An entity can become CO2 neutral through a three-step process of calculating emissions, reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions.
However, a few mediatised greenwashing cases in 2008 concerning carbon neutrality proved that a definition was not sufficient. In the absence of clear, transparent guidelines and requirements on how to calculate, reduce, and offset emissions, customers had difficulties judging the credibility of carbon neutral claims, which in turn devalued the concept, reducing incentives for organisations to aim for carbon neutrality.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) responded in October 2009 by standardising the whole process of achieving CO2 neutrality in the Publicly Available Specification 2060 (PAS 2060). Based on a consensus between government, the public and the private sector, the PAS 2060 is built on four key principles: (1) transparency and responsibility; (2) the use of existing and credible public standards; (3) neutrality solely through reduction is impossible; and (4) neutrality solely through offsetting is not credible. It requires robust carbon footprint measurements, concrete plans for achieving internal reductions, and high quality carbon credits. By focusing on both reductions and offsets, public criticism about the fact that offsetting alone is not enough is overcome. The PAS 2060 is broadly applicable and can be used by communities, governments, organisations, individuals, families etc. It encourages an entity to reduce emissions each year, towards a real change in behaviour and a low carbon economy.
As the PAS 2060 is currently the only official, non-proprietary standard for carbon neutrality, it can be considered to be the ‘gold standard’ or ‘best practice’ for demonstrating carbon neutrality. A rigorous implementation of the PAS 2060 is therefore the preferred choice for any entity wishing to demonstrate carbon neutrality in a transparent and credible way. It has a six-step approach that is easy to follow, although it requires real efforts and commitment.