Dr. Beining, TÜV SÜD certifies companies’ carbon balancing measures. What does carbon neutrality mean to you?
It isn’t a protected term, which means there are many different services on the market to help companies become carbon neutral – with major differences with regard to companies’ level of ambition and their quality standards. Many organizations focus solely on compensation, i.e. on offsetting their emissions by obtaining certificates, without taking a look at their own harmful activities. At TÜV SÜD, we work on the basis of the PAS 2060, which is the only carbon neutrality standard that’s currently available. It ensures that all significant sources of emissions are taken into account in carbon neutrality strategies and no area is left out. It also guarantees that avoidable greenhouse gas emissions are genuinely reduced, and that offsetting is only used for unavoidable emissions.
What are the most important things to consider in carbon neutrality planning?
Operators’ commitment to ensuring carbon neutrality should be seen as an ongoing process in which potential for further improvement must be assessed on a regular basis. The climate targets set should be embedded in a long-term climate strategy. The measures contained in this strategy should be ambitious and should line up with the net zero emissions goal set by the Paris Agreement. One major advantage of the PAS 2060 is that operators regularly report on their chosen path toward carbon neutrality. This transparency allows them to show customers and other interest groups that they are committed to ambitious targets in practice and not just on paper.
What are the most important requirements for a company that is aiming for certification?
The first step is to submit an emissions balance sheet with an accompanying methodology report, in line with the requirements of the carbon neutrality standard chosen. Companies also need a climate conservation roadmap which sets out measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The next step is to offset their unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing emissions certificates from high-quality climate conservation projects. To avoid double counting, companies must provide proof of this offsetting with retirement statements for certified carbon credits which clearly identify the organization in question and the intended use. Finally, in addition to the TÜV SÜD certificate, businesses must also publish a comprehensive commitment statement and make this available to any potential interest groups.
Is it more common for companies to seek certification once they have already taken action, or to use the certification process as an opportunity to get started?
We see plenty of both. Climate conservation is a major issue for both politicians and the wider public right now, so there’s been a huge rise in demand from companies who are really engaging with it for the first time. There are also businesses who have already been using emissions balance sheets to track the impact of their operations on global warming for years, but are now looking at the issue strategically and developing a comprehensive approach to carbon neutrality that covers all of their operations.
It’s possible to calculate the carbon footprint of a whole company, or of a single product or service – referred to as the corporate carbon footprint (CCF) and the product carbon footprint (PCF) respectively. Which type of calculation is more in demand and why?
At TÜV SÜD we currently have more carbon neutrality projects for businesses as a whole than for single products. This is due to the nature of the goals that companies set for themselves. They often plan to announce the new project in a sustainability report or in money market ratings. Moreover, product-specific carbon footprints are often more challenging to calculate, for a number of reasons:
- Data acquisition in the upstream and downstream supply chains can be complex,
- It’s harder to compare different products due to the need for project-specific assumptions or to the lack of uniformity in the data available,
- And it’s difficult to communicate product-specific information to consumers in the form of a seal of certification when there are no applicable regulations that are standardized down to the finer details.
You offer a range of certifications. For CCFs, there are the international standards Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol and ISO 14064-1. For PCFs, there’s Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 and the GHG Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard. What are the differences between them?
Another standard for PCFs is ISO 14067. The requirements of the different standards have been largely harmonized since the last revision of the ISO standard and can be applied to companies’ specific fields of use without any limitations. For CCFs, the differences lie in the popularity of the different methods around the world, the level of detail in the classification of sources of emissions, and the scope of the instructions or practical examples provided.
Energy management and environmental management play a role in companies’ energy and resource consumption. Does this make the standards ISO 50001, DIN EN 16247 and ISO 14001 relevant for carbon neutrality?
A company’s energy consumption is often one of its major sources of emissions. Energy and environmental management systems are a key instrument for managing these greenhouse gas emissions, for example through energy efficiency measures or the use of renewable sources of energy. So, the ability to build on such management systems helps companies to ensure carbon-neutral operations.