6. Achieving Carbon Neutrality

6. Achieving Carbon Neutrality

Planning for and claiming that an event is ‘carbon neutral’ is becoming increasingly popular. This section offers guidance on how to authentically claim a Carbon Neutral Event.

As discussed earlier, PAS 2060, Specification for demonstration of carbon neutrality offers guidance on how to determine what GHG sources to include in your event’s carbon footprint, and, as the title suggests, specific details on how to claim carbon neutrality and includes guidance on carbon neutral claims for events. If you’re planning to have a Carbon Neutral event, I suggest downloading this standard!

Steps to Carbon Neutrality

We previously discussed the steps that PAS 2060 specifies for establishing a carbon footprint. Taking the next step of carbon neutrality, requires the following additional steps inserted into the program:

  • Identify and define what will be included in a carbon emissions calculation (the event parametres and GHG scope)
  • Make a declaration of intent to achieve carbon neutrality
  • Define, clearly communicate and adequately justify what is included, the methodologies undertaken and emissions factors used
  • Estimate and disclose what the emissions for an event are anticipated to be
  • Create a carbon footprint management plan
  • Take action to make measurable reductions in carbon emissions
  • Re-quantify the carbon footprint: report/disclose performance indicating what reductions were achieved and how they were achieved
  • Take action to offset or compensate for the residual GHG emissions
  • Make a declaration of achieving carbon neutrality

Achieving Neutrality

PAS 2060 recognises that achieving carbon neutrality only through direct reductions initiatives by the event is not realistic in most cases. Carbon offsets are acknowledged to play a significant role in achieving carbon neutral status.

PAS 2060 does not allow carbon neutral claims if carbon offsetting is the only technique to compensate for GHGs created. The caveat is for an organisation’s first year of reporting. In all subsequent years, an absolute reduction, or a reduction in emission intensity must be in place.

Once Off Events and Carbon Neutrality

Once off events? To authentically claim carbon neutral status, once-off events must show that a pre-event assessment of likely GHG emissions has been undertaken and that opportunities for reductions have been identified. Furthermore, actions to effect these reductions must be in place, and reductions must be achieved.

Communicating Carbon Neutrality

PAS 2060 specifies that the event should make two formal declarations; the first is the commitment to carbon neutrality and secondly is around the achievement of carbon neutrality:

1. The declaration of commitment to carbon neutrality requires the entity to establish the carbon footprint of the subject and to document a carbon footprint management plan describing how the entity intends to achieve carbon neutrality with respect to the defined subject. 

2. The declaration of achievement of carbon neutrality requires the entity to have achieved reductions in the carbon footprint of the subject and to have offset remaining GHG emissions. Such declarations of achievement therefore only apply to the scope and period validated and should the entity intend to extend its claim to future periods, further validation will be required. 

Consumer Friendly Communications

Of course most events will want to go to town with the consumer-friendly comms, media releases and fan fair about their carbon neutral intentions or achievements. This is where PAS 2060 specifies that a ‘representative statement’ can be couched, for use in promotional material. This more promo-friendly statement must be in addition to a formal declaration and publicly available QES and methodology documentation.

Be very careful in the wording you use when making flashing carbon neutral claims. Ensure you reference the detail, name check the major areas of GHG impact inclusion, and that the detail is available.

Taking Steps to Reducing GHGs

The missing piece to the whole puzzle is actually doing something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Enough with identifying where they’re coming from and what they’re adding up to. We need to;

  • making reductions
  • offsetting or compensation for remaining and unavoidable GHGs

This article series is not really going to dwell on how to actually reduce GHGs through direct action by your event and your supply chain. That’s a job for another day – and there are many examples of how to do this in my book, along with examples and case studies of how events have done that, on my website.