Your Climate Solutions Expert: carbon offsets, renewable energy credits, and carbon tracking services

"Google" Google Green

Posted by Tom Rawls on Jul 10, 2013
Tags: corporate social responsibility

You might be surprised

Today a staff member at a major sustainability not-for-profit organization asked me what was happening in the voluntary carbon offset market.  One answer may be found in the recent report entitled State of the Voluntary Carbon Offset Market 2013.

 “Voluntary demand for carbon offsetting grew 4% in 2012, when buyers committed more than $523 million to offset 101 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This represents a rebound in the market, following a year that saw a s decline in offset sales. The mitigation of a company’s greenhouse gas footprint remains an important element of sustainability.

Excellent examples  can be  found in the innovative approaches that major corporations like Microsoft, Chevy, and Google. Previously we’ve provided information in our blog about the important work that Microsoft and Chevy are doing.

If your firm is interested in climate and clean power, you also want to make sure you spend a moment considering Google’s approach. It is rigorous, straightforward and offers thoughtful guidance for small and large businesses alike.

At Google, we reduce our carbon footprint through efficiency improvements, generating on-site solar power and purchasing green power. To bring our remaining footprint to zero, we buy carbon offsets.

What do they do and how do they do it?

Purchasing carbon offsets means investing in green projects that have very little to do with our core business. When we purchase a carbon offset, we rely heavily on research, collaboration, standards and due diligence to guarantee we’re getting a quality offset that provides long-term global benefit. This paper describes the process we use to select carbon offset projects and apply carbon credits to our carbon footprint. 

The benefits to Google, its stakeholders, and the environment are unequivocal.

We might not know much about manure, and farm operators might not know much about search engines, but through this collaboration we reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the communities in which we operate

You can dig into their actions, including the purchase of offsets, to be carbon neutral or check out their nifty infographic for the big picture.

To really get into the details of Google’s offsetting strategy, their comprehensive white paper is worth a read.

 My colleagues here will tell you that I have a complicated relationship with RECs. When the topic comes up, many move out of hearing distance. I was one of a handful of people who was in the room 15 years ago during a regulatory workshop in New Hampshire when RECs were introduced in the East.

They are brilliant in conception. All RECs are created equal, but all RECs are not equal in value. The virtue of the instrument depends on the guidelines and rules that govern REC sale, purchase, and retirement. Today, purchasing a low cost, commodity RECs isn’t doing much, if anything, to build demand for new renewable facilities. Here at NativeEnergy we’ve been finding ways to move the dial on new renewable facilities for a dozen years. We find ourselves aligned with Google and other leaders on this issue.

Google writes:

First, our activities must meet the basic criterion of “additionality.” . . . [F]undamentally, a renewable energy purchase is additional if it has an effect in the real world, be it direct or indirect. A direct effect would be causing a new renewable project to be built. An indirect effect would be increasing demand for renewable energy such that market pressure are able to encourage new investment.

Second, when possible, our projects should . . . directly address problems that limit the growth of the renewable industry. For example,  . . . it may be better for renewable project developers if we commit to a longterm contract rather than purchasing as we go, because it makes it easier for them to raise capital.

Regarding the purchase of renewable power, Google’s simple is told in a short friendly video

The white paper for adults shares the meat of the matter.

One of the favored terms in corporate sustainability reports is “commitment.” What is needed is commitment translated into actions—investment-- like those of Google and others that pay back in many ways and over the long-term.

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