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What constitutes a cleaner, greener economy? Which indicators will allow products, services and organisations to reliably quantify and demonstrate their environmental credentials? In the context of escalating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consequent climate uncertainty, an entity’s ‘Carbon Footprint’ stands out as an obvious performance yardstick.
Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, means achieving net zero carbon emissions (or CO2 equivalent) by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to meet the difference.

Several GHG certification schemes exist worldwide, and cater to products, services, events, businesses, government agencies and so on. Developed in 2001 after an idea was written on the back of a napkin by Landcare Research, one of New Zealand’s leading Crown Research Institutes, the carboNZeroCertTM programme is now looking to take on the world.

The carboNZero programme is the world’s first internationally accredited GHG certification scheme under ISO 14065. CEMARS® (Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) came later, catering for large emitters for whom voluntary offsetting or carbon neutral status is not a viable business proposition. Both schemes are based on more than a decade of research on climate change, greenhouse gas measurement and carbon monitoring by Landcare Research. Both schemes regularly consult with the World Resources Institute and the International Standards Organisation – the organisations responsible for developing global protocols for measuring and reporting carbon footprints.

The programme has now expanded and is working with organisations in the UK, UAE, Australia, Chile as well as here in NZ and are striving to become the world’s leading GHG certification scheme. Through their unique carbon monitoring system and expert technical advisors the programme is able to assist organisations to accurately measure, reduce and mitigate their GHG emissions with credibility and integrity.

An effective carbon footprinting tool must understand the actions of businesses and organisations, understand their carbon liabilities, and provide robust tools and management plans to reduce emissions within their organisations and more widely through supply chains. The carboNZero programme does all this, and more, by offering organisations, products, services and events credible and verified carbon credits to offset any remaining and unavoidable emissions. Fundamentally, carboNZero certified organisations adhere to four steps (and CEMARS certified organizations adhere to the first two and last step):

  • Firstly, emissions are measured at every step of the supply chain. Measuring GHG emissions raises awareness of climate change impacts and identifies opportunities to manage and reduce emissions. The programme provides the tools, templates and guidance to help calculate and report emissions.
  • Secondly, emissions are managed and reduced by implementing a sustainable business plan that sets targets, plans emission reduction initiatives and annually tracks performance.
  • Thirdly, to maintain integrity and provide assurance, the CEMARS and carboNZero certification schemes require independent verification of these steps.
  • Finally, for those seeking carboNZero certification, organisations mitigate the remaining emissions that could not be reduced by purchasing verified carbon credits from approved and accredited projects, such as native forest regeneration and renewable energy generation.

The programme also assists certified organisations in communicating their sustainability story to their key stakeholders in a compelling and effective way.

Certifications are subject to annual audit.

It’s common knowledge that reducing GHG emissions is good for the environment. Burning fossil fuels for activities such as transport and electricity generation has resulted in unnaturally high concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere, which persist and gradually alter the earth’s climate. There is a general consensus that the cost of combating climate change now is a cheaper alternative to ”business as usual” and paying for the costs of adaptation later on.

BUT, reducing GHG emissions is also good for business. It demands improvements in efficiency. For instance, through managing energy, fuel, water and waste, it identifies cost saving opportunities that can significantly help improve the bottom line. Through the CEMARS programme Westpac “saved four million dollars in three years” as a direct result of reducing emissions.

Furthermore, in taking up the challenge to reduce GHG emissions, businesses are setting out on a sustainability journey that brings many other ongoing benefits. Through certification businesses gain a competitive edge, increased marketing value and exposure, better market access (especially in European markets) and boosted staff morale and motivation. Certification is fact, so organisations can feel confident in communicating their sustainability status and avoid accusations of ‘greenwash’. These organisations will be ahead of the eight ball when it comes to ever-evolving climate change legislation, the cost of carbon and rising energy prices.

Above all, the programme future-proofs businesses against turbulent and financially troubled markets and increasing environmental concerns by helping organisations grow in an environmentally sustainable fashion.

For examples of successful carboNZero certified organisations, see our Pure Advantage case studies for Ricoh, Pitango, Soar Printing and Urgent Couriers.

Over the years, carboNZero has accumulated several impressive awards. In 2011, Dr Ann Smith of carboNZero was a finalist for the Sustainability Champion Award at the 2011 NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards. In 2010 the carboNZero programme won the ‘reducing our emissions category’ at the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards, and was a finalist in the ‘Government category’ at the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards. To name a few of 2009’s achievements, carboNZero were finalists and/or category winners at the Sustainable 60 Awards, the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards, the Bayer Innovators Awards, the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards and the PWC Hi-tech Awards. For a comprehensive list and description of carboNZero’s awards and nominations, click here.

For more information on CarboNZero, visit

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