Carbon neutrality

Anti-greenwashing guide for carbon credits

January 19, 2023

Carbon credits and the Kyoto Protocol

Buying carbon credits is a good action! The carbon credit was set up to help the countries engaged in the Kyoto Protocol to keep their promises and is now known by the general public. You will contribute to financing useful projects for the ecological transition and get implicated in the fight against global warming. However, this must be done under the right conditions to avoid pitfalls.

Buying carbon credits is a good action!
Scientists distinguish two phenomena that will allow us to reach our climate objectives:

What are carbon credits and what is their role?

Scientists distinguish two phenomena that will allow us to reach our climate objectives:

The reduction of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

  • The sequestration of carbon by what we call "carbon sinks" (forests, soils, oceans, etc.). How can we encourage these two phenomena?
  • The carbon credit mechanism is a project financing tool that enables the development of greenhouse gas emission reduction or avoidance solutions in sectors that emit the most (such as Manufacture Bois Paille for construction for example).
  • It is also the main financial means for the development of "carbon sinks". These sinks can be natural (an agroforestry project, an ocean project) or industrial such as biochar or even DAC (Direct Air Capture).

Thus the carbon contribution (formerly carbon offset) aims to counterbalance a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

2 possible actions:

  • Either by eliminating a part of the carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere
  • Or by preventing future CO2 emissions from reaching the atmosphere.

A carbon contribution project (formerly carbon offset) is (almost) always accompanied by a carbon credit.

Thus the carbon contribution (formerly carbon offset) aims to counterbalance a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions
Greenwashing is a marketing technique used by an organization in order to give itself a misleading ecological image.

Why can carbon credits be linked to greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a marketing technique used by an organization in order to give itself a misleading ecological image.

The role of carbon credits is crucial in the framework of eco-responsible practices but they can be used in the wrong way by companies.

Signals of greenwashing and carbon credits:

  • Buying carbon credits instead of reducing your footprint
  • Communicating on your carbon credits in any way
  • Buying unreliable carbon credits
  • Buying carbon credits that are inconsistent with your activity
  • Buying carbon credits and not complying with the law

In order to fight against greenwashing mechanisms, there is the Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité (ARPP), a private self-regulatory body for advertising in France. Its power is limited because it cannot pronounce legal sanctions against companies that practice greenwashing. For example, greenwashing consists of communicating on a single environmental indicator in order to conceal other impacts.

However, the entry into force in France on January 1, 2023 of the decree on "carbon neutrality claims and carbon offsetting", will strengthen the legislative framework on this subject (more details in this article).

In practice, what are the rules for carbon credits?

The 5 best practices on buying carbon credits and truly fighting against climate change:

  • Buy carbon credits to complement your actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Communicate honestly
  • Buy certified carbon credits
  • Buy carbon credits close to your sector of activity (carbon credits do not only consist in planting trees and creating forests).
  • Follow the French law on carbon neutrality
The 5 best practices on buying carbon credits and truly fighting against climate change:

Carbon credit anti-greenwashing guide: 5 mistakes not to make

Greenwashing 1: Buying carbon credits instead of reducing your footprint

In order to respect the commitments made during the Kyoto Protocol, carbon offsetting without reducing your greenhouse gas emissions is not enough. A classic mistake, carbon credits must be used to offset your emissions that you have not been able to reduce.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should always occur before embarking on a carbon offset strategy. If you haven't done your carbon footprint, defined a net zero strategy, and made real reduction efforts this year, get to work and tackle the issues one at a time!

In order to respect the commitments made during the Kyoto Protocol, carbon offsetting without reducing your greenhouse gas emissions is not enough.

Greenwashing 2: Communicate on your carbon credits in any way you can

In order to convince ourselves of our action in the fight against global warming, we can see: 100% offset, carbon neutral, zero greenhouse gas emissions... If these communications are legally possible within a certain framework, they are strongly discouraged in France. Following the recommendations of Carbone4's Net Zero Initiative, we speak of "contribution to collective carbon neutrality".

It's longer but it's truer!

In order to convince ourselves of our action in the fight against global warming, we can see: 100% offset, carbon neutral, zero greenhouse gas emissions..
Numerous initiatives are emerging in order to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol and to fight against greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenwashing 3: Buying unreliable carbon credits

Numerous initiatives are emerging in order to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol and to fight against greenhouse gas emissions. Even though most of them are of good quality and do not reproduce some past mistakes, it is nevertheless necessary to verify the seriousness of the approach.

Some key elements to check:

    A reliable measure of impact. The additionality of the funding provided (that it is truly used to fund a project that needs it). Permanence, i.e. the guarantee that the impact will be maintained over time. Third-party verification: it is prudent to ensure that the project has been validated by an independent entity qualified to judge its quality. Absence of harmful rebound effects.

Greenwashing 4: Buying carbon credits that are inconsistent with your line of business

If you are producing T-shirts in France and preventing deforestation on the other side of the world, the coherence of your investments is not very visible, even if you participate in offsetting your greenhouse gas emissions. It is then a matter of communicating very carefully, or of financing projects that are more relevant to your activity and your geography.

From January 1, 2023, a decree will regulate in France the claims on

Greenwashing 5: Buying carbon credits and not complying with the law

From January 1, 2023, a decree will regulate in France the claims on "carbon offsetting and carbon neutrality of products and services".

More information on the decree n° 2022-539 of April 13, 2022 here!

Carbon credit anti-greenwashing guide: 5 virtuous behaviors to fight climate change

Useful and virtuous carbon credits 1: Buying carbon credits to complement your reduction actions

In an effort to meet the Kyoto Protocol challenge, Riverse asks you for your carbon footprint, your reduction trajectory, and your actual reductions. If this is the case, you are taking the extra step and that's all to your credit!

In an effort to meet the Kyoto Protocol challenge, Riverse asks you for your carbon footprint, your reduction trajectory, and your actual reductions

Useful and virtuous carbon credits 2: Communicate honestly

Talking about your contribution to collective carbon neutrality means highlighting your balance sheet and your reduction actions, explaining why and how you chose these specific projects. Thus, how your environmental strategy is in line with the Kyoto Protocol and how you are involved in the fight against global warming.

All of this allows for honest, sincere communication that will allow you to engage employees, customers and investors around the authenticity of your environmental action.

Certified carbon credits must meet the recommendations of the Taskforce On Scaling the Voluntary Carbon Markets, or the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative, pending the release of the ISO 14068 standard on carbon neutrality (of which Riverse is a member of the Afnor working group!).

Useful and virtuous carbon credits 3: Buying certified carbon credits

Certified carbon credits must meet the recommendations of the Taskforce On Scaling the Voluntary Carbon Markets, or the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative, pending the release of the ISO 14068 standard on carbon neutrality (of which Riverse is a member of the Afnor working group!).

Useful and virtuous carbon credits 4: Buying carbon credits close to your sector of activity

As recommended by Executive Order 2022-539 of April 13, 2022, it is recommended that you fund projects in your geographic area of emissions whenever possible.

If we want to reach the Kyoto Protocol objectives and act significantly in the fight against global warming, we can only recommend that you go even further. You can then finance projects with respect to your scope 3 emissions that are difficult to reduce, because decarbonization solutions are lacking. Thus, if freight transport is a major source of emissions, finance projects to decarbonize mobility (energy, infrastructure, retrofitting, etc.), and you will indirectly contribute to reducing your scope 3 emissions in the medium term!

As recommended by Executive Order 2022-539 of April 13, 2022, it is recommended that you fund projects in your geographic area of emissions whenever possible.
France is taking measures to comply with the Kyoto Protocol and is therefore putting in place laws to act against greenhouse gas emissions.

Useful and virtuous carbon credits 5: Follow the French law on carbon neutrality

France is taking measures to comply with the Kyoto Protocol and is therefore putting in place laws to act against greenhouse gas emissions. We suggest this article to understand the stakes of this law which will come into force on January 1st 2023.

In addition, we also offer a turnkey communication dashboard that allows you to comply with this framework when funding Riverse-certified projects.

Reminder of the definitions of greenwashing and Ademe's recommendations

Definitions of greenwashing by Ademe

The Ademe's anti-greenwashing guide is a very useful reference in this respect.

The suggested definitions are as follows:

  • The use of the ecological argument when the interest of the product or the service for the environment is minimal, even non-existent;.
  • The use of the sustainable development argument when the approach initiated by the company is either almost non-existent, or very partial, not very solid, not very deployed with the employees.
  • In short, a message that can mislead the consumer on the real ecological quality of the product or on the reality of the sustainable development approach..
The Ademe's anti-greenwashing guide is a very useful reference in this respect.

The 9 signals of greenwashing by Ademe

  1. A real lie: there is just nothing ecological and no sustainable development approach
  2. A disproportionate promise: the ecological interest exists but is exaggerated
  3. Vague words: it prevents from understanding the physical reality
  4. Insufficient information: this prevents from validating the veracity of the facts
  5. A too suggestive image : the visual is too much valorizing compared to the real ecological virtues
  6. A false label: the "house" label does not work!
  7. An irrelevant emphasis: the bicycles on the EasyJet ads
  8. Non-existent evidence: "according to a serious study".
  9. A false exclusivity: this is mandatory by law in reality (example: the end of disposable elements in on-site catering from 2023 - Agec law).
Grégoire GuiraudenGrégoire Guirauden

Grégoire has worked for more than 6 years in the digitalization of companies and the scaling of customer success teams. He is deeply passionate about climate change and green technologies.

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