The trend to turn the internet into a greener place is growing. Which is why you can find more and more climate protection agencies and the sale of so-called CO2 certificates on the net. Is this a good thing?
The internet is not only the linchpin of modern communication, but also the central nervous system of the global economy. It is no longer a secret that streaming, surfing and storing on the internet now cause a significant share of global emissions. "If the internet was a country, it would have the sixth largest electricity consumption worldwide" says Niklas Schinerl, Greenpeace expert on energy. As in other areas of life, emissions can be reduced by each individual. But with growing digitalisation, the above-mentioned areas are becoming more and more dependent, which is particularly due to the lack of alternatives. In short, there are no vegan cloud services or zero-waste emails yet. Therefore, the challenge is to offset the digital infrastructure where one cannot avoid or reduce its ecological footprint, i.e. with investments in additional climate protection measures, to compensate for the amount of emissions that have an impact on the climate. But let's start with a simple first question: How can a corporate website, which is often the central platform for brand and product communication, be made more CO2 neutral?
Currently, the carbon offset market is divided into the voluntary and mandatory trading. Mandatory trading is regulated by EU law and includes European companies that purchase more than 20 megawatts of district heating capacity and operate steelworks or refineries.
Voluntary trading includes private individuals and companies. The problem here is that this market is not uniformly regulated and does not follow any binding standards. The best known and most trusted standards are the "Gold Standard", of the Swiss Gold Standard Foundation, which states that not only high CO2 reductions but also social benefits and biodiversity are taken into account, and the "Verified Carbon Standard", of the US NGO Verra, which ensures that all voluntary emission reductions are real, quantifiable, additional and permanent project-based emission reductions. Even though the VCS is the most widely used standard, a recent investigation by the Guardian reveals that many carbon credits generated by forest conservation programmes are based on a flawed system. While the investigation also says "that while Verra's methods for applying for credits are a serious attempt to measure emissions reductions by reducing deforestation, they are not currently robust enough." The dispute is currently still being fought out.
One of the most frequent criticisms of this voluntary trade, however, is that many providers sell certificates at too low a price, without valid effects, which is often compared to the Catholic Church's sale of indulgences. Greta Thunberg criticised the "climate offset bluff" in a tweet on 26 December 2019, warning that the offset economy was doing more harm than good.
Nevertheless, carbon trading is an important step in climate protection and a simple and good way to start the journey towards CO2 neutral digital communication. It is important that companies as well as individuals take a 360-degree approach to successfully implement the topic of sustainability and, in addition to offsetting, there are many other measures that can be implemented in the company - strategies for business travel, paper consumption, the economical use of cloud services, up to the company bicycle. What’s also important here: You can't manage what you don't measure. We had a look at the most important German providers of CO2 compensation for websites:
CO2-Neutral Website is a global initiative that has already made over 2,500 websites climate neutral. Most of the investments go to African water, wind and heating projects. All projects are selected according to the gold standard verification.
Pro: Transparent calculation method; verified
Cons: The investments in the EU only amount to emissions trading.
As the name already suggests, Climate Partner offers a comprehensive range of climate strategy services. This means that the climate protection agency offers a range of services related to climate strategy, from consulting to the integration of IT solutions.
Pro: Climate Partner offers investments in climate protection projects in Germany.
Cons: Prices for companies are only available on request.
Here, too, the name says it all. Atmosfair is a climate protection organisation with a focus on travel and is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and some celebrities, among others. Atmosfair also pays attention to the gold standard of its projects; prices are only available on request.
Pro: Investments exclusively in projects with Gold Standard.
Cons: “Green conscience” is available at very low prices here. Committed website operators should ask whether the CO2 offsetting offers fit their strategic orientation.
This owner-managed climate protection agency is an independent company with a simple and clear cost structure and standardised solutions for companies. They also stand out from pure certificate sellers and offer investments in their own forest conservation projects in South America.
Pro: Offer of a forest mix portfolio.
Cons: Service fee over 50€ per year.
Companies are increasingly responsible for defining their climate protection credibility. Climate protection agencies can provide support, but it is worth taking a critical look at the growing number of providers, because not everything that says green on the label also benefits the climate.
Interesting facts: In a 2017 study, Greenpeace evaluated the energy consumption of the 15 largest internet giants, with Apple and Facebook coming out on top in terms of clean energy. Amazon Web Services, where, among other things, Netflix's films and series are located, taking one of the lower ranks.
A detailed list of other compensation providers in Germany can be found at Energiekonsens or take a look at the evaluation by Stiftung Warentest.
Recently, Uhura has intensified its efforts to expand its expertise in the field of climate-neutral communication services. Contact us if you are interested in implementing climate-friendly communication.