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Recycling // Thought Leadership // Environment

What Is A Carbon Offset? Here's How It Could Work For Your Business

Can you buy your way to net zero emissions? That's the idea behind a carbon offset. Here we explain how it works and if it makes sense for your business.

Bradford Arick | November 23, 2022


Can you buy your way to achieving net zero carbon emissions? That’s part of the idea behind carbon offsets. 

Big brands, companies, and manufacturers have all pledged to work to improve the environment and they say buying carbon offsets is one way they can have an impact. Can it also work for your business?

Here we’ll explain what a carbon offset is, how it works, and if it makes sense for your business to start a carbon offset purchase.

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what is a carbon offset?

At its core, a carbon offset reduces or removes carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, in one area to account for those in another. A person or business can use offsets to counteract the impact of their carbon footprint. For example, a logistics company can purchase carbon offsets equivalent to its trucks' projected carbon dioxide.

Many analysts say that it doesn’t matter where a company is reducing carbon emissions since the atmosphere encompasses the whole globe. The scope of offsets available to balance out emissions can range from individual tons that someone with limited funds can purchase to billions of tons that countries can buy. This is how some countries and businesses are working to achieve “net zero emissions” in the short term.

Rather than wait years down the road for EV technology to become scalable for large trucking fleets, the logistics company mentioned above can start mitigating emissions in the short term. Those offsets can be anything from improving farming methods in South America, restoring mangroves in Southeast Asia, or a new wind power project on the Great Plains in the U.S. The company would measure its carbon footprint and buy offsets that equal or surpass that amount of carbon dioxide. 

Offsets can work well as a short-term step for reducing your greenhouse gas emissions. Humans still have to figure out how to drastically reduce carbon emissions as a whole to have long-lasting environmental change.

Despite the promise of a better future that offsets provide, they’re not without questions.

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why are carbon offsets controversial?

Some of the controversy surrounding carbon offsets has to do with the projects the money is supposed to be funding. A 2019 investigation into a UN carbon offset project that was supposed to help deforestation in the Amazon found there was little accountability. The pressure to cut down swaths of forest was more than the payments offered to protect it. Carbon offset programs can often set their standards and best practices, which vary from program to program. Additionally, purchasing offsets for projects that haven’t been established yet can lead down a slippery slope where money simply goes to waste and promises are broken.

Offsets are subject to manipulation. There have been documented cases where businesses intentionally released more carbon dioxide into the air to get paid to scale the emissions back. One company was able to get $500 million in carbon offsets by installing an incinerator to burn toxic byproducts from manufacturing. The offset money was used as an incentive to expand production before an investigation uncovered the scheme.

Others oppose carbon offset programs because of claims that the business can continue, as usual, pumping carbon dioxide into the air and greenwashing the problem. Opponents call offsets a public relations stunt that does little to fix the problem.

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Doing some research could yield some big benefits when it comes to carbon offsets for your business. Finding programs that insist on integrity, use the money for the intended projects, and are already established can be a great place to start. For example, buying into a project to prevent deforestation only works if the forest stays standing for a long time.

On top of that, carbon offsets can be an effective short-term tool. Technology is improving every day. While waiting for it to reach the needs of your business, offsets can help along the journey to achieving sustainability goals and net-zero plans. 

Fixing the issues with emissions should be a long-term undertaking for companies. There is no quick fix when it comes to shutting down carbon emissions.



Taking an honest accounting of greenhouse gas emissions your business is putting out can help you find solutions. Look at your supply chain. Audit your company’s travel logs. Dig into your waste management program. All of these things can give you a baseline of information, and you’ll be able to explore solutions.

At RoadRunner, we’re working to meet the sustainability goals of our clients. Utilizing our FleetHaul program cuts carbon emissions through fuel-efficient vehicles and route optimization. Our powerful green technology can provide your business with the data you need to track and report progress toward reaching your goals. RoadRunner’s custom-built solutions are unique to your business, meeting your needs in the best way possible. 

Find out how RoadRunner can help you deal with your greenhouse gas emissions to truly impact your business!



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