Can the products I produce be Carbon Neutral?
According to the The European Parliament, Carbon Neutral is defined as “having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.” Carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits.
This tells us that if we manufacture a product and we can create carbon sink equal to or greater to the carbon produced during the production of your product, then your production cycle will be carbon neutral.
There are natural carbon sink elements like soil, forests and the ocean that absorb carbon. It is estimated that these natural sinks absorb between 9.5 and 11 Gt of CO2 per year however global carbon emissions have been in the region of 38 Gigatons during the 2019 audit. At present there are no artificial sinks available to reduce carbon emisions from the atmosphere that can be seen to make a substantial impact on the deficit. Hence reduction is key to the solution!
Situations like forest fires or deforestation exasperate the situation as carbon is released from these carbon storage sinks when burnt and while deforestation reduces natural sink.
Unlike natural sink artificial sink or carbon offsetting is where companies producing products can opt to eliminate carbon they create through offset in a more influenceable industry.
Let’s look at an example to better explain this.
A company producing a medical product is concerned that through its production process, carbon is released into the atmosphere. This would be in the actual production of their product, sea-freight, road-freight, packing and distribution from warehouse to hospital. Other factors include the sales process where energy is used to power computers or fuel burnt in the cars driven by the sales people.
This carbon creation cannot be avoided under current production processes. This same company decides to offset the carbon created through an offset programme. The programme calculates the carbon released during the various stages above.
Through the carbon offset programme, offered and audited by companies who’s sole purpose is to manage these programmes, the medical company purchases carbon credits to the value of its carbon emissions. These funds are now used to implement changes in industries where change is possible through upgrades in processes and systems.
A good example would be a farmer in a third world country who burns his waste, now participates in the programme and upgrades his processes through the investment and education received. This allows him to reuse the waste or find alternatives to burning which originally created his carbon emissions.
The funds generated by the medical company in the purchase of the credits, invested into the farmer who implemented new processes and reduced his carbon emissions is offset against the emissions of the medical company with the end result being a net zero carbon footprint.
Is carbon offsetting the silver bullet we are all looking for? The answer is no, but it is a first step in an artificial system to reduce where we can, yes!. If you are the farmer, your future is set to always contribute to the system. If you are the medical company the next step after carbon offsetting is to find better ways to bring the same products to market. But it’s a move in the right direction.
However, If the offset programme includes reforestation, then as a whole, we are moving to reduce the deficit through natural sink.
Before you produce, think about the impact and if you are unsure, speak to us!