One of our positive impact partners, The Good Pencil Company, is climate neutral certified. But what does climate neutral certified mean? How is it different from carbon neutral/carbon-free, zero carbon, and carbon negative?
What is it?
A product or company that is climate neutral is removing the same amount of carbon dioxide it is emitting into the atmosphere to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. This is commonly done by purchasing carbon offsets, or credits, to make up the difference. Climate neutral is similar to carbon neutral and carbon-free in that they mean the same thing with different system boundaries. They are different in that carbon neutrality aims to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere compared to climate neutrality which wants to stabilize the greenhouse effect. Zero carbon is commonly applied to buildings and modes of transportation that are carbon neutral. In addition to offsetting any carbon emissions resulting from its construction through renewable sources, the building must also offset its energy use. Carbon negative goes beyond carbon neutrality and requires that a carbon negative company must remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. This term is used interchangeably with climate positive.
In order to become climate neutral certified, interested companies must measure, offset, and reduce before they are qualified to receive the label. First, companies must measure their carbon dioxide emissions. The climate neutral certifier offers a calculator and walkthrough to gather all of the required measurements. Second, interested companies must offset their emissions by creating both long-term reduction plans and immediate offsetting. Lastly, the company must purchase carbon credits to finally be able to become certified and gain the ability to use the climate neutral label. It should be noted that both companies or an individual product can be certified as climate neutral. For the product certification, the company essentially undergoes a cradle-to-grave analysis, or track the production process all the way to how it is or can be disposed of.
Why does it matter?
With the destruction of our most productive ecosystems caused by an estimated global population growth of 81 million people per year and a perpetually expanding economy, it is becoming more important than ever for companies, products, and buildings to at least offset their carbon emissions. Productive ecosystems, like estuaries, swamps and marches, tropical rain forests, and temperate rain forests, are incredible at carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is essentially where plants take in carbon dioxide from their surroundings and push underground. When that ecosystem is majorly disrupted, such as through deforestation, the carbon that was sequestered is then released into the atmosphere. In order to mitigate climate change, the world must switch over entirely to renewable energy sources.
Climate neutral certifications have been criticized for allowing these certified companies to purchase carbon credits to offset their emissions because it is allowing companies to essentially go about business as usual. However, carbon offsets can be seen as a stepping stone to companies switching over to relying entirely on renewable energy sources. This process can be expedited when consumers prioritize purchasing a climate neutral company’s products over a company that does not have this certification. This favoritism will incentivize other companies to follow suit, if not go even farther and make the complete switch to renewable energy.
Despite facing some criticisms, climate neutral certified companies are taking a step towards a climate positive future. This future will have a better chance of coming into fruition with the help of conscientious consumers choosing to purchase products from companies who are putting in the effort to make a climate positive world happen.