September 21, 2021
While we have been providing our clients with in-depth carbon reporting for several years, prompted by our B Corp status, we at Considerate Group, did our first internal yearly carbon inventory and report in 2021.
To include a more normal baseline year, this carbon report covered both the entirety of 2019 and 2020. You can read Considerate Group’s full carbon report here:
As a rapidly-growing international consultancy firm, the majority of our carbon emissions come from air travel. Our team works out of rented office space, with the buildings we occupy being examples of sustainable real estate. Where practicable, we already encourage our employees to use public or sustainable transportation and do the vast majority of our business meetings online to save unnecessary travelling. Moving forward, we will build on our sustainable foundations by increasing the scope, scale and impact of our carbon reduction and offsetting programmes.
Carbon reporting, whether for ourselves or on behalf of clients, can be complicated, time-consuming and to the untrained eye, confusing. As more and more companies are taking stock of their carbon emissions, discussions around offsetting, becoming net-zero, and being carbon-neutral or carbon-responsible are becoming increasingly prevalent. We’ve put together a guide to help navigate some of the lingo.
Different types of offsetting
It is important that we understand the difference between various ways to offset carbon before making claims about carbon neutrality. Carbon offsetting schemes are a way for companies to invest in environmental projects around the world in order to balance out their own carbon footprints (their greenhouse gas emissions).
Offsets can be categorised as emission avoidance/reductions and carbon removals. When a company switches to renewable energy, invests in new technology or prevents deforestation, these measures can all be called offsets but are to be considered as avoided or reduced emissions (preventing greenhouse gases to reach the atmosphere). Carbon removal measures, on the other hand, include the capture and short-lived or long-lived storage of carbon through measures such as afforestation, reforestation or fledgling carbon capture and storage technologies. Check out the image below for a closer look at the various types of carbon offsets.
Whilst all of these are technically offsets, Considerate Group does not believe that carbon avoidance or reduction measures go nearly far enough – we believe that any attempt to offset emissions should involve carbon removal and storage since only this approach can directly counteract unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases.
Busting the Carbon Jargon
So now that we know a bit more about offsets, let’s look at some carbon jargon.
Net zero, carbon neutral and carbon responsible:
Both net zero and carbon neutral are defined by the United Nations as “the balance of emissions with removals” – so are technically synonyms. However, ‘carbon neutral’ is sometimes used by companies balancing emissions through avoided emissions (emission reductions that occur outside of a product’s life cycle or value chain, but because of the use of that product) rather than offsetting – so be aware of potential greenwashing. Furthermore, net zero not only includes the offsetting of emissions but the maximal reduction of your own value chain emissions.
Environmentalists suggest that carbon responsible could be an appropriate term for companies that use avoided emissions to balance out the company’s carbon footprint. This recognises that the company is taking steps to reduce their emissions, without implying that they are removing carbon from the atmosphere to balance out their unavoidable emissions.
The key take-home message is that taking a net zero approach should involve the maximum possible reduction of a company’s own emissions, with carbon removal offsets only being used to offset unavoidable emissions.
Next Steps for Considerate Group:
Now that that’s cleared up, it’s time to think about the future; Considerate Group aims to become net zero by 2022. And here is how we plan to do this:
Through the flexible working from home options, emissions from employee commuting will be kept low
Offsetting of business travel emissions will be included as part of the travel costs in client contracts
By the end of the year we will :
Research options to reduce emissions from general business emails
Research options to reduce emissions from marketing emails
Switch to using a sustainable search engine
Research possibilities for more sustainable website hosting
Implement a sustainable travel policy
In 2022 we will:
Follow-up from previous actions and research carried out in 2021 and identify new/alternative forms of minimising our emissions