Thinking of going carbon neutral? Want to understand the process, costs and on-going requirements? Want to know why companies purchase offsets?
There are a myriad of “Carbon Neutral” programs that provide options for making a claim to carbon neutral. There is however only one program backed by the Australian Government which gives consumers the confidence in the carbon neutrality claim, the National Carbon Offset Standard (“NCOS”).
The Department of Environment and Energy has recently released a comprehensive guide to the carbon neutral program.1 It provides a succinct summary of the program participation steps, the likely costs and how to proceed. We recommend anyone interested in understanding more about the National Carbon Offset Standard, the application process and what being certified carbon neutral means read this comprehensive guide on how the program works.
The Carbon Neutral Guide is available through this link.
In 2011, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a guide on green marketing and the consumer law. This documents outlines the requirements under the Australian Consumer Law in making “green” claims and the need for substantiation of these claims. Included in this guide was a specific section on claims of carbon neutrality reproduced below2:
Increasingly, companies are making claims regarding the ‘carbon neutrality’ of their products and services. Any claims you make about carbon neutrality should be factually based and not overstated.
You should also consider the entire life cycle of a product when making claims about carbon neutrality. Claiming that your product is carbon neutral if it only applies to the carbon produced in the manufacture of the product—and not its actual use and operation—may risk misleading consumers that the product is carbon neutral for its entire life cycle.
When advertising participation in a carbon-offset program or other similar programs, you should also be careful to distinguish between past activities and those that are planned. It could be misleading to claim a product as neutralised by a carbon-offset program but not distinguish between trees that had already been planted in reforestation projects and trees that you pledge to plant as carbon-offsets.