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Guide To Major Carbon Standards For Offsetting in Ecommerce

verified carbon standard

Carbon offsets have become a standard approach for ecommerce companies looking to mitigate their emissions today while strategizing ways to fully decarbonize in the future. While carbon offset projects offer an effective approach to balancing emissions, a lack of standardization surrounding the validation of voluntary carbon offsets poses major challenges.

Carbon standards offer a solution. Using science-backed approaches, the major carbon standards have developed trusted methodologies to analyze and support carbon projects that do exactly as they claim. Let’s take a look at the major carbon standards and why they’re important.

What Is A Carbon Standard?

Carbon standards are groups that verify carbon offsetting projects of all types. Using rigorous screening and observing a carbon certification process, carbon standards ensure that all verified carbon offsetting projects positively impact the environment (and oftentimes, the nearby community) leaving a lasting impact.

Carbon standards are typically backed by reputable and environment-focused non-profits, such as the American Carbon Registry, the Climate Action Reserve, and VERRA, who are capable of supervising and aiding the dozens of carbon offsetting projects they verify. 

These non-profits use an abundance of rigorous criteria that each project must meet in order to be registered as a carbon offset project in the voluntary carbon credit market. In an effort to achieve global standardizations, collaborative efforts by carbon offsetting schemes created the Core Carbon Principles (CCP). These benchmarks must be followed in order for all types of carbon credits to be considered high integrity. Briefly, they are as follows.

  1. Additionality: The reductions, removals, and avoidances would not have happened without funding from carbon credits.
  2. Permanence: The reductions, removals, and avoidances must remain out of the atmosphere for at least 100 years.
  3. Robust quantification of emissions reduction and removals: It must be quantified based on scientific methods.
  4. No double counting: Carbon credits and offsets cannot be counted twice.
  5. Effective governance: It must be managed correctly to ensure transparency and honesty.
  6. Tracking: It must make use of a registry to properly track reductions, removals, and avoidances.
  7. Transparency: The information must be publicly available and in a digital format.
  8. Robust independent third-party validation and verification: All activities must be validated and verified by independent third parties.
  9. Sustainable development benefits and safeguards: It must have tools and guidance to ensure that it follows established protocols.
  10. Contribution to net zero transition: It must be compatible with net zero goals.

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Carbon standards and the carbon credit certification companies they verify help people determine the authenticity and impact of a project. While a lot of projects can claim to be eco-friendly and make a difference, projects that are verified by the world’s major carbon standards are the best ones out there. These projects are guaranteed to have an impact now and in the future. Only one-fifth of carbon projects will stack up to the CCP, so it’s important that you ensure that the projects you support do not fail these principles. 

Why Carbon Standards Matter

All carbon standards require independent third-party validation and verification of all the carbon offset projects. Once a carbon offset program has been validated and verified by a third party,  and its credit has been calculated, it can then be bought and sold by carbon offset brokers to individuals or businesses looking to offset their carbon footprint. By understanding how carbon offsets work, we can advance our knowledge of sustainable practices and work to reduce our impact on the environment.

Want to know where your business stands? Get your sustainability scorecard with our quiz.

Carbon Standard Verification Process

Because the entire point of carbon offset verification and validation is to rigorously evaluate a carbon project, there are quite a few steps to ensure that the carbon removals, reductions, and avoidances are effective. When you support a project that’s validated by a major carbon standard, it will have undergone the following.

  1. Before project implementation, the project must be validated by a third party to ensure that it meets all of the rules of the carbon standard.
  2. After the project is complete, it must be verified to confirm that the objectives have been achieved and quantified per the carbon standard. 

If all standards are met before, during, and after the project has commenced, then carbon credits may be assigned and transformed into carbon offsets.

Read more: Finding Reliable Carbon Offset Programs 

Voluntary Carbon Standards

Mitigating your company’s carbon footprint through offset projects is an effective way to address the parts of your carbon footprint that you can’t yet remove from operations and to gain green business certifications. Although offsets cannot be your only strategy for decarbonization, they can be calculated in your carbon accounting and help your company gain high-level ESG certification. However, the climate projects that you support must be verified by a major carbon standard to be considered relevant. 

As you seek out the carbon projects that you want to support, make sure that they are verified by one of the following.

Verified Carbon Standard

VERRA’s Verified Carbon Standard program (VCS) is the world’s most used carbon standard program. Founded in 2005, their program boasts more than a thousand projects from individuals and corporations alike, offsetting more than 630 million tons of carbon in total to date! Their development process, which outlines the standards projects must meet to have their project verified, is constantly updated to meet the needs of our planet today.

VCS projects help offset the world’s carbon emissions in various categories, including handling waste, protecting grasslands, and creating renewable energy. On top of protecting the environment, VERRA projects help regions all over the world with economic development. 

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary

All of EcoCart’s offsetting projects come from VERRA:

American Carbon Registry

The American Carbon Registry was founded in 1996 and was the first private, voluntary offset program in the world. With their decades of experience, they’ve developed a rigorous set of standards that allow individuals and groups to create and register their carbon-offsetting projects. 

As an approved Offset Project Registry for one of California’s environmental programs, they also work with the Air Resources Board (ARB) to verify more carbon offsetting projects using their protocols.

Impact of the American Carbon Registry

The American Carbon Registry has been instrumental in driving up the quality of carbon offsetting projects and ensuring that they meet the highest standards. It has also raised public awareness about the importance of effective carbon management, as well as increased accountability and transparency around environmental issues by setting out guidelines for companies to follow.

The registry’s carbon offset services play an important part in the global effort to reduce climate change, as it provides a reliable platform for organizations and individuals to purchase high-quality carbon offsets.

Climate Action Reserve

Founded in 2001, the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) is one of the best verified carbon standards in the United States. Through their carbon credits certificate system, they’ve been able to monitor and aid dozens of projects to reach maximum impact. T CAR holds all of its projects to a high standard, ensuring that all projects that are part of their program are beneficial to both the environment and the economy. Projects must also be vetted by several stakeholders and meet a detailed list of standards. Projects vetted by the Climate Action Reserve help to reduce air pollution and create new green technology among other environmental and economic benefits. 

The Gold Standard

Established in 2003, the Gold Standard allows carbon offset and similar projects to quantify, certify, and maximize their impact. They aim to create projects that help the environment and the people that live in it at the highest level of environmental integrity possible. Through a variety of requirements, methods, and safeguards, they’ve been able to measure the impact of all of their projects and ensure their lasting impact, measuring their projects against both the Paris Climate Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Gold Standard helps to verify both climate protection and intervention projects. The project helps reduce the burning of fossil fuels through its 30 wind turbines in Indonesia, which power 70,000 local homes. The project also supports the region economically, providing jobs and educating residents about the importance of protecting the environment.

Plan Vivo

Plan Vivo focuses on natural resources, particular forests and agriculture. Their certified projects have resulted in the reduction of carbon emissions, the conservation of biodiversity, and the improvement of rural livelihoods. The implementation of Plan Vivo has also fostered the development of new alliances between different stakeholders, such as governments, NGOs, and private companies. Together, they are working towards a common goal of creating a more sustainable world for all.

By using principles that ensure biodiversity and sustainability, Plan Vivo supports rural communities while bettering the planet as a whole. The program is an innovative solution to fight the impacts of global warming and is an effective way to create positive change for both local populations and the environment. These projects range from reforestation efforts to conservation grants to sustainable farming practices, mostly in developing countries impacted by climate change. 

Verification Process of Plan Vivo

When it comes to Plan Vivo projects, validation is all about making sure the on-ground implementation matches up with the project development document and follows the Plan Vivo Standard. Verification is there to ensure that the project continues to meet the standard’s requirements and keeps achieving any set carbon emissions reduction or avoidance goals. Each project chooses its own VVB but the VVB needs to be approved by Plan Vivo. Projects are required to reverify every 5 years 

Mandatory Compliance Carbon Standards

Governments use mandatory compliance carbon standards to set a maximum amount of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted by businesses and industries across different sectors 

By setting a limit on carbon emissions, governments aim to reduce their impact on the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. This is not just a regulatory obligation, it is a responsibility that we all share as citizens of this planet.

Clean Development Mechanism

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a tool that allows for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Developed as part of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the CDM has had a significant impact on the global fight against climate change. By providing incentives for clean energy projects in developing countries, the CDM has not only helped reduce emissions but has also contributed to sustainable economic growth. 

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that spurs sustainable development and combats climate change by sponsoring projects in developing countries.

The CDM has an array of project types that it sponsors, including renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects, and waste management projects. The renewable energy projects aim to broaden the utilization of clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydro energies. The energy efficiency projects strive to enhance energy performance in industrial and residential areas, reduce energy consumption, and improve cost savings. 

The waste management projects focus on enhancing solid waste management and reducing carbon emissions. CDM’s sponsorship of these projects has not only contributed to climate change mitigation and adaptation but also supported sustainable development in developing countries.

EU-ETS (European Union Emissions Trading Scheme)

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, or EU-ETS, is a system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon. By requiring companies to purchase permits for the right to emit carbon, the EU-ETS creates a financial incentive for businesses to mitigate their carbon footprint. 

This system has been in place since 2005 and has driven significant reductions in emissions while also providing a framework for companies to invest in cleaner technologies. While the EU-ETS has faced criticism for its complexity and potential for market manipulation, it remains a critical tool in the fight against climate change in Europe and beyond.

Types of Projects Within EU-ETS

There are three types of carbon offset projects within the EU-ETS: 

  1. Verified Emission Reduction (VER) projects, 
  2. Joint Implementation (JI) projects, 
  3. and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects.

VER projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within an organization, while JI projects focus on creating emissions reductions in other countries through international cooperation. 

CDM projects, on the other hand, concentrate on sustainable development in developing countries through cooperation with the United Nations on encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. 

With these different types of projects, the EU-ETS is driving innovative solutions to combat climate change and promote a more sustainable future.

Verification Process of EU-ETS

The Verification Process of EU-ETS involves verifying data, conducting site visits, and assessing compliance with regulatory requirements. This lengthy process ensures that organizations are accurately reporting their greenhouse gas emissions. Through regular checks and audits, the EU is able to hold businesses accountable for their environmental impact while also promoting transparency and accountability. 

Compliance Offset Program (California)

The Compliance Offsets Program helps businesses comply with the Cap-and-Trade Program requirements by providing ARB Offset Credits for qualifying projects that reduce or sequester greenhouse gasses. These offset credits represent verified emissions reductions, and they provide cost containment and compliance flexibility. 

Compliance entities may use ARB Offset Credits to meet up to 4% of their obligation from 2021-2025, and 6% from 2026-2030—but the majority of projects invested in must have direct environmental benefits in California. 

Start Mitigating Your Emissions With Our Climate Projects

EcoCart’s climate projects are verified and validated by VERRA, so you can be sure that your shipping offsets work toward your carbon mitigation goals. But, we don’t stop at carbon projects. We offer plenty of support to our ecommerce customers looking to better manage their carbon footprints or earn green certifications. Check out our shipping offset widget, Life Cycle Analysis, sustainability dashboard, and more. Interested in learning how EcoCart can help you reach your sustainability KPIs? Contact us today!

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