How to get carbon neutral certification in 6 steps, including who provides certification and the choices you need to make.
Why all the fuss? We know climate change is the issue of our generation. We also know that to prevent it from worsening, we need to quickly reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.
To do this, businesses should focus on reducing their carbon footprint. When they are not able to reduce carbon emissions any further, they can offset emissions to ‘cancel out’ their negative impact and achieve net zero emissions.
What is carbon neutral certification?
A company can obtain carbon neutral certification in Australia and internationally by carrying out the following:
- Measure emissions for 12 months.
- Create an emissions reduction plan.
- Offset residual emissions.
- Get emissions boundary verified and activity data validated.
- Enter into a license agreement.
- Display your Carbon Neutral Label and communicate your progress.
For more on carbon neutral certification, click here.
Who provides carbon neutral certifications?
Certification providers: Certification is provided by a range of public and private organisations. These are available for:
- Large companies: For large (often publicly listed) companies that are likely to face public scrutiny when making climate-related claims, certification is required to reflect the organisation's climate actions with as much accuracy and detail as possible. Pathzeros' carbon neutral certification is designed to provide large organisations with a descriptive depiction of their carbon emissions and journey to net zero emissions. Measurement and reduction modules, as well as credible offset projects, are all present within the application, enabling large organisations to actively meet the requirements of certification.
- Small and medium enterprises (SMEs): For small companies that want to credibly achieve net zero emissions, there are public and private organisations that offer carbon neutral certifications. Pathzero's small businesses plan is designed for businesses with less than 30 employees who want to effectively and accurately measure their carbon emissions and become carbon neutral.
Organisations that wish to claim further certification or that have complex inventories for their product or service, can receive additional service from public bodies such as Australia's Climate Active (which is an Australian government administered carbon neutral certification program). To be certified by Climate Active an entity must meet the requirements of the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard.
The Pathzero protocol has been built in close alignment with the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard and forms the basis for any carbon neutral certification. Our registered consultants are available on demand to guide our members, if they wish, through the process to receive additional certification.
Six steps to becoming carbon neutral certified
Regardless of which carbon neutral certification provider you opt to use, four steps need to be taken to attain a certification:
Step 1: Measure
First, you must work out the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with your operations. This means adding together emissions from all organisation activities and sources, including indirect sources such as transport fuels or staff, commuting. Measuring the carbon emissions of an organisation requires the following steps:
- Establish an emissions boundary: the emission sources related to an organisations' operational activities.
- Collect required data: Each emission source needs to be quantified. This requires entering the relevant activity data.
- Calculate your emissions: Use an accurate calculation model to quantify the data collected and inputted.
A full reporting cycle measurement (12 months) must be completed before reduction and offsetting can proceed.
Step 2: Reduce
Create your strategy
Once your carbon footprint has been quantified, you need to develop and implement a plan to reduce your carbon emissions. Your emissions reduction plan needs to focus on your organisation's major emission sources. To aid with this process Pathzero's software identifies your organisation's top 5 emission sources and provides reduction templates to help you create an effective reduction strategy.
Following the completion of a reporting period measurement (12 months), an organisation needs to take action and implement the changes stated in the reduction strategy. This may include, creating new company policies, reducing business travel, energy usage, or purchasing renewable energy.
Step 3: Offset
Carbon offsets (also known as carbon credits) can be purchased to offset or ‘cancel out’ those carbon emissions that cannot be reduced. The purchase of these carbon offsets ensures that the impact of released greenhouse gas emissions has either been removed, avoided, or captured.
There are a number of carbon credit providers, however, these providers need to offer verified offsets to ensure a genuine emission reduction is occurring.
Pathzero has reviewed the credibility of the offsets available and currently only accepts the following as eligible under this protocol.
- Verified Emissions Reductions (VERs) issued by the Gold Standard
- Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) issued by the Verified Carbon Standard
- Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) issued by the Clean Energy Regulator in Australia.
Projects can occur within Australia as well as internationally. Project types can include reforestation and revegetation, agricultural land management, renewable energy projects, and more.
Step 4: Verify and validate
Some certification processes will require you to verify your carbon footprint. This may include arranging a source data audit when you apply for certification, and periodic technical assessments thereafter. The rigour of verification can differ based on organisational size, the volume of emissions, and company type.
The Pathzero certification process verifies an organisation's emissions boundary, which is, to be verified to ensure the organisation measures all of its emission sources.
Entering quality data in the carbon emissions calculator that is used, is vital to ensure the integrity of a carbon account. To uphold this integrity, depending on the organisations' emission boundary and emissions inventory, validation of the activity data for the reporting period will be required.
Step 5: Enter into a license agreement
Some certification providers will enter into a license agreement with you which allows the use of their ‘carbon neutral trademark’. This can be placed on products as proof of climate action.
Pathzero allows for organisations to use the Pathzero Carbon Neutral Company label after agreeing to the Obligations for Label Use which is outlined in a license agreement. The Carbon Neutral Company label attests to your organisations true carbon neutral status.
Step 6: Communicate results
Organisations going carbon neutral can share their climate commitment with key stakeholders in many ways.
Alternatively, some certification providers give you digital badges which can be used to display your carbon neutral status on your website, emails, and social media. Attention-grabbing tools like this can be a simple yet powerful way to communicate your climate action.
Social media sharing
Some platforms provide social media assets that help their members celebrate their carbon neutral status. While not a specific requirement of certification, this is a great opportunity to promote the credibility of a carbon neutral claim. Social media sharing also has a multitude of benefits for an organisation's brand. We have written a blog post on this, click here to read.
Pathzero provides a suite of social media assets which a range of colour and style variations to suit the branding of the organisations.
Your path to net zero
Pathzero has registered Climate Active consultants to assist organisations through the carbon neutral certification process.
We recognise that measuring and verifying carbon emissions can be time-consuming and complicated and that’s why we’ve developed an easy-to-use carbon management tool so you don’t have to spend days analysing your carbon footprint.
Join the Pathzero mailing list to receive regular updates about our carbon management platform, the sustainability industry, and general news updates.
If you want to learn more about carbon neutral certification, we have a suite of blogs you can view, or you can schedule a demo with one of our consultants.