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Avoid Accusations Of Greenwashing

How to avoid accusations of greenwashing

avoid accusations of greenwashing

Barclays in Guildford on 30th January 2023. Protestors refuting the validity of its claim to ‘sustainable finance’.

Is carbon offsetting just easy marketing jargon?

Unilever has a goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030, Apple has carbon neutral company facilities, and Nike have launched a ‘move to zero’ initiative intending to reduce carbon emissions by 30% across its entire supply chain. Publicly traded corporations are responsible for some of humanity’s most significant environmental impacts, but when they’re all using different terminology to describe their climate goals, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Each of the above goals sound positive when it comes to climate change, however the difference between them, especially when scale is considered, can result in a vast array of results on carbon impact.

Common carbon definitions:

  • Carbon Neutral: Any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is ‘balanced’ by an equivalent amount being removed.
  • Climate Neutral: refers to removing all GHG emissions to zero whilst eliminating any other negative environmental impacts that an organisation may have.
  • Carbon negative / Climate positive: companies who remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they produce.
  • Net zero carbon emissions: an activity that releases no carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
  • Net zero emissions: balances all GHG emissions released from the amount removed.

What is the difference between carbon neutral and net zero emissions?

You might be asking the difference between carbon neutral and net zero, and this is where it gets misleading, as in both cases, companies are working towards reducing and balancing their carbon footprint. However, whilst carbon neutral refers to balancing out your carbon emissions, net zero refers to emitting no more than the amount that is bring removed from the atmosphere. The simplest way to think about net zero, is a point at which humans have stopped adding to the harmful climate heating gases in the atmosphere. Net zero is usually achieved by a combination of emission reduction and emission removal. GHG emissions can be removed by the natural environment through carbon sinks such as forests, or by using technologies like carbon capture and storage. On the other hand, carbon neutrality quite often refers to simply offsetting the carbon that is produced.

Is carbon offsetting just easy marketing jargon? 

Carbon offsetting is a system where companies or countries can buy credits to represent emission reduction of CO2 or GHG emissions. These credits are then spent by the offsetting companies on reduction projects such as tree planting.

Carbon offsets have existed for many years, and companies are increasingly using them to positively promote their ‘carbon reduction strategies’. There are of course some genuine and impactful offsetting projects out there, but there are also many ineffective ones too and counting them as offsets, when they may have gone ahead without the credits in the first place, is a real threat to our climate targets. Carbon offsetting can be a controversial topic for numerous reasons:

  1. Even the top schemes have been proven not to work: A 2017 study by the European Commission, found that 85% of offset project under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, had failed to reduce emissions. This proves that even the top schemes that companies pay the most money for, aren’t efficient, let alone carbon scams that don’t even attempt to contribute to carbon reduction.
  1. Offsets can’t act quickly enough: Let’s take trees as an example, which take 15 to 35 years before reaching their average carbon storage capacity, far too long given the current state of the climate. A company therefore cannot effectively balance the carbon they’re currently emitting by planting a tree that won’t store that carbon for at least another 15 years. Even then, it’s difficult to measure how much carbon the trees that are planted will capture.
  1. Offsets are a dangerous distraction: they provide a quick fix and companies are often seen as greenwashing their consumers into thinking they’re sustainable, when in fact they aren’t. They provide a guilt free way for companies and consumers to go about life as usual and the concept of paying other people in another country to cut your emissions instead of cutting them yourself is deeply flawed.

Be a net-zero hero

At eco-shaper, we help you to achieve net zero by a focus on emission reductions. We by no means promote carbon offsetting or carbon ‘neutrality’ greenwashing. There are numerous ways in which companies can cut their emissions and take responsibility in their own hands, to work towards genuine net zero emissions. The best place to start is by calculating your current carbon footprint at both the enterprise and the individual level, and then auditing where reduction is needed the most. If you’d like to chat to us about your carbon reduction plan, please email us at:



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