Is Becoming Carbon Neutral the Key to a Sustainable Business?

Is Becoming Carbon Neutral the Key to a Sustainable Business?

More and more businesses are becoming carbon neutral by measuring how much C02 equivalent they emit, and then purchasing carbon offsets to negate this amount. It’s a way of “balancing the books,” making their net carbon emissions = zero. The business then contributes financially to an offsetting company and receives a logo to show their consumers they have taken responsibility for their emissions. Businesses are taking this extra step because more and more studies are leading to the same answer; consumers want to support a sustainable business.

But some might say the use of carbon still negatively affects the planet and paying for your problems to be solved isn’t necessarily the first choice businesses should make along the path to sustainability. It terms of climate change, reducing your footprint may be a better first step before purchasing offsets.

Is being carbon neutral right for your business?


The Cost of Carbon Offsets is Too Varied

The price of carbon offsets has a huge range in price and what they are. According to Eco Priestess, prices can range from $5-$100 per offset, with one offset equal to a metric ton of carbon produced. It’s easy for busy businesses to take responsibility for their emissions without making operational changes, but is it the most cost effective way for a business to reduce carbon? Light bulbs are a perfect example of this. Think of the amount of energy used by an incandescent light bulb versus a LED. Clearly the LED is more energy efficient and with prices rapidly decreasing, the popularity has increased. LED’s have the ability to save company’s ¼ of the cost of light bulbs compared to incandescent over the course of a year!


Controversy within the Scientific Community

Scientists are influencing the public and private market to help enforce solutions for increasing climate change. British Columbia is taking first steps by Vancouver modifying all building codes to ensure they’re carbon neutral if built after 2020 in all operations because of the stress from the scientific community of earth’s temperature increasing past 2° Celsius.


Next Generation Consumers are Looking Beyond Logos

Sure, consumers understand that you are doing something about climate change if you have a carbon neutral logo on your website and business door, but consumers are starting to go beyond the logo and want to know what you’re physically doing to cut carbon. The Harvard Business Review created a case study on Fiji Water with proclaims to be carbon negative by purchasing carbon offsets to cover 120% of total carbon emissions. A California woman actually sued Fiji Water for false claims that they were removing carbon from the atmosphere by putting a carbon negative logo on their bottles. Meanwhile, continuing to transport millions of plastic water bottles to the US from the middle of the Pacific.


What does a Sustainable Business look like?

Its clear that there’s an increasing market for sustainability, but what does a sustainable business look like? Outer Shores Expeditions was recently awarded with the Transat AT Sustainable Tourism Award from Tourism Industry Association of Canada. This business has done everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint, before making the decision to become carbon neutral. Outer Shores will also made a conscious choice to support offsetting projects that support local causes like the Great Bear Rainforest, areas that directly impact their business.

TIAC Awards Outer Shores Expeditions

Outer Shores Expeditions won the 2015 Transat AT Sustainable Tourism Award from TIAC

Four Key features of a Sustainable Business

Although businesses are taking some form of responsibility for their emissions by purchasing carbon offsets, being carbon neutral is not the key to operating a sustainable business.

  • First, a truly sustainable business must realize its own environmental damages and have a plan to lower them before answering their problems with the purchase of carbon offsets.
  • Second, the scientific community demands businesses to lower their carbon use before purchasing carbon offsets.
  • Third, businesses need to understand a growing number of consumers want to know companies are making real changes, not just purchasing offsets year after year.
  • Lastly, sustainable businesses are known and awarded for sustainability by being carbon conscious before offsetting the remaining emissions.


Some may see businesses that buy carbon offsets without looking into reducing their emissions as simply “paying for their sins”. Sustainable business leaders do not simply pay a fee to companies to pay for their problems to go away negate their emissions, but invest in their future by analyzing and tracking their operations to lead themselves to greater environmental and financial growth in the years to come.


Do you want to know if you’re a sustainable tourism business?

Take the quiz here http://www.greentourismcanada.ca/take-the-quiz-are-you-a-sustainable-tourism-business/


Matt Hussey Ecobase Certified


Written by Matt Hussey


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