its residual emissions as an isolated requirement, often because of regulation through mechanisms such as the EU ETS. These offsets are certainly of good quality and will assure the purchaser that they have offset the desired amount.

Often that is where the process stops and it’s perhaps more difficult to tie the offsetting strategy into the CSR documentation. As carbon offsetting matures many organisations now wish to leverage a higher level of CSR from their investment or use it as a platform to build their strategy around.

How is this achieved? One approach that is becoming more and more desirable is to invest in smaller scale, but of equally high quality, projects that demonstrate social or biodiversity benefits in addition to carbon mitigation. Some organisations look to lower the impact of their business on the environment by including projects that have a strong social focus, such as including disadvantaged people in the completion of the carbon projects themselves or by combining agroforestry projects that open up Fair Trade commercial opportunities to the farmers.

It’s this emphasis on complementary benefits that cements carbon offsetting into the CSR arena and provides another area of advantageous marketing for the more savvy company. It provides reassurance that your investment is providing a wide range of conscientiousness benefits in addition to compensating for the greenhouse gases you emit.

In the past carbon offsetting has come under fire, often because a company has not fully explored the type and content of the carbon credits available and subsequently purchased credits that have less additional benefits. More and more companies are now demonstrating their ‘carbon consciousness’ by seeking out inventive and broad viewed carbon offsets.

The two types of quality credits have the potential to answer your requirement. However, whatever offsetting portfolio you opt for, you should be clear on how it fits with your CSR strategy and be confident of both the footprint calculations and the quality of the carbon credits.

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