Buying Carbon Offsets

This project green initiative was to reduce or eliminate the impact of Softchoice’s logistics by purchasing carbon offsets. In case you are unfamiliar with what carbon offsets are, and how they work, the brief most direct definition is that carbon offsets are ways in which companies can have a positive impact on the environment to make up for  harm caused in its operation. The price of a carbon offset is generally based on the cost of an environmentally positive company reducing one ton of carbon in the atmosphere.  These offsets are issued by a third party who distributes the funds to companies working on green products or directly from the company. 

Initially the project was only to buy carbon offsets but later evolved to providing data direct to customers on the statistics and geographic route mapping of their purchase. Generally these were roughly twenty-six dollars per ton and could be bought by a variety of vendors. The second task in this purchase was to find out how many carbon credits were necessary.  After combing the internet for carbon calculators I was able to locate a company which had a calculator specific to shipping emissions. Using another calculator to determine the proper sample size needed to in order to draw conclusions about our total emissions I ran the sample through the calculator and came up with the number of tones of carbon dioxide Softchoice shipments were emitting each year. It was determined that it would cost five to ten thousand dollars to offset shipments. I also determined how much carbon dioxide would be saved by shipping orders complete vs. shipping partially as stock was made available, but I’ll get further into to detail with that in my next posting. The next step was to present my finding to the stake holders and begin the process internally to start this initiative.

This is the information I need to determine before taking action on this initiative:

 1.  What is a carbon credit and a carbon offset?

2.  Does my company need to buy carbon offsets? Generally if your organization is undertaking initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle, that I found was a carbon offset in itself. If money or time is an issue, doing projects internally will make your organization neutral.

3.  Where do I buy carbon credits or offsets from? Some questions you might have; are these companies regulated? How do I know my money is going to good use? What amount of my money is actually funding a project? In some cases you might be asked, is it even necessary to worry about this? Does global warming exist? All these questions were faced in my project.

4.  How much to they cost? When buying from a third party you know that they are making a profit of this endeavor and you question which are the most reliable and also which type of project has the best effect on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. 

5.  How many do I need to buy in order to make my organization carbon neutral? There is no gauge 100% accurate on the amount of carbon dioxide your organization is emitting. Calculating an accurate amount can be difficult and confusing.

6.  Does my organization have the resources available and support to back this project? Anything requesting funding in today’s economy that doesn’t clearly boost sales is a difficult request. Making your company’s supply chain carbon neutral is a value added service to your customer and can be another drop in the bucket towards a brighter future for a planet your company resides upon.

7.  Who do I need on board in order to implement this project? In Softchoice’s case we needed to have IT, Marketing, Purchasing, Distribution, Legal, and Finance on board with this initiative.

 Finally this project was planned and funding, marketing materials and internal support were in place. The last step was to run it by the Legal department to make sure we would not be liable for misuse of the funds by the environmental company, the carbon offsets provider would not be able to sue us in the event of a dispute, were carbon offsets legitimate in general, and what kind of claims would we be able to make to our customers. The biggest issue was actually the carbon offsets themselves and the claim that they actually reduced carbon dioxide. The whole legal evaluation took months and months and unfortunately a key window was missed in the development of our website and the project wasn’t able to be implemented. The company we were partnering with was going to be able to give us an accurate picture of the impact our shipment were having and purchase the offsets on our behalf. The funding for this project was to come from advertising dollars generated by the website so without the website there would be no funding. This project, I believe, has validity in the future and may be able to be picked up again at a later date.

About Adam Galloway

Making more environmentally conscious purchases is one of the greatest powers we have in curbing wastefulness.