Reduce then offset
With all these criticisms, does offsetting have a place in modern business? Gartside says it does – provided you do everything you can to reduce your carbon footprint first.
“Reduce first, then offset – that’s accepted by everybody as a good thing to do,” she says.
Dominic Burbidge, sector account manager at The Carbon Trust, agrees. “If you’re going to offset, you need to employ it as part of a fully integrated carbon management strategy. There is no ‘it’s wrong’ or ‘it’s right’ – that’s a decision that has to be made by your business.”
Burbidge also warns that by offsetting your carbon emissions rather than reducing them, you are adding potentially unnecessary costs to your outgoings. “The fundamental point is why would you add costs to your business when there’s an opportunity to remove them?” he says.
So carbon offsetting, like alcohol, is good in moderation – useful as part of a well-balanced carbon management strategy, but if used merely as a way to cleanse the conscience, as good as useless.