Evaluating Carbon Offset Programs for eCommerce Shipping

March 29, 2023
6 min read

Carbon offset programs can be an effective tool for mitigating the environmental impact of ecommerce shipping, but it’s important to find a reputable partner to protect against greenwashing. Use this guide to evaluate potential carbon offset programs for your business. 

Carbon Offset Shipping with Pachama

Pachama is a technology company on a mission to restore nature to solve climate change. Harnessing the latest advancements in satellite imagery, remote sensing and machine learning, Pachama measures the carbon stored in our forests and monitors forest growth over time. Through the Pachama Marketplace, responsible companies can confidently invest in high-quality forest conservation projects verified by Pachama’s rigorous evaluation process

Ben Cohen, Client Success Manager at Pachama, addressed the value of well-monitored carbon offset programs and laid out best practices for measuring the legitimacy and efficacy of a program.

Four Questions When Evaluating Carbon Offset Programs

Why should carbon offsets be part of a brand’s sustainability efforts?

Carbon credits can be an effective way for brands to mitigate their carbon footprint and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. Meeting Paris Agreement goals and holding warming to below 1.5°C requires immediate and decisive action. Companies should set targets to drastically reduce their emissions while simultaneously investing in carbon credits to address unabated yearly emissions. It is not a question of whether to reduce emissions OR invest in carbon credits. This is a false dichotomy. We desperately need to do both, and we need to do it now. 

Along with mitigating their carbon footprint, companies can use their buying power to drive critical funding to nature protection and restoration. Nature can be an essential climate mitigation solution, but having a meaningful impact will require halting deforestation and reforesting an area the size of France. Forest carbon credits are a mechanism that can help reverse land use trends. Read more about the potential of carbon markets on Pachama’s blog.

There is a lot of greenwashing in the carbon offset space. How can business owners evaluate the legitimacy of a carbon offset program?

Carbon markets have suffered from well-publicized concerns about credit quality, but there is a range of new companies that are working to solve these exact challenges with technology. Major advances in remote sensing and artificial intelligence provide new tools to measure carbon storage and monitor changes over time with much greater accuracy and frequency. 

When it comes to assessing credit quality, it’s important to validate that the project accurately quantified emissions, provides an additional and lasting climate impact, and offers benefits beyond carbon. Pachama is an example of a technology company that uses remote sensing, machine learning, and expert scientific analysis to carefully vet every forest project they sell against these critical quality standards. Due diligence partners like Pachama can help businesses evaluate project quality and feel confident in the climate impact of their investments. 

Once you’ve invested in a carbon project, it’s important to understand how your project is continuing to benefit the climate. Look for providers and partners who can offer ongoing carbon monitoring and project progress updates. This can help you mitigate brand risk and enable you to share your continued impact with stakeholders. 

What kinds of programs are most effective for carbon drawdown?

While there are a variety of new carbon removal technologies in development, nature remains our most proven and scalable tool to mitigate climate change. Protecting and restoring forests could contribute as much as 30% of what’s needed to meet this decade’s Paris Agreement goals. But this will require a rapid mobilization of funding towards high-quality forest carbon projects. 

When it comes to forest carbon, there are three primary types of projects: 

  • Reforestation projects focus on planting new trees, often reverting degraded land back to forest. As the trees grow, they capture and store carbon. 
  • Forest conservation projects protect the enormous amount of carbon stored in existing old-growth forests. These projects can have an outsized impact by sequestering irrecoverable carbon and providing habitat for critical native and endangered species. 
  • Improved forest management projects implement sustainable harvest practices to improve the carbon storage potential of existing forests. 

While there is substantial demand for reforestation projects as a source of carbon removal, forest conservation and improved forest management are just as critical for climate mitigation. To reach the full potential of natural climate solutions, we need investment in all of these pathways. In fact, conservation alone makes up 40% of forest’s mitigation potential

Beyond a carbon offset program, what are other ways business owners can reduce their impact on the environment?

It is, of course, critical to drastically reduce our carbon impact on the environment, but we also desperately need to fund nature conservation and restoration. To have a lasting, holistic impact on the environment and use purchasing power for good, companies can go beyond thinking of investment in nature as simply offsetting. There is an opportunity to develop separate climate goals for water, biodiversity, and nature. Leading companies are setting unique climate goals that stretch further than emission reductions. Microsoft has committed to protecting more land than it uses by 2025, Amazon has established a $100 million fund to restore and conserve forests and other ecosystems, and Walmart has pledged to protect at least 50 million acres of land by 2030. With their many positive effects on biodiversity, waterways, and local communities, conservation projects can effectively achieve carbon and non-carbon climate targets through a single investment.

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