Do Carbon Credits Make Your Business Green?

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Do Carbon Credits Make Your Business Green?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 11:00am


Four Corners

I’d like to correct a common misconception, although I do not imagine that these comments will actually have far reaching impact. The well-entrenched concerns for global warming have designated greenhouse gases as the culprit for this global climate change issue. In particular, the anthropogenic (man made) contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere due to the use of fossil fuels must be reduced according to the Kyoto Protocol. At the start, it should be stated that the issues of global warming or global cooling are not debatable issues. Both of these phenomenons have occurred before and will happen again. Neither is the impact of greenhouse gases under question. The greenhouse affect keeps us from experiencing incredible temperature changes between night and day. So, just in case you didn’t already know this, the greenhouse effect is our good friend. The greenhouse effect is the fundamental reason that we have a habitable planet that retains a proper amount of heat in our atmosphere. It is the concerns about an out-of-balance atmospheric condition that promotes global warming or global cooling.

It is the imbalance of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere that is of concern right now, and the debate that rages is whether mankind can make the difference in how it operates. That issue is not the debate of this article. The point of this offering is the question of the application of "Green" when it comes to a "Carbon Neutral" status of a business. Is is fair or correct to apply the term Green to a carbon neutral business? Well, it all depends on how the terms are defined.

If Green means "anything environmental" no matter how extended the connection, then it is probably allowed to call a carbon neutral company Green. I debate the core of this issue because Green is not a synonym for environmentalism. It is a part of the environmental issue with a more specific meaning. Green is best defined as the "health impact" of what we do. If this definition is correct, then Green is misapplied to carbon neutral applications. As seen in the chart above, I believe that Green refers to the health impact of a process. I also believe that sustainable issues are what should be called a Blue issue. Pollution is a Red issue, and Conservation is a Yellow designation.

Given these definitions, carbon-neutral may well be a pollution issue and obviously a sustainability issue. In the proper sense, being carbon neutral does not make a company Green. And, I am not referring to a long extrapolation of reduced carbon emissions that will help the global health. This allows the morphing of any "carbon neutral" designation that frankly deserves to stand on its own right as a positive environmental contribution. It need not be relabeled as Green. It complements the Blue sustainable issues, the Red pollution concerns, and even the Yellow conservation issues since we are concerned about the atmosphere (a natural resource). Good definitions help us build a better debate on the subject, and loose definitions will keep us wandering in the mists of confusion.

Buying carbon credits to offset the calculated CO2 output is both somewhat trendy and helpful. These carbon credits are ostensibly a method of funding the capital needs of environmental projects like windmills, solar installation, hydro power, methane energy production, and reforestation. All worthy causes as long as the underlying cause it legitimate and verified. The carbon neutral status shows a consciousness of the CO2 problem and a willingness to make a contribution to the better solutions that are yet to make it to the profitable status.

So, there is no criticism on our part concerning the carbon neutral status nor the need to be better environmental citizens. The reduction of our dependency on oil is yet another problem that needs our collective support. There is merit in the carbon offset strategy that is clearly good for pollution reduction and sustainability concerns. The present voluntary program of carbon offsetting is directing billions of dollars into the alternative energy and reforestation programs. This is substantial and commendable.

The mislabeling of everything environmental demonstrates the unfortunate lack of definition in this cause. The fact is that there are four great areas that compose the environmental topic, and each deserve our attention. The blurring of these subjects leave the public in disarray and confusion as to what needs to be done and the associated impact on the greater environmental challenge. I would argue, in the kindest of terms, that carbon offsetting is a good idea, a meritorious idea, and helpful to the cause. But, let me explain why carbon offsetting is not Green.

A company outputting carbon dioxide may well buy offsetting carbon credits and call itself "carbon neutral," but did they change anything by this action? No, they are still outputting CO2, although they may wish to reduce their output later. Has their carbon neutrality changed their daily operations so that workers are healthier? No, the company wears the badge of carbon neutrality even if it has poor indoor air quality, neglected energy consumption, and pours pollution out the back of the plant every day. It is far too easy to allow your hand to block what is really in front of you. One brick does not make a building. One star does not compose the heavens, regardless of its beauty. Neither does the environmental option applied to the company by a carbon neutral status make the company an environmentally-friendly operation.

A Certified Green Consultant can assist your business in its pursuit of an environmentally-friendly status. There are many things that a company may do to become a Green company, and carbon credits are a helpful part of the larger project. Many companies now proudly display their Certified Green Business status, having earned 100 points in the Green Business League program. Several points are added for being carbon neutral, but there is more that can and should be done. Working with a Certified Green Consultant makes this complex and involved process simple. Never accept a one-sided solution as the full solution. The Green Business League is the best Green business certification in the industry.



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