New paper on green alternatives
A new paper on alternatives to carbon offsetting has been published by the UK and Ireland Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM).
The paper, titled ‘Alternatives to Offsetting', discusses the pros and cons of three alternatives to traditional carbon offsetting.
Jon Green, one of the writers of the paper and ICARUS advisory board member said: "We feel that the corporate offsetting culture is one that can be challenged through innovative new approaches."
The report said that many businesses have sought to demonstrate their carbon credentials through voluntary offsetting, but that "offsetting has led to accusations of corporate greenwash and business as usual practices".
"The question of offsetting and its value in mitigating the effects of dangerous climate change, engaging employees and driving behavioural change is under evaluation," said the report.
In the paper, three alternatives to carbon offsetting are proposed: uncoupled offsetting, carbon philanthropy and internal carbon mitigation investment.
Uncoupled offsetting means abandoning the concept of calculating and reducing carbon emissions gram for gram, instead donating to charities that are working to alleviate the results of climate change. It could be a charity involved in environmental, carbon or humanitarian projects.
This would allow companies to "directly support charities that are responding to climate change issues and in doing so engage with charities whose operations and accounts are more transparent than some organisations that operate in the voluntary offset market".
The report warned that "uncoupled offsetting does risk accusations of business as usual or eco-colonialism, and diminishing donations as organisations become more carbon-efficient."
The second proposal, carbon philanthropy, is where an organisation donates to a charity completely unrelated to carbon or climate change issues. This might be for local schooling or a welfare charity, and could be aligned with a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.
This could "reflect the core values of a company", and create "greater alignment between an organisation offsetting and its wider CSR activity", said the report.
It warned that businesses would have to "ensure carbon based funds were ring fenced and were not used to substitute for existing donations".
The third option is internal carbon mitigation investment (ICMI), which would involve businesses creating a fund dedicated to reducing carbon emissions within the company, for example by investing in video conferencing technology.
The report said this could reduce costs and carbon emissions "if invested in appropriate measures", but the company must "distinguish between business as usual internal investment and that created as part of an ICMI programme".
Jon Green said: "These are not simple or clear issues, but discussion and debate is much needed in this space as politicians, business and citizens examine the role of the corporation in society today.
"The use, role and management of business travel and meeting is a pivotal part of that discussion."
The paper is available to all ITM members and to subscribers of ICARUS.