Brad Kahn and Chris McLaren
Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Eberhard Grossgasteiger/Pexels
/ This article is sponsored by
Forest Stewardship Council.
As companies race to address climate change, unlocking the carbon potential from responsibly managed forests creates a powerful new way for companies to offset their unavoidable emissions.
Bloomberg Green recently
that companies with science-based climate goals cut their emissions faster than
And although more and more companies are seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas
emissions as quickly as possible — which should be the priority for any climate
strategy — few are able to immediately reduce them to zero. That’s why carbon
offsets have become such an important consideration.
With so many companies setting ever-more-ambitious climate goals — including
Delta Air Lines,
and Procter &
to name just a few — demand for quality carbon
is already sky high and sure to grow. In fact, a recent
in Ecosystem Marketplace suggests that to prevent global temperatures from
rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the carbon offset
will have to grow at least 15-fold by 2030.
With strong and growing interest, companies should be asking how to ensure the
offsets they buy are high quality — not only to justify their investments in the
near term, but also to ensure long-term credibility for these actions. On this
question, there is some good guidance available:
WWF’s Position and Guidance on Voluntary Purchases of Carbon Credits
gives straightforward advice — such as prioritizing science-based
strategies to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3
emissions over offsets — before resorting to the use of carbon offsets.
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The same paper also recommends reporting transparently — e.g., reporting
total emissions and carbon credits purchased, rather than solely aggregating
a “net emissions” number — because communicating “carbon neutrality” or “net
zero” emissions may prematurely imply the needed work is done.
A new paper from McKinsey and the World Economic
asserts “there is no clear path to deliver climate mitigation without
investing in nature.” Today, natural climate solutions represent 40 percent
of voluntary carbon credits, up from 5 percent in 2010, according to the
report. Natural climate solutions — or nature-based solutions — include
conservation, restoration and improved management activities that increase
carbon storage, avoid greenhouse gas emissions and deliver a range of other
benefits, such as habitat and watershed protection.
Microsoft has committed to an ambitious plan to go carbon
removing all historical emissions since it was founded in 1975. Achieving
this goal requires a huge amount of carbon removal, which Microsoft has
analyzed with its typical rigor. Summarizing its findings in a recent
report, the company offers important guidance for any organization using
as a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
In the above report, Microsoft raises a critical question: Under any given
offset program, how long will carbon dioxide be kept from the atmosphere?
Importantly, nature-based solutions are characterized as short-term (up to 100
years) or possibly medium-term (100-1000 year) solutions, because forests and
soils are part of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle.
Improved forest management offers immediate opportunities to sequester
additional carbon, notably by letting trees continue to grow — which is
important given the urgency of the climate crisis. Forests, of course, mean much
more to life on Earth than simply carbon storage. The Forest Stewardship
Council’s forest-management standard reflects this reality,
ensuring that the full range of forest-delivered benefits — such as water
quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, and traditional Indigenous uses — are
protected. Many improved forest-management carbon projects rely on FSC
certification for this purpose, including the Collins-Modoc Reforestation
in California, the Shafer-Tuuk
in Kentucky, and the Bethlehem Authority
forest in Pennsylvania.
FSC is commissioning research to help determine the extent to which
FSC-certified forests in North America sequester additional carbon, relative to
conventionally managed forests. This work — made possible due to financial
support from Cascades, DPR Construction, Google, IKEA of Sweden
AB, International Paper, Kimberly-Clark,
Kruger, Lowe’s and P&G —
has the potential to transform the market for responsibly sourced forest
As companies race to address climate change, millions of acres of forest across
North America and around the world are already managed to FSC requirements.
Unlocking the carbon potential from these responsibly managed forests, while
also protecting the other values they deliver, offers an opportunity to
incentivize responsible practices for landowners, while creating a powerful new
way for companies to offset their unavoidable emissions.
If you would like to stay up to date about the research FSC is conducting, sign
up for the consultative group
Published Mar 17, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Brad Kahn joined Forest Stewardship Council US as communications director in 2010, where he manages organizational communications and outreach. From media relations and policy translation to green building and research focused on the forest carbon benefits of FSC practices, Brad helps communicate FSC’s impacts to a wide array of audiences. For the past 20 years Brad has worked in communications, serving nonprofit organizations focused on environmental issues. He has a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a B.A. in economics from Brown.
Chris leads the Forest Stewardship Council's US marketing and business development efforts, having helped corporations make the most of sales and marketing opportunities and challenges for more than 20 years. Prior to joining FSC, Chris led US marketing and sales at Aimia, a leading global loyalty marketing solutions provider; at Wunderman, a WPP agency, providing strategic services to Best Buy and Coca-Cola; at Gage, serving Fortune 500 clients including Microsoft, Walmart, Dell, and 3M; and at Target, providing marketing strategy and management consulting services. Chris holds Bachelor’s Degrees in English and Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.