Can carbon offsetting add value to your travel policy?
Stella Bell

We can reduce the environmental impact of our travel with good planning, good travel policies and by making the most of technology, but unless we stop travelling altogether, we will still generate a carbon footprint. Once we've decided to make a journey, one of the only means to reduce its climate impact is to offset the carbon emissions.So whether you travel for business, or travel is your business, how do you do this, what should you look out for and what benefits does it bring?

This year the world is re-focusing on how we tackle climate change. In the run up to the critical international climate summit in Paris this December, many influential organisations, including the UN are promoting the key role of carbon offsetting in allowing people to take responsibility for their footprint and help tackle climate change quickly and effectively. But how can you decide if carbon offsetting is right for you and your company and, if so, implement a robust carbon reduction scheme with a trusted supplier and be sure you're maximising the positive impacts of your investment? Stella Bell, partnerships manager at climate and development experts ClimateCare shares some of the questions you should ask yourself when considering a carbon offset scheme.

  1. What size is your carbon footprint?

If you use a travel management company, then it's easy to find out. Most can provide you with a full carbon emissions report and some, like Portman Travel will also help you offset these emissions. But what about emissions generated through travel your colleagues have booked direct, or emissions from other business operations? The accounts department is usually the best place to start. They can provide information on routes travelled through expenses claims and will also have information on other emissions such as energy use. Once you have this information, online calculators can be a quick and simple way to measure the carbon impact of specific activities and to offset small volumes through reputable projects. Businesses requiring more in depth footprint analysis have an array of tools and information at their disposal. Technology is also playing its part and companies like CO2 Analytics offer software that can even make complex measurements, like the carbon footprint of your supply chain, more economically viable.

Our tip: Start with your accounting team -" they have access to almost all of the data you'll need to calculate emissions.You can't make a footprint calculation 100% accurate, so make the most most accurate calculation you can afford, whilst still leaving enough budget to effectively reduce and offset it.

  1. How do I choose the right offset partner?

There are different types of carbon offset provider, from those who simply sell on credits from carbon reduction projects run by third parties, to those who develop their own projects and offer a fully integrated solution. To select the right partner, consider:

  • How long has the organisation been established in the carbon offset market?

  • What type and level of clients do they have and how long have they worked with them?
  • Do they offer a broad selection of projects?
  • Do they develop their own projects?
  • Are they members of ICROA, the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance that sets strict codes of guidance for members.
  • Can they offer the support you need in terms of advice, guidance or management?
  • Can they help you demonstrate value by putting together an offsetting programme that meets your budget, resonates with your business and is engaging for stakeholders?

Our tip: Do your research. Choose an ICROA registered offset provider who is well established, with a strong reputation and who understands the needs of your business. Don't treat this as a one-off transaction, but the beginning of a partnership activity.

  1. What price should I pay for a carbon credit?

There is no set price for a carbon credit. The price reflects the cost of the project and the specific activities that reduce CO2 from the atmosphere. It also reflects market demand -" with best practice and innovate projects commanding higher prices. However, offsetting your carbon footprint is probably cheaper than you think. For example the cost to offset a flight from London to New York with ClimateCare is just £5.75 Projects set up to reduce global carbon emissions rely on finance from sales of carbon credits. Take time to think about what you want to achieve through your carbon offset and what type of projects you want to support. Are you interested in supporting projects that reduce carbon emissions by improving industrial processes, that can be cheaper, or supporting best practice projects that may cost a little more, but which help your business deliver your business CSR and communications value? Or, do you favour a combination of the two?

Our tip: Think about what type of project is important for your business, as well as your budget. Buying the cheapest credits is not always the best value for money.

How can I make a business case for a carbon offsetting programme?

Carbon offsets are cost effective and immediate. They deliver real emissions reductions that are robustly measured and independently verified. Research shows that handled correctly a carbon offset programme can also deliver real value for your business as well as the environment. It offers the opportunity for your business to call itself climate neutral, demonstrates leadership, differentiates you from less responsible brands and can inspire your workforce to engage with carbon reduction activities in house.

Our tip: Use our business case for carbon offsetting to help make the case to management for offsetting your organisation's travel and operational carbon emissions, or contact the ClimateCare team for help.

What type of carbon reduction projects should I support?

The answer to this question will depend on what you want to achieve and your budget. You might want to deliver maximum carbon reduction for your budget, or you might want to focus your support in specific locations. You could concentrate your support for a specific technology, like solar power, or create a programme that delivers against your company's social and environmental outcomes addressing issues like water scarcity, women's empowerment and health. Carbon reduction projects are not all about carbon and the environment, they can improve life for communities in developing countries. For example the award-winning LifeStraw Carbon for Water project (pictured below) cuts carbon by providing communities with safe drinking water, while the Gold Standard Gyapa Project (pictured above) manufactures more efficient cookstoves that cut carbon and in doing so tackles poverty by creating jobs and saving locals money on their fuel bills. At ClimateCare, in addition to helping clients support the most appropriate carbon reduction projects for their business, we offer bespoke project development, allowing clients to fund projects that cut carbon in their own supply chains, or in the communities where they operate.

CC column LifeStraw pic

Our tip: Many are excited by the possibility of developing bespoke carbon reduction projects, but in reality this takes time and most of our clients begin by supporting a portfolio of schemes that we design specifically to meet their environmental, CSR and business targets and budget.

Is carbon offsetting for you? Whether you want to reduce your own carbon footprint, or help your business differentiate itself, carbon offsetting can be a valuable part of your toolkit -" particularly where travel is concerned. And, if you want to achieve climate neutrality it's the only option, unless you stop travelling altogether. Done right it can not only deliver positive outcomes for the environment but for the communities that matter to the long-term future of your business. Find out more at

About ClimateCare From offices in the UK and Africa, ClimateCare works with businesses and governments around the world to deliver integrated Climate+Care programmes which protect the environment and improve lives. Established in 1997, to date it has improved life for over six million people whilst cutting 16.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions. It's a Certified B Corporation and holds a Queen's Award for outstanding contributions to tackling climate change and alleviating poverty. Find out more at

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