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) - often called carbon emissions - are a form of air pollution. GHGs change the earth’s climate 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. If you want to learn more, check out this explainer video.


What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by something or someone. Companies and countries have carbon footprints, and so do you. A carbon footprint includes many different kinds of emissions, including things you probably wouldn’t think of, like raw material extraction and freight shipping. To learn more about what’s included in a company’s carbon footprint, check out our How It Works page.


How much does the world need to reduce its total carbon footprint?

A lot! And quickly. Recent estimates show the planet’s emissions reached a record high of 55.5 BILLION tCO2e in 2018. There is more CO2 collected in the atmosphere now than ever before. In order to avoid continuing on this path and facing the tragic impacts of climate change, like more frequent and intense incidents of extreme weather, we need to reduce global greenhouse gases way below current levels, starting immediately. Find out more about the need for global emission reductions here.


Why is this important now?

People have been talking about climate change for decades and doing very little about it, so the issue is more than ever. All of the recent science suggests that we're approaching a point of no return on climate change - and political, economic, and social systems are not responding quickly enough. Humanity's decisions in the next 10 years will determine, more than ever before, how our climate changes and the extent of its impacts over the next century and beyond.If you want to dig deeper, we suggest checking out Vox’s breakdown of the situation. Or, if you have some time to dive in, peruse this authoritative (700 page) report.


What does tCO2e mean?

There are six main GHGs, so it's helpful to count them with a single unit: tCO2e. 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 a standard unit for counting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regardless of whether they’re from carbon dioxide or another gas, such as methane.


What is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit is a standard unit of measure for carbon emission reductions. One credit equals one tCO2e. People who eliminate GHG emissions can generate and sell carbon credits. People who want to offset their emissions can buy carbon credits. Carbon credits are generated through a variety of projects and technologies, ranging from reforestation initiatives that sequester (suck up) CO2, to micro-grid solar projects which substitute fossil fuel-based energy production with reliable clean sources of energy that don’t emit greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Find out more about different types of carbon projects here.


What does carbon neutral mean?

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Worldwide carbon neutrality is needed to achieve “net zero emissions” and avoid devastating climate change. Companies must take the lead by achieving carbon neutrality for their own operations.


How does a carbon credit help fight climate change?

Carbon credits drive investment into climate change solutions. They help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and are capable of delivering immediate and lasting carbon reductions. Solving the climate crisis cannot occur without deep investment in projects that drive systemic change in our economies.

For an example, let’s take a look at flying. We can take steps to reduce the amount of air travel, but a certain amount is still going to be inevitable - how many people do you know that would be willing to never travel by plane? 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 that’s being held 2,000 miles away. Buying quality offsets for the emissions we can’t reduce will always be better than doing nothing at all.


How do you know if carbon credits work?

The market for carbon offsets has a strong system of third-party verification and Climate Neutral only allows offsets that are generated from the most trustworthy and scientifically rigorous standards.The current offset standards that Climate Neutral allows can be seen as follows: 
• Verified Carbon Standard• American Carbon Registry • Gold Standard• Clean Development Mechanism • Climate Action Reserve 
These programs help ensure the integrity of offsetting projects by verifying that carbon credits meet the big six requirements: real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, enforceable, and additional.


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: 1) Measuring a company’s carbon footprint can take a long time and requires a ton of capital, and these barriers prevent companies from measuring their carbon footprints. 2) Carbon offsetting was widely misunderstood, misrepresented, and poorly marketed, both to brands and to consumers. Climate Neutral was born as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in early 2019, and operates as an independent entity focused on its mission.


What is Climate Neutral’s end goal?

Climate Neutral is creating the Climate Neutral Certified label as a trusted consumer standard that shows which companies have achieved carbon neutrality in their operations. Our goal is for our label to become ubiquitous and drive large scale decarbonization around the world.


How do I know you guys are legit?

We have a transparent process and follow industry best practices to ensure good governance practices. Our organization is overseen by a board of directors, advisors, and two separate certification committees (check them out here) and maintained through a multi-stakeholder process. Our certification standards are transparently posted here, and will be continuously updated as needed from our stakeholder feedback process to make sure they are consistent with the latest approaches to corporate responsibility and the current state of the voluntary carbon market.


How is Climate Neutral different from other pledges and labels?

We believe that the consumer has largely been left out of the picture by other labels and standards, so we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how to make our label meaningful, useful, and trusted.

We also believe that impact doesn’t require complexity, and are committed to making our certification process clear and straightforward.

We shun overhead costs, and believe that the time and resources that companies invest in carbon management should go toward offsets and reductions.


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.

Furthermore, efforts to reduce carbon emissions are often aligned with other environmental priorities. For example, recycled metals are typically less carbon intensive, and carbon offsets typically support biodiversity and provide other environmental benefits. 


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 tell policymakers that there is mass public support for carbon regulation, spurring the government to take action.


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

We make a nice label and you put it on your stuff! 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. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. We’re constantly having conversations with the media, and have a presence at top industry events and conferences.

We work hand-in-hand with our brands to help you promote your commitment and certification. And, our brands love to collaborate, so you’ll have the chance to reach new customers through giveaways and network-wide sales.


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

Sure 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 “Measure, Offset, and Reduce"?

Once your footprint has been measured, the next step is to offset the entire thing. Those emissions already happened, and need to be cleaned up if you’re going to call yourself carbon neutral.

Then you need a plan to lower your future 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, and so on.

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 $4.50-7.00 USD per metric ton. A good rule of thumb is to assume it'll cost about 0.4% of annual revenues to offset your entire carbon footprint. 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, and 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. This can include the fuel you burn in company vehicles, the natural gas you use to heat your office, or any direct emissions from owned manufacturing plants.
- Scope 2 represents indirect emissions. This is mostly your purchased electricity. Scope 3 represents indirect emissions from your supply chain and in most cases makes up the majority of a company’s 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, employee commuting, 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. Climate Neutral has built a tool that combines the power of estimation with the capability to refine with operational data. We need to take action now-- and our tool allows precision where you can muster data and a scientifically sound estimate where you can’t.  


How important is the "reduce" part of this?

Essential. We can’t stop the planet from warming more than 1.5 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. Accordingly, we require that reduction plans are created and implemented on an annual basis and encourage brands to adopt reduction targets that are consistent with the latest climate science, for example by developing a target through the Science-based Targets Initiative, found here.


How are carbon credits selected?

We select carbon credits based on our offset requirements which are developed by a continuous review process of the best available standards to ensure companies are utilizing quality credits. Our standard creates a common baseline for all companies so that Climate Neutral Certified 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 the Climate Neutral Certified label on your products, website, and marketing materials to share your certification with the world. Continue to work on reducing your emissions and encourage 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 - a good ballpark estimate is about 0.4% of annual revenues.


My company already has a plan to measure, offset, and reduce 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 fits our certification requirements. 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 501(c)(3) non-profit organization 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.