Is carbon offsetting greenwashing?

3 min read
August 25, 2022 at 4:59 PM

Carbon offsetting in the environmental sector is a very controversial subject.

Although some consider it as another entry door to greenwashing and false advertisement, carbon offsetting can be efficient in reaching global neutrality if it is paired with the right reduction strategy.  


What is greenwashing?

It is a communication method that shares an image of an ecological and responsible organization proven by false or arranged arguments. An example of greenwashing would be a firm that revendicates an environmentally-conscious image when only having invested in carbon credits and not having measured nor reduced its carbon footprint. 


What is Carbon offsetting?

According to the IPCC, carbon offsetting is any activity that compensates for the emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gasses (measured in CO2-equivalent) by providing an emission reduction elsewhere. These emissions reductions are achieved through different types of projects: from reforestation, and blue carbon with mangroves to energy switching with thermal to geothermal heating. They reduce CO2e emissions of carbon dioxide by avoiding or sequestering them, thus compensating for residual carbon emissions elsewhere. 

How can carbon offset be an efficient environmental strategy, and why is carbon offsetting not greenwashing? 


Carbon offsetting must not be a goal, but a means to an end. It must be an additional measure to reach net-zero at the global level. Building an efficient environmental strategy starts with measuring and then reducing its emissions. Carbon offsetting has to address the residual emissions after this whole process. Transparency is key to avoiding greenwashing. There are two important phases to avoid greenwashing and wrong climate action:


  • Before offsetting its residual carbon emissions, an organization must choose its projects wisely. In order to do so, it can contact trustful and rigorous intermediaries such as ClimateSeed. We ensure project quality and that companies’ contribution helps maximize positive social and environmental impacts. Carbon credits are the gateway to environmental and social impacts. When a company contributes to a project, it is important to select projects that have an impact on the local community and verify the project developer's claims.


  • During and after this high-quality carbon offsetting, organizations must have clear communications guidelines. After realizing robust climate action, a company must pay close attention to how it communicates while maximizing transparency. This is why an effective environmental strategy starts with goal setting and ends with efficient and transparent communication. For example, it is preferable to use the term ‘global net-zero’ and ‘global carbon neutrality’ as there is a need for a global effort to tackle climate change. Following the same line of thought as in the first paragraph, there’s a need for verification of no double-counting credits (retire them from the market as soon as they are used), recognized duration and permanence of the project (its effect are continuous and durable) and additionality of the project (the project is proven to be useful). 


The voluntary carbon market is, in the majority, a pool of invested actors sharing the same final goal: tackling climate change. A due diligence on the organizations has to be done to make sure that reduction efforts have been made before contributing to a project.  


In conclusion, carbon offsetting must be integrated into a solid environmental strategy that starts with CO2 measurement to avoid greenwashing.

The carbon footprint allows you to map the sources of your emissions. It is the basis for piloting a reduction strategy on direct and indirect emissions with a detailed timeline. CO2 offsetting supports your reduction strategy to maximize its effectiveness against climate change. Transparent communication makes it possible to valorize your climate actions in front of customers and investors and inspire other companies to take positive environmental and social measures. Carbon offsetting can be perceived as greenwashing. Therefore it needs to be closely and efficiently framed. Such support throughout the whole process, from selecting to communicating, is assured by ClimateSeed. 


Joining us to measure your carbon footprint, reduce it, offset the residual emissions, and communicate your climate action is one of the right and conscious ways to act.

Let us show and inspire transparency together to leave a healthier world for the next generations.