Carbon offsetting your retail project. What you need to know.

John Caswell

Sustainability Champion

It’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to completely avoid carbon within the design, manufacture, installation, running and end of life of any project.

Even if we look at reducing emissions by running projects using renewable energy production, zero emission transport and 100% carbon neutral materials, it will still have some emissions within its lifecycle somewhere. So, what can be done about a projects emissions, and how can offsetting play its part?

Carbon offsetting works by allowing companies to buy carbon credits. A carbon credit is the equivalent to a carbon reduction of 1 tonne of CO2 through any number of projects. It’s not just planting trees and can include investing in renewable energy schemes, capturing landfill gas, supplying clean cooking stoves to developing countries or protecting forests. The great thing about these projects is that they can benefit more than just carbon reductions and can contribute towards many other Sustainable Development Goals. Carbon offsetting is highly regulated but it’s important to make sure any credits meet the following criteria.

Additional – ensuring that the carbon reduction is real and permanent

Verified – proving assurance on the quality and credibility of the credits

Traceable – transparent and proving proof of the offset

So how can you start to offset your project? One of the hardest parts of successfully offsetting a project is knowing your emissions. Measuring emissions can be incredibly time consuming and complicated. We’ve successfully developed a way of measuring the embodied carbon of materials within a project, along with our direct transport emissions. This does however miss out other non-direct emissions. Whatever we can measure we would suggest doubling it to account for everything we can’t yet measure. Alternatively, you could set a project offset budget, or we could give a good estimated carbon footprint based on data from similar projects (during 2019 an average shop-in-shop project by us generated 3.5 tonnes of CO2e). Costs of offsets vary in price but at £10-£15 per tonne, offsetting is incredibly affordable as a % of project value.

​​With the relatively low cost of offsetting, the important thing is not to use offsetting as a way of avoiding change. It’s a bit like stuffing your face with an unhealthy meal only to try and compensate for it by eating a salad. This is never going to form part of a balanced diet just in the same way offsetting is never going to form a truly sustainable future.

As more net-zero legislations start to be implemented and with the rise of climate awareness among the general public, businesses have an option to voluntarily reduce and offset emissions or wait as the necessity of reaching net-zero becomes an imminent reality. With the recent launch of the Climate Neutral certification, the public are seeking ways to see that businesses care. The important thing to remember is offsetting is a great short-term solution while we all find ways to reduce the overall impact of what we do. It isn’t however the long term answer to climate change.

With the relatively low cost of offsetting, the important thing is not to use offsetting as a way of avoiding change

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