Quick Tips for Buying Carbon Offset Credits

September 30th, 2021

Offset providers act as aggregators and retailers between project developers and buyers. They provide a convenient way for consumers and businesses to access offset credits from a portfolio of projects.

It is often a good idea to work with someone who has a detailed understanding of the sectors or project types being considered, which in some cases could involve enlisting multiple experts. The goal is to utilize the services of consultants or trusted retailers to examine projects, navigate different options, and put together a portfolio of offset credits that meet a buyer’s goal (with respect to location, project type, offset quality, and co-benefits, for example).

When choosing a Carbon Offset Provider, consider:

  • Are their projects all third-party verified and validated? Are projects accredited by internationally recognized Program Stands, such as CDM, Gold Standard or VCS, Plan Vivo, etc.
  • What type of projects do they offer in their portfolio? (e.g., wind farm, methane recovery, etc.)
  • Where are the carbon offset projects located?
  • What portion of the carbon credit price is allocated to the project developers?
  • Does the project reduce greenhouse gas emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere or destroy the greenhouse gas?
  • How do they ensure that the greenhouse gas reductions that the carbon offsets represent were quantified accurately?
  • What steps have they taken to ensure that the carbon offsets that are selling are additional?
  • How do they ‘retire’ credits? Do they use a publicly accessible registry to track and retire your credits?
  • Do their projects go beyond carbon offsetting? Every project has huge potential to provide community benefits and biodiversity protection. Find out which of their projects provide employment opportunities, health care benefits, education, and the protection of certain species. These impacts are often called co-benefits and checking that the projects align with the UNs Sustainable Development Goals can be a good place to start.
  • What is the business model of the organization? Is this organization not-for-profit?
  • What is their experience in carbon offsetting? Many organizations are new to the field of carbon offsetting and may not have the technical expertise and established relationships when it comes to offsetting.
  • Are they transparent? A reputable organization will have information about their projects, methodologies, and quality assurance protocols readily accessible on their website and be willing to answer your questions. If not, that is a good clue that they may be trying to hide something. Check that the methodologies used by the organization are clearly defined and any questions you have about your support are answered with clarity.
  • If they are selling credits that will be created in the future (i.e., through forward crediting), what mechanisms (insurance or otherwise) are in place to ensure the offsets will actually be delivered?
  • What percentage of the portfolio (by tons of CO2 e) is made up of offsets from tree planting or agricultural soils projects? If it is a significant percentage (more than 20% of your portfolio), how do they address permanence risks?
  • What is the organization doing to educate consumers about climate change and the need for government policy to deal with it?
  • Are they a member of any alliance which has a Code of Best Practice that members must adhere to?