Skip to main content

What is carbon offsetting?

By Marta Moses | Posted February 19, 2020

First things first, what does it mean to carbon offset? Put simply, it's how companies 'neutralise' their carbon emissions.

Now, carbon offsetting is a controversial practice on many levels (which we'll get into). And although it isn't the answer to climate challenges, there are green projects out there that companies can invest in that'll benefit our environment more than others. The projects range from rainforest protection and wind power support to providing cookstoves for developing countries and improving landfill processes.

To participate in carbon offset schemes, companies measure their carbon footprint and calculate the amount of gas they use. For every kWh or gas used, carbon is released. To counter this, companies may offset every tonne of carbon from their gas usage by supporting global green projects.

An example of this is the number of air miles we take when travelling for leisure or business. While the flight itself emits high levels of carbon emissions, offsetting allows companies to make a positive impact elsewhere to balance things out. There's plenty of talk about lowering our carbon footprint – and there are many ways we can do it. 

We want to explain exactly what carbon offsetting is and how companies can lower their footprint rather than offsetting it. 

So, how do companies offset their carbon footprint?

Companies buy carbon credits from green projects. A carbon credit is a financial unit of measurement that allows companies and individuals to contribute towards a low-carbon future. Each carbon credit represents the removal of one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

When you buy a carbon credit, you can contribute to reducing carbon emissions as part of a larger project rather than making radical reductions of your own. Once a carbon credit has been used, it's retired for companies on a public registry. You'll need to buy more carbon credits to continue to make a positive impact through carbon offset projects.

Good quality offsets can provide businesses with an excellent option to help worthwhile causes. Our Large Business team can support your organisation's Net Zero strategy by providing access to a large portfolio of carbon credits

But do carbon offsets really lower emissions?

Projects such as tree planting initiatives attract a lot of criticism as people claim there's only so much carbon a plant can absorb.

The credibility of tree-planting projects is questioned because when CO2 is released from fossil fuels, it stays in the air for between 20–200 years. However, trees only temporarily store carbon. So, companies investing in tree planting projects will need to ensure they stay there for centuries to guarantee they develop long enough to absorb more carbon. 

What are we doing to reduce our carbon emissions?

We meet the challenges of climate change by investing in renewable energy projects around the UK.

We’re always on the lookout for new ways to reduce our carbon emissions and support communities. From investing in nuclear power, which is one of the lowest carbon energy sources out there, to helping our customers get on the road to electricity with our EV offering.

Most recently, we revealed plans to develop our 37th wind farm, Garn Fach, south of Newton, Powys in Wales. The site will be home to 22 turbines and will be developed in partnership with 14 local farming families. The farm will have the capacity to generate power for 66,000 homes. It'll support the UK and Welsh governments towards the goal of generating more electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050.

Discover how we’re planning to build a sustainable future through wind power.