What Every Leader Needs to Know About Carbon Offsets

Many companies have begun to look into carbon offsets and credits as a way to support their net zero goals as their target years get closer and closer. As it stands, the carbon credit market is too small to bear the brunt of reducing companies’ impacts on the environment. However, the voluntary carbon market has the potential to drive billions of dollars over the coming decade into climate solutions. Here, the authors offer a primer for leaders to learn about the carbon credit market. What’s the best way to participate in the market? Which types of credits are considered to be the highest quality, and thus carry the least reputational risk? Who are the players when it comes to standards and regulation? The authors answer these questions and outline the five characteristics of high-quality carbon credits, as well as their co-benefits.

In the absence of government regulations requiring dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing climate change, a growing number of companies are adopting “net zero” targets. More than one third of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly held companies have declared net zero targets according to Net Zero Tracker, a database compiled by a collaboration of academics and nonprofits. These targets typically entail public commitments to reduce GHG emissions through measures such as process modification, product reformulation, fuel switching, shifting to renewable power, investing in carbon removal projects — and a pledge to zero-out their remaining emissions by purchasing carbon offsets, also known as carbon credits. Carbon credits are financial instruments where the buyer pays another company to take some action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and the buyer gets credit for the reduction.


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