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How Carbon Offset Projects Can Bring Story to Your Sustainability Program

Originally published on TriplePundit as part of a TerraPass sponsored series on Carbon Offseting.

By Kathryn Sarkis, TerraPass

Balancing emissions with carbon offsets can do more than help your company take responsibility for its carbon footprint; it can also help build a stronger brand that has good story to tell. Carbon offsets come from a variety of different project types such as methane capture at landfills and agriculture operations, to transportation and forestry projects. Carefully choosing what emission reduction projects to support can create a story that reflects your company’s overall mission and vision and brings added value to the brand for both customers and management.

So how do you find the right emission reduction project to support? Regardless of the project type you need ensure that you are looking for a project that is of the highest quality. Carbon programs such as Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve ensure that carbon credits are real, additional, and permanent by using accepted methodologies for validating projects. The programs’ continuous monitoring ensures that a project performs as expected while registries track and clarify ownership to ensure no double counting. Once you are assured that you are looking at carbon credits that come from a verified, validated and tracked project the fun can begin.

The next criteria to look at when choosing a project are things like technology and location—and here’s where you can align your carbon offsets with your company’s mission or overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals. Every emission reduction project has both social and environmental co-benefits that can add to the story that your carbon offsetting tells.

Sustainability goals vary by company and from industry to industry, but there are a variety of projects and technology types to tell a great story. For example, many high tech companies place a premium on renewable energy. Renewable energy helps run data centers, which are responsible for the bulk of their emissions. A company like this might look for a project with technology that not only reduces greenhouse gases (ghgs), but also creates energy. Offsets that would help tell this story might include a wind farm or a biogas to energy project.

Likewise a company that has waste reductions as part of its mission might choose offsets from a landfill. By choosing a landfill a company can craft a powerful story around reducing waste and emissions. Since methane emissions from landfills are the 3rd largest anthropogenic source in the United States according to the EPA, it makes sense for companies to manage their own waste profiles first by reducing waste. Supporting this effort with a carbon offset from a landfill could amplify the impact of waste reduction efforts. Some key talking points, for instance, could include how the company is taking action first by reducing waste, then using carbon offsets to balance the rest.

Location can also be a powerful way to tell your company’s offset story. While climate change is a global issue, climate impact happens on a community level. Most offset projects have additional co-benefits that can be felt community-wide, and by choosing an offset project based on location a company can choose to support a specific area. Co-benefits to carbon mitigation can include reducing smell in the local area, reducing water pollution by reducing run-off and creating jobs in rural economies.

For example, the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority (GLRA) is a project based in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and is a popular TerraPass project. GLRA was an EPA Community Partner of the Year, and exemplifies how an emission reduction project can benefit its local community. TerraPass partner, MOM’s Organic Market, a grocery chain located in the Mid-Atlantic region, has purchased offsets from GLRA. GLRA’s proximity to MOM’s locations has allowed MOM’s to tell the story of not only reducing emissions locally, but also of the other benefits of the project. Additionally, the team was able to take a field trip to the landfill, engaging employees on another level, to see the project in action.

In addition to telling your sustainability story, choosing a specific project can also make explaining your goal of emission reductions easier as well. Carbon offsets can be difficult to explain, and it often takes some education before an audience fully grasps the concept of using offsets to mitigate emissions. Leveraging the project that your carbon offsets come from like a farm, in the case of agricultural methane offsets, or a community in the case of landfill methane offsets help create a picture in people’s minds that makes offsets more relevant. The carbon reductions go from a greenhouse gas reduction to a person or a community. TerraPass’ customer salesforce.com learned this first hand when they purchased carbon offsets from specific projects. According to Erin Decker, Senior Manager, Sustainability:

“To offset Salesforce.com’s carbon emissions from business travel we invest in projects that meet our rigorous standards. Being able to talk about the carbon offset projects using the actual project name, type and location helps make a subject that can feel intangible become real to our employees, and helps us reduce our overall impact on the environment.”

Carbon offsets are more than an environmental tool to help your company meet its emission reduction goals. They are a powerful device to further sustainability goals and to tell an impactful story about sustainability, communities, and technology that help reduce the global warming potential of harmful greenhouse gases in ways that benefit people, planet, and profit. Projects can be more meaningful when they touch our lives, our goals, our communities.

To learn more about how your company can support a specific emission reduction project please contact Nancy Bsales at 973-743-5374

Kathryn Sarkis is a Marketing Manager at TerraPass. She has her MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on twitter @KathrynSarkis

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