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Understanding Carbon-Neutral Certification: What it Is, How to Achieve it, and Why it Matters

Whether you've been asked by your company to explore carbon-neutral certification, or are simply a climate champion who wants to promote climate action, this article provides a high-level overview of what carbon-neutral certification entails, the process of achieving it, and its importance.

What is Carbon Neutral Certification? 

Carbon Neutral Certification is the official label or documentation that attests to an organisation's true carbon-neutral status for a full reporting period (12 months). 

Certification demonstrates the earned credentials and verifies that the organisation has successfully reached a state of carbon neutrality for a particular time period. But what exactly is 'carbon neutral, 'net zero emissions, and how does an organisation achieve this? 

Defining Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutral refers to when the greenhouse gas emissions released by an organization over a specific period, such as six months, are negated through the purchase and retirement of carbon offsets. This approach offsets the organization's emissions through projects that are directly capturing, avoiding, or removing carbon.

Achieving Carbon Neutral Status 

For an organization to achieve carbon-neutral status, it must accurately measure its operational Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for a specific period. The computed amount of t CO2-e, represented in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, is then offset through the selection of an investment in a verified carbon offset project.

Carbon offset projects help avoid, remove, or capture greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. Purchasing carbon credits from certified projects indirectly supports the selected carbon offset project. Each carbon credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that has been neutralized.

Carbon Neutral Certification Explained

An organization is awarded Carbon Neutral Certification when it achieves "zero" emissions status, meaning that it is carbon neutral, and its emissions have been offset through the purchase of offsets. It has also worked to reduce as much of its emissions as possible given the reporting period.

To claim Carbon Neutral Certification, all emissions released within the most recent reporting period must be entirely offset. An organization may claim carbon-neutral status for a reporting year, but certification requires measurement of the most recently completed reporting period, which is most representative of its current operations. These stringent requirements have been set by governing bodies to ensure that any claims are true and to encourage future environmental action.

How to Achieve Carbon Neutral Certification with NetNada?

To achieve carbon-neutral certification, organisations must comply with the six fundamental steps established by the NetNada Protocol. These steps include:

1. Measuring emissions for 12 months: 

Organisations must identify and measure Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions sources for all sources within their emissions boundary. The total carbon footprint is then quantified into t CO2-e.

2. Identifying reduction opportunities and creating an emissions reduction plan:

Businesses must establish an emissions reduction plan based on the data provided by the carbon measurement, identifying the largest emission sources. They must implement at least three emission reduction initiatives to minimize their overall impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Offsetting residual emissions: 

Organisations can offset their residual emissions by purchasing carbon credits. This approach helps remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the organization emits. They can purchase eligible carbon credits directly.

4. Engaging in public disclosure:

Organisations must communicate their efforts and demonstrate transparency in achieving carbon neutrality. Public disclosure helps to create awareness and encourages others to follow in their footsteps.

5. Independent third-party verification:

Businesses should seek independent third-party verification to ensure that they have accurately measured their emissions and offset them in line with established standards.

6. Ongoing carbon management:

Organisations must continually monitor, measure, and manage their carbon footprint to ensure continued progress and environmental action.

Differences Between Carbon Neutral and Carbon Neutral Certification

Carbon neutrality refers to the state of an organization, individual or entity where the amount of carbon emissions produced is equivalent to the amount of carbon emissions offset. 

Carbon neutral certification refers to a series of protocols and requirements that an organization must meet to become certified carbon neutral. 

Organizations that choose to become carbon neutral, are not required to meet the rigorous standards and accuracy required for carbon neutral certification. 

Carbon neutral certification involves measuring an organization’s operational control, implementing reduction initiatives, conducting certification and validation checks, and offsetting the carbon footprint over a full reporting period.

Internal and External Benefits of Certification

Internal benefits: Information and increased awareness 

Carbon neutral certification is a valuable tool that provides organizations with information for better decision-making. The process of measuring and reporting carbon emissions is driven by various forces, such as capital markets, consumers, employees, government departments, and supply chains. All of these forces play a role in the financial and environmental performance of a business.

Key insights and information regarding carbon impact and environmental progress over time can be used to provide evidence to customers, employees, and other stakeholder groups. This is especially important when reduction initiatives are implemented, as the information can be used to track and report on the success of strategies.

Depending on the industry, an organization may need to obtain carbon management data from suppliers to understand how scope 3 emissions impact carbon measurement. Government departments may also demand an organization's carbon measurement or proof of offset in certain cases, such as during a government tender or working agreement.

NetNada's platform integrates the full carbon management process in one location, making information easily accessible, understandable, and showcaseable to stakeholders. Information is key for driving both internal and external improvement. Without it, carbon neutral and net zero claims may not be trustworthy.

External benefits: Customer perception and branding

With climate change becoming a globally recognised issue, consumers are looking to brands that have undergone the carbon-neutral certification process. Choosing to become a certified organisation demonstrates core company values of leadership, morality, and integrity. Further benefits to the perception of a brand include 

  • Organisational integrity: Carbon Neutral Certification is associated with credible actions, providing integrity to your claim. 
  • Easy brand transparency: By producing carbon reports organisations are able to provide visibility into their environmental actions and reduction initiatives. 
  • Reputable brand recognition: Certified Carbon Neutral labels increase market credibility which is said to increase both customer reach and loyalty. 
  • Align with stakeholder needs: Undertaking emission reduction opportunities demonstrates strong corporate social responsibility values and demonstrates a commitment to reducing your environmental impact. 
  • Viewed as a leader: Taking environmental action beyond that of your regulatory requirements demonstrates strong leadership values. 

There is an arrangement of unexpected benefits certification can arise, many of which are discussed in our article, Want to know the brand benefits of Carbon Neutral Certification? 

Providers of certification

Certification is provided by a variety of both public and private organisations. The choice of provider can differ depending on organisational goals, location, and budget.

Carbon Neutral Organisation Certification: 

NetNada has created a carbon management tool that has all the required tools and resources needed to be carbon-neutral certified in one place. The platform simplifies the process, providing templates, guidance tools, and solutions throughout to ensure every step is achievable, removing the need for lengthy excel spreadsheets, and expensive consultants. The full process is compliant with certification bodies. 

Climate Active Certification: 

Climate Active is an Australian government-administered and runs a carbon-neutral certification program. It is in fact the only government-sanctioned carbon-neutral certification in the world. Climate Active is often used for organisations with complex inventories or requiring their products/services to be carbon neutral.

Other Certification Providers: 

Besides NetNada and Climate Active, there is also a range of other certification providers. The type of certification and value they bring can vary along with the industries and purpose they serve.

How certification benefits our planet 

Carbon neutrality refers to the state where the amount of carbon emissions produced is equivalent to the amount of carbon emissions offset. 

On the other hand, carbon neutral certification involves rigorous standards and protocols that organizations must meet to become certified carbon neutral. Certification provides valuable information to organizations, stakeholders, and customers. Choosing to become a certified organization demonstrates core company values of leadership, morality, and integrity. 

Carbon neutral certification is an important step organizations can take to help the planet, and organizations can choose from a variety of certification providers to meet their goals, location, and budget.

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