Code green

1st February 2019

P15 carbon istock 516134968

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Reporting ,
  • sea ice loss ,
  • Renewable


Carla Justice

The Woodland Carbon Code presents an opportunity for organisations to offset their carbon emissions in a way that engages the public, says Julia Goodfellow-Smith.

The need to tackle global warming and consequent climate breakdown is growing in urgency. We know that we need to take drastic action by 2030, which is just over 10 years away.

The first thing any organisation must do is reduce energy consumption – but even after the most rigorous energy reduction programme, there will be some residual carbon emissions. These can be offset by supporting projects that combat deforestation, create woodland, generate renewable energy and improve energy efficiency. This 'charismatic' brand of carbon offsetting has additional benefits, such as community development, recreation and habitat improvements. As well as the social and environmental benefits, organisations that do this benefit from an enhanced reputation, and can engage customers by offering the option of carbon neutral products.

Some local authorities have made commitments for their jurisdictions to become carbon neutral. By offsetting residual carbon emissions, your organisation would be supporting these local ambitions as well as national targets. This could keep you one step ahead of any fiscal or regulatory changes implemented to support such targets.

Many carbon offsetting projects take place in developing countries, but there is an option closer to home. The UK government's standard for woodland carbon projects – the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) – now has verified credits available to purchase. All projects are validated and verified by UKAS-accredited third parties, giving confidence that they really are sequestering carbon. Every project relates to the creation and management of new woodland that wouldn't have been able to go ahead without this additional funding stream. Only 80% of the sequestered carbon is sold, creating a contingency to cover any unexpected carbon losses.

Most organisations that offset via a WCC project don't simply want to tick a box so that they can claim to be carbon neutral. They want to be a part of a story of regeneration in the UK, with benefits that are far wider than just the carbon capture. During the lifetime of an average WCC project, the social and ecological benefits include £70 of recreational benefit per tonne of carbon captured, almost £10 of air quality improvements and more than £20 of biodiversity improvements. These projects also contribute £7 per tonne to GVA (Gross Value Added). This is an order of magnitude higher than the sale price of units, which makes carbon offsetting through the WCC great value for money.

WCC projects are also tangible to the participants. As they are UK-based, stakeholders can relate to them, and possibly even visit them. It gives a real sense of satisfaction to be able to walk in a woodland or watch it grow and know that you helped to make it happen. This makes staff tree-planting days particularly popular.

It might be reasonable to expect that a scheme like this in the UK would cost more per tonne of carbon sequestered than those overseas, but costs are broadly comparable with those for Gold Standard carbon offsets – a verified charismatic carbon offsetting scheme set up by WWF for developing countries.

In practice

Most organisations taking part are SMEs, although there are some larger organisations involved. Slough Borough Council, for example, planted a new woodland on its own land and uses the WCC to validate and verify the value for its greenhouse gas reporting, rather than selling the units to others.

Fuel card company Allstar, meanwhile, offers carbon offset fuel. This gives it a great story to tell customers, which it does via an animated video on its website. It also simplifies matters for customers, who don't need to participate in the offsetting market directly. To date, Allstar has bought from 44 WCC projects and supported the planting of more than a million trees.

Waitrose offsets the emissions from home deliveries, and is working with the Woodland Trust to create a 50-hectare woodland in Cumbria. The company feels that this has given it a strong marketing message for all of its stakeholders, and improved staff engagement through popular tree-planting days.

Julia Goodfellow-Smith MIEMA CEnv is a director of Quest for Future Solutions, a woodland owner and a freelance writer

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Weather damage insurance claims hit record high

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close