Businesses shunning carbon offsets due to lack of trust, study finds

18th January 2023

A lack of trust in carbon offsets is stalling corporate uptake and potentially pushing net-zero plans off track, a new global survey has found.

The poll of over 500 chief sustainability officers (CSOs) in the UK, US and Canada found that 41% do not use carbon offsets due to trust issues.

Of those who do use carbon credits, 4% don’t validate them at all, 35% only buy from government or voluntary certified schemes, and another 35% undertake their own third-party due diligence, while 43% are exploring working with credit agencies.

This lack of uniformity comes at a time when many carbon offsetting projects are being shown to be inconsistently measured, inadequately monitored, and frequently failing to prove they are based on additional carbon captured.

The survey, which was commissioned by AI specialists AiDash, also found that 56% of CSOs do not have operational control over the majority of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Commenting on the findings, IEMA’s Deputy CEO, Martin Baxter, said: “This research highlights the relative immaturity of the carbon offsetting market and the associated doubts that some CSOs may have about the effectiveness of some credits.

"It is important for companies to have a good grasp of their own and externalised emissions, and follow IEMA’s GHG Management Hierarchy for reduction.

“Offsetting should always be a last resort. Carbon credits should always be independently verified and sourced from a trusted programme where the measure is certain to be additional, the storage is long term, and there is a low risk of reversal.”

Collating reference data, a lack of common reporting frameworks, and difficulty collating internal information, were the three biggest challenges to net zero identified by the survey, cited by 26%, 19% and 18% of respondents, respectively.

Abhishek Vinod Singh, AiDash CEO, said: “Rather than waiting for governments to agree to regional or global frameworks, businesses are forging forward independently, making ambitious environmental commitments.

“The intent and action is there, but what these businesses desperately need is an organisational tool they can trust to accurately measure, monitor, track and validate the progress of their sustainability plans on their journey to net zero.”

Image credit: Unsplash

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