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Guide To Major Carbon Standards For Offsetting in Ecommerce

verified carbon standard

The ecommerce industry has a long way to go in becoming sustainable. Many ecommerce businesses are choosing to offset emissions produced by their supply chains in an effort to become more sustainable in the immediate future while the industry works to revolutionize the way it manufactures products.

The problem?

It’s sometimes difficult to validate a carbon offset program and measure the success of these carbon projects. So far, carbon offsetting programs use carbon credits in a completely voluntary carbon market. Without a standardized way of validating these voluntary carbon offsets, many ecommerce companies can claim to be carbon neutral without actually being so.

This is where verified carbon standards become essential to the ecommerce industry.

Carbon credits and offsetting is our bread and butter here at EcoCart. All of EcoCart’s carbon offsetting projects have been backed by several major carbon standards, including VERRA, American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve, and the Gold Standard. We’ll break them down in this article so that your ecommerce business can confidently choose which offset projects and standards to commit to.

What Is A Verified Carbon Standard?

Verified carbon standards are groups that verify carbon offsetting projects of all types. Using rigorous screening and observing a carbon certification process, carbon standards ensure that all verified carbon offsetting projects positively impact the environment (and oftentimes, the nearby community) leaving a lasting impact. 

Carbon standards are typically backed by reputable and environment-focused non-profits, such as the American Carbon Registry and Climate Action Reserve we mentioned, who are capable of supervising and aiding the dozens of carbon offsetting projects they verify. 

These non-profits use an abundance of rigorous criteria that each project must meet in order to be registered as a carbon offset project in the voluntary carbon credit market. However, a project must meet the criteria of additionality and permanence in order to be labeled certified. 

  1. Additionality means that without the carbon offsetting project existing, the mitigation of GHGs in the atmosphere would not have otherwise happened. Therefore it is leaving our world better than before it was created.
  2. Permanence refers to a standard that assure the carbon emissions reduced by the project are permanent and will not be released back into the atmosphere through natural processes nor through human activity. It also assures that the offsetting project itself is suitable for the long term.

Carbon standards and carbon credit certification companies they verify help people determine the authenticity and impact of a project. While a lot of projects can claim to be eco-friendly and make a difference, projects that are verified by the world’s major carbon standards are the best ones out there. These projects are guaranteed to have an impact, now and in the future. 

What Is a Carbon Offset Project?

As we continue to acknowledge the impact of human activity on the environment, different types of carbon offset projects have emerged as a means to mitigate emissions. 

A carbon offset program aims to reduce carbon emissions equivalent to the amount released into the atmosphere, but since we’ve been emitting carbon into the atmosphere for centuries now that means we need to be removing more carbon from the atmosphere in addition to avoiding admitting more. One way this can be achieved is by investing in projects that generate clean and renewable energy, such as wind farms or solar installations. 

All carbon standards require independent third-party validation and verification of all the carbon offset projects. Once a carbon offset project has been validated and verified by a third party,  and its credit has been calculated, it can then be bought and sold by carbon offset brokers to individuals or businesses looking to offset their carbon footprint. By understanding how carbon offsets work, we can advance our knowledge on sustainable practices and work to reduce our impact on the environment.

Want to know where your business stands? Get your sustainability scorecard with our quiz:

What Are the Different Types of Carbon Standards?

Carbon standards refer to a set of regulations and requirements that carbon credit certification companies must adhere to in order to claim that they reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. There are two different types of verified carbon standards – voluntary and mandatory – each with its unique approach to carbon reduction. 

Once projects are verified and registered as carbon offset projects, they are then listed on the voluntary or mandatory offset market so that individuals and businesses can purchase carbon credits that benefit their work. We are going to look at 7 different certified carbon offset standards in this article – 4 voluntary and 3 mandatory. 

verified carbon standard

Voluntary Carbon Standards

In today’s world, more and more people have become increasingly concerned about the impact of carbon emissions on the environment. As a result, there has been a growing interest in voluntary carbon standards that aim to help combat climate change. These standards encourage companies and organizations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate emissions made elsewhere, and engage in more environmentally-friendly practices. 

By offsetting emissions that can not be reduced, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. While the path towards a more sustainable future may be a challenging one, efforts like these are an important step in the right direction.

The voluntary carbon standards we are going to look at in this article include the American Carbon Registry, the Climate Action Reserve, the Gold Standard, VCS, and Plan Vivo. 

If the discussion here gets your noggin wheels turning, we invite you to calculate your personal carbon footprint. It’s the best place to start the journey toward a net carbon-zero life.

American Carbon Registry

The American Carbon Registry was founded in 1996 and was the first private, voluntary offset program in the world. With their decades of experience, they’ve developed a rigorous set of standards that allow individuals and groups to create and register their carbon offsetting projects. 

As an approved Offset Project Registry for one of California’s environmental programs, they also work with the Air Resources Board (ARB) to verify more carbon offsetting projects using their protocols.

Verified by the American Carbon Registry, EcoCart’s Doe Mountain project in Tennessee protects 8,000 acres of forest. The project aims to protect the forest and its animal and plant species, as well as provide educational resources for visitors. Boasting dozens of mixed hardwoods, the forest helps sequester tons of carbon from the atmosphere and provides a home to over 40 species of wildlife.

Impact of the American Carbon Registry

The American Carbon Registry has been instrumental in driving up the quality of carbon offsetting projects and ensuring that they meet the highest standards. It has also raised public awareness about the importance of effective carbon management, as well as increased accountability and transparency around environmental issues by setting out guidelines for companies to follow. 

The registry’s carbon offset services play an important part in the global effort to reduce climate change, as it provides a reliable platform for organizations and individuals to purchase high-quality carbon offsets.

Climate Action Reserve

Founded in 2001, the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) is one of the best verified carbon standards in the United States. Through their carbon credits certificate system, they’ve been able to monitor and aid dozens of projects to reach maximum impact. T CAR holds all of its projects to a high standard, ensuring that all projects that are part of their program are beneficial to both the environment and the economy. Projects must also be vetted by several stakeholders and meet a detailed list of standards.

Projects vetted by the Climate Action Reserve help to reduce air pollution and create new green technology among other environmental and economical benefits. For example, EcoCart’s McCloud River Conservation project, verified by the Climate Action Reserve, helps preserve a forest in California and subsequently captures thousands of tons of carbon, and protects the nearby water and ecosystem.

Verified Carbon Standard

VERRA’s Verified Carbon Standard program (VCS) is the world’s most used carbon standard program. Founded in 2005, their program boasts more than a thousand projects from individuals and corporations alike, offsetting more than 630 million tons of carbon in total to date! Their development process, which outlines the standards projects must meet to have their project verified, is constantly updated to meet the needs of our planet today.

VCS projects help offset the world’s carbon emissions in various categories, including handling waste, protecting grasslands, and creating renewable energy. On top of protecting the environment, VERRA projects help regions all over the world with economic development. 

EcoCart’s Myanmar Mangroves project, part of the VERRA program, protects and strengthens mangrove trees that help provide wood and food, as well as income from selling the food brought by the forest.

The Gold Standard

Established in 2003, the Gold Standard allows carbon offset and similar projects to quantify, certify, and maximize their impact. They aim to create projects that help the environment and the people that live in it at the highest level of environmental integrity possible. Through a variety of requirements, methods, and safeguards, they’ve been able to measure the impact of all of their projects and ensure their lasting impact, measuring their projects against both the Paris Climate Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Gold Standard helps to verify both climate protection and intervention projects, like EcoCart’s Sidrap Wind Farm Project. The project helps reduce the burning of fossil fuels through its 30 wind turbines in Indonesia, which power 70,000 local homes. The project also supports the region economically, providing jobs and educating residents about the importance of protecting the environment.

Impact of the Gold Standard

Gold Standard projects have a huge impact on the environment and the people living in it. The Wind Farm Project is just one example of how carbon offsetting can help reduce global emissions, create jobs for local residents, and help promote renewable energy sources like wind power. 

Gold Standard projects also allow those who support them to be confident that they’re making an impact and helping protect the environment. 

Gold Standard Verification Process 

To be certified as Gold Standard, carbon offset project developers need to first plan their project and hold stakeholder consultations. After that, they submit a Stakeholder Consultation Report and a draft of their project to be reviewed by a Gold Standard VVB. 

Once the project has been approved and deemed to meet the criteria by the VVB, it gets “Gold Standard Design Certified” status but the verification process isn’t finished there. The verification process then needs to be completed for a second time with another third-party assessment which, if approved, results in “Certified Gold Standard Project” status.

Definitely not a verification process for the faint of heart but it’s worth it for projects looking to earn one of the highest recognitions in the world of carbon offsetting. 

Plan Vivo

Plan Vivo focuses on natural resources, particular forests and agriculture. Their certified projects have resulted in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the conservation of biodiversity, and the improvement of rural livelihoods. The implementation of Plan Vivo has also fostered the development of new alliances between different stakeholders, such as governments, NGOs, and private companies. Together, they are working towards a common goal of creating a more sustainable world for all.

By using principles that ensure biodiversity and sustainability, Plan Vivo supports rural communities while bettering the planet as a whole. The program is an innovative solution to fight the impacts of global warming and is an effective way to create positive change for both local populations and the environment. These projects range from reforestation efforts to conservation grants to sustainable farming practices, mostly in developing countries impacted by climate change. 

Verification Process of Plan Vivo

When it comes to Plan Vivo projects, validation is all about making sure the on-ground implementation matches up with the project development document and follows the Plan Vivo Standard. Verification is there to ensure that the project continues to meet the standard’s requirements and keeps achieving any set emissions reduction goals. Each project chooses its own VVB but the VVB needs to be approved by Plan Vivo. Projects are required to reverify every 5 years 

verified carbon standard

Mandatory Compliance Carbon Standards

As the world is becoming more aware of the impacts of climate change, countries around the globe are taking steps to regulate their carbon emissions. One such measure is the implementation of mandatory compliance carbon standards. Governments use mandatory compliance carbon standards to set a maximum amount of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted by businesses and industries across different sectors 

By setting a limit on carbon emissions, governments aim to reduce their impact on the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. This is not just a regulatory obligation, it is a responsibility that we all share as citizens of this planet. It’s essential for businesses and individuals alike to play their part in reducing carbon emissions to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Clean Development Mechanism

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a tool that allows for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Developed as part of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the CDM has had a significant impact on the global fight against climate change. By providing incentives for clean energy projects in developing countries, the CDM has not only helped reduce emissions but has also contributed to sustainable economic growth. 

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that spurs sustainable development and combats climate change by sponsoring projects in developing countries.

The CDM has an array of project types that it sponsors, including renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects, and waste management projects. The renewable energy projects aim to broaden the utilization of clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydro energies. The energy efficiency projects strive to enhance energy performance in industrial and residential areas, reduce energy consumption, and improve cost savings. 

The waste management projects focus on enhancing solid waste management and reducing associated emissions. CDM’s sponsorship of these projects has not only contributed to climate change mitigation and adaptation but also supported sustainable development in developing countries.

EU-ETS (European Union Emissions Trading Scheme)

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, or EU-ETS, is a system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon. By requiring companies to purchase permits for the right to emit carbon, the EU-ETS creates a financial incentive for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. 

This system has been in place since 2005 and has driven significant reductions in emissions, while also providing a framework for companies to invest in cleaner technologies. While the EU-ETS has faced criticism for its complexity and potential for market manipulation, it remains a critical tool in the fight against climate change in Europe and beyond.

Types of Projects Within EU-ETS

There are three types of carbon offset projects within the EU-ETS: Verified Emission Reduction (VER) projects, Joint Implementation (JI) projects, and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects.

VER projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within an organization, while JI projects focus on creating emissions reductions in other countries through international cooperation. 

CDM projects, on the other hand, concentrate on sustainable development in developing countries through cooperation with the United Nations on encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. 

With these different types of projects, the EU-ETS is driving innovative solutions to combat climate change and promote a more sustainable future.

Verification Process of EU-ETS

The Verification Process of EU-ETS involves verifying data, conducting site visits, and assessing compliance with regulatory requirements. This lengthy process ensures that organizations are accurately reporting their greenhouse gas emissions. Through regular checks and audits, the EU is able to hold businesses accountable for their environmental impact, while also promoting transparency and accountability. 

Compliance Offset Program (California)

The Compliance Offsets Program helps businesses comply with the Cap-and-Trade Program requirements by providing ARB Offset Credits for qualifying projects that reduce or sequester greenhouse gasses. These offset credits represent verified emissions reductions, and they provide cost containment and compliance flexibility. 

Compliance entities may use ARB Offset Credits to meet up to 4% of their obligation from 2021-2025, and 6% from 2026-2030 – but the majority of projects invested in must have direct environmental benefits in California. 

Types of Projects Within Compliance Offset Program

The Compliance Offset Program in California is a vital initiative that helps businesses in the state to reduce their carbon footprint. The program has sponsored numerous projects that aim to accomplish (or crush) this goal. One of the most notable projects is the Livestock Manure Management project, which encourages farmers to install a biogas control system (BCS) for manure management on dairy cattle and swine farms.

The success of this program serves as a model for other states and countries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and combat climate change. The California Compliance Offset Program is proof that it is possible to implement effective climate policies while also supporting economic growth and development.

Benefits & Challenges of These Major Carbon Standards

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, both voluntary and mandatory major carbon standards are paving the way for a sustainable future. The verified carbon standard offers a set of guidelines and criteria that businesses and organizations can follow to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, adhering to these standards can also present several challenges. For instance, implementing new technologies or practices can be costly, while ensuring compliance with numerous regulations and requirements can be time-consuming. Despite these challenges, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions far outweigh the drawbacks. 

By adopting these standards, businesses can not only contribute to a healthier planet but also improve their reputation and business performance.

Have an ecommerce business? A carbon neutral checkout option is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint – request a demo today.

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