Commonly asked questions about carbon neutrality, climate change, and Climate Neutral

Climate Change 101

What are carbon emissions and how do they contribute to climate change?

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) - also called carbon emissions - are a form of air pollution released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases warm the earth by trapping heat.  As humans put more GHGs into the atmosphere, the planet’s atmospheric insulation changes from a nice, breathable summer quilt to a dangerous layer of bubble wrap that changes living conditions for virtually everything on Earth.


What does tCO2e mean?

tCO2e stands for tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (e). "Tonne" is a fancy way of writing metric ton, or 2,200 pounds. Carbon dioxide equivalent is the standard unit for counting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are six main GHGs, so it's helpful to count them with a single unit: tCO2e. For example: methane has 28x the climate-changing impact of CO2, so a tonne of methane equates to 28 tCO2e.


How much do we need to reduce?

A lot! And quickly. Recent estimates show the planet’s emissions reached a record high of 53.5 BILLION tCO2e in 2017. Atmospheric CO2 in 2019 is the highest it's been in millions of years. In order to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to reduce global greenhouse gasses at least 25% below current levels over the next ten years. Find out more about our global emission reduction target here.


What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total GHG emissions emitted from human activities. A company’s carbon footprint represents all of its direct emissions (i.e. CO2e released from on-site facilities), as well as its indirect emissions (i.e. CO2e generated from electricity use, shipping, business travel, extracting raw materials, etc). To learn more about what is included in a company’s carbon footprint, see here.


Why is this important now?

People have indeed been talking about climate change for decades. Why the urgency now? Because all the recent science suggests that we're approaching a point of no return on climate change - and all the evidence suggests that political, economic, and social systems are not responding quickly enough. Humanity's decisions in the next 10 years will determine, more than ever before, the course of climate change and the extent of its impacts over the next century and beyond.


What is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit represents the avoidance or reduction of one tonne of CO2e. Companies and individuals can purchase credits to ‘offset’ emissions they are unable to reduce themselves. The carbon emissions a company produces in one place can then be equally reduced in another, neutralizing the impact. Carbon credits are generated through a variety of technologies, ranging from reforestation initiatives that sequester CO2, to micro-grid solar projects which substitute fossil fuel-based energy production with reliable clean sources of energy.  Find out more about different types of offset projects here.


How does a carbon credit help fight climate change?

Carbon credits are a effective financing mechanism for the transition to a low-carbon economy, and are capable of delivering immediate and lasting carbon reductions. Avoiding dangerous climate change cannot occur without deep investment in systemic change in our economies.

Think of flying. Humans can take steps to reduce the amount of air travel, but a certain amount is still going to be inevitable. Between now and the time we figure out how to create electric planes or develop clean forms of transcontinental travel, we are left with no choice but to purchase plane tickets for our best friend’s wedding 2,000 miles away. Buying quality offsets for the emissions we’re stuck with will always be better than doing nothing as we steer ourselves towards a low-carbon world.


How do you know if carbon credits work?

Qualified carbon credits go through a scientifically rigorous third-party verification process in order to secure real emission reductions. For this reason, it is imperative that credits come from a reputable supplier that carries out a transparent monitoring, reporting and verification process.


Where can I read more about carbon markets?

See this article from Forest Trends.

Climate Neutral Certified 101

Who is behind Climate Neutral?

Climate Neutral was co-founded by Peter Dering of Peak Design and Jonathan Cedar of BioLite. As founders/CEOs of entirely carbon neutral companies, Peter and Jonathan shared the same burning question: why aren't more companies doing this? It didn't take long for the answer to become clear: carbon offsetting was widely misunderstood, misrepresented, and poorly marketed, both to brands and to consumers. In late 2018, Peter, Jonathan, and their respective teams joined forces with the goal of making carbon neutrality a mainstream baseline for sustainability. Climate Neutral was born as a 501c3 nonprofit in early 2019, and operates as an independent entity focused on its mission.


What is Climate Neutral’s end goal?

1) To build a brand mark and certification so widely recognized and respected that not having it is like not having your own logo on a product. 2) To build a coalition behind that brand so large that it proves the world is ready to pay for carbon pollution. 3) As a result of #1 and #2, we'll take a huge bite out of climate change.


How do I know you guys are legit?

All aspects of Climate Neutral are transparent and vetted with third-party experts. Our methodology for footprint measurement is clearly outlined on our site and we utilize only the most trusted, highest quality offset verification bodies for credits. We have convened a widely respected group of advisors to ensure we've established robust standards for our certification, our carbon offsetting standard, and our own operations. Got a question for us? Drop us a note.


How is Climate Neutral different from other pledges and labels?

We keep it simple while maintaining a rigorous certification that represents deep and meaningful action on climate change. We don’t require extensive paperwork and bureaucracy, we just want you to measure, reduce, and offset your emissions.

We have streamlined the carbon footprinting process with our new measurement tool, the BEE. Footprinting is often a major barrier to entry for businesses who don’t have the time or resources to calculate emissions, and it shouldn’t be. That’s why for companies under $100M in revenue, we provide a rapid footprinting tool which conservatively estimates emissions (Scope 1, 2, & 3) to help you become Climate Neutral Certified.


Why just focus on greenhouse gas emissions when the world has so many sustainability problems?

Greenhouse gas emissions are the single most globally damaging form of pollution - and yet they are mostly unregulated. Every sustainability goal is worthy, but most are irrelevant in a world made uninhabitable by carbon pollution.


Why are you asking businesses to do something? Isn't this a government thing?

It's everybody's thing. Governments around the world should be regulating emissions but unfortunately aren't, and we don't have time to spare. Climate change requires immediate action, which is why companies need to take responsibility for their own emissions. We hope this corporate movement will demonstrate the mass public support for carbon regulation and spur the government into taking action.


How will Climate Neutral make its certification recognizable and valuable to my customers?

We make a nice logo and you put it on yer stuffs! We're committed to making Climate Neutral Certified a household name and focusing on both our own marketing strategy and helping our brands communicate their certification to their customers. We're active on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, are constantly having conversations with the media, and keep an eye on top industry events and conferences.


I want to bring this to my boss – do you have something I can share to help me make the case?

Sure we do. Share this website and drop us a line and we'll set you up with what you need to outline the business case!

Getting Climate Neutral Certified

What's the idea behind “Reduce What You Can, Offset What You Can’t?"

Once your footprint has been measured, the next step is to come up with a plan on how to lower your business emissions: reduce what you can. In many instances, there will be low-hanging fruit – energy efficiency improvements, waste management opportunities, more video chats instead of flying across the country for a three hour meeting, etc. Looking out at the horizon, in order to effectively mitigate the impacts of climate change, all businesses need to have long-term planning for maximizing their reduction efforts across their corporate value chains. And while taking reduction steps is an important solution path, offsetting what we can’t reduce now is always going to be better than doing nothing at all.


Isn’t carbon offsetting expensive?

Surprisingly, no! High-quality credits can be purchased for $5 per metric ton. A good rule of thumb is to assume it'll cost about 0.4% of annual revenues. That boils down to about 12 cents to offset a pair of shoes or 30 cents to offset a backpack.


My company doesn’t make a physical product – is my footprint zero?

Even if you don't make a physical product, you have a carbon footprint. Everything from the electricity used to light your office and run your computer to employee work travel counts in calculating your carbon footprint.


What does Scope 1, 2, 3 emissions mean?

Scope 1, 2, & 3 emissions represent the entirety of a carbon footprint from a company’s activities.  

- Scope 1 signifies direct emissions that come from on-site facilities and employee commuting
- Scope 2 represents indirect emissions that are generated off-site as a result of powering your operations
- Scope 3 represents indirect emissions from your supply chain and in most cases makes up the majority of a companies' footprint. Scope 3 represents tCO2 emitted across the entire corporate value chain – that means emissions released from extracting raw materials used for finished products, corporate business travel, shipping and transporting, and more.

To learn more about Scopes 1, 2 and 3, visit the World Resource Institute GHG Protocol homepage found here.


Calculating my company’s carbon footprint seems complex – how will I know the measurement is accurate?

There will always be uncertainty in estimating the entirety of a company’s footprint. Uncertainties stem from a variety of areas - imperfect data collection, oversimplifications of reality to translate dollar values into units of tCO2e, and much more. But don’t let perfect be the enemy of good! Estimating your carbon emissions doesn’t have to be an arduous or expensive process. It is imperative however that estimates adjust for the margin of error so that their calculation is confidently at or above their true levels.


How important is the "reduce" part of this?

Essential. We can’t stop the planet from warming 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels unless we all take a good hard look in the mirror and come up with a plan to reduce our own emissions over time.


How are carbon credits selected?

We select carbon credits based on a continuous review process of the best available standards. There is no best approach to carbon credits, but our standard creates a common baseline for all companies so that the term "climate neutral" now means one thing - not 1,000 different things. Feel free to use the Contact Us link and we'll walk you through our logic.


Once I get certified, what happens?

First, give yourself a big pat on the back for this exciting accomplishment! Next, display your Climate Neutral Certified label on your products, website, and marketing materials to share with the world what you have done. Continue to work on reducing emissions where you can and encouraging more companies to follow your lead.


How much does it cost?

Right now, we don't charge a certification fee to become Climate Neutral Certified. The only cost associated with our program is the cost of purchasing carbon credits to offset your footprint - about 0.4% of annual revenues or $2,500 USD per $1M in revenue.


My company already has a plan to measure, reduce, and offset our emissions! Can I get Climate Neutral Certified with the work we’re doing?

That's great that you already have a plan. Nice work! Now we just need to make sure it's as comprehensive and immediate as what our certification requires. Drop us a line and we'll give you some quick feedback and identify any gaps. You could already be close!

Other Questions

Why is Climate Neutral a non-profit?

Climate Neutral is structured as a non-profit so that we can avoid conflicts of interest and be neutral in this whole process. (Neutral...get it?) We don't want commercial interests to get in the way of how we certify companies. And we want your investment in neutrality to fund decarbonization projects, not buy us yachts.


I’m a researcher/ scientist/academic and I have questions about Climate Neutral – how can I get in touch?

Reach out to us via our Contact page. We look forward to talking.