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BY CHRIS BARRETT

Over the past year, we have seen a significant shift in the interest in matters relating to measuring and managing Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions. Organisations are coming under pressure from many directions to measure their carbon emissions and to demonstrate that they are taking action to reduce them.

This has increased the concern about the validity of  claims by organisations about their carbon management activities. The term ‘greenwash’ is becoming commonly used to describe credible sounding claims with little real substance behind them. In turn, this has led to many organisations setting themselves up as self-proclaimed assessors, validators, verifiers, and accreditors of such claims.

Without a standard against which to be measured, the credibility of an organisation’s claims cannot be verified and likewise the credibility of the organisations verifying claims also cannot be guaranteed. At the moment, there are no  accredited schemes for an organisation to demonstrate their carbon reduction credentials, outside of regulatory demand. There should be a high-quality way for an organisation to show how they  are reducing their emissions.

Having a universal and accepted standard is essential to develop trust and integrity in the market about an organisation’s activities, which in turn should help them market more effectively to consumer as well as encourage investors and other stakeholders. Therefore, the British Standards Institution (BSI) have published a common definition and recognised standard for validation  called PAS 2060 (updated in 2014).

The principles behind the standard are very much aligned with the process that Auditel recommend customers to adopt i.e. to measure emissions, to set targets and reduce emissions, to offset any  remaining emissions that cannot be managed / reduced and finally to document and validate.

In previous items we have covered the first 3 elements of this in some detail – the nitty gritty/action- based activities. However, over time it is likely that authenticating these will become an essential part of the process of moving to Net Zero or Carbon Neutrality.

This part will require customers to produce Qualifying Explanatory Statements (QES). These in turn will need to be validated and whilst all of the steps required to achieve PAS2060 can be undertaken by a customer including self- validation, it is arguable that there is a credibility issue if any validation is done by the organisation undertaking these actions. Therefore, being validated by an independent organisation will add  greater credibility. The highest level of assessment would be by a certification agency (i.e. accredited with UKAS). However, at the moment there is no certifiable standard (PAS 2060 has not been  accredited yet), and though certification bodies can offer the validation services there are many other organisations who are also offering this.

When considering these organisations, care should be taken to ensure the following:

  • What is their motivation for undertaking the validation?
    For example, are they using this as a vehicle to market their carbon offsetting services? There is a concern that many organisations are getting involved in validation and verification only as a means to develop other commercial opportunities.
  • What level of validation is suitable for the customer’s needs?
    For example, do they need to be formally certified or will a reputable third party working to the recommended standards provide the service they need?

If you are interested in having your emissions reported, measured and your carbon management activity validated against PAS 2060 then please let us know. We are strongly positioned to achieve  this with you and to provide all the services to ensure you reach Net Zero Carbon whilst managing resources commercially.

Terminology Check

Like many new sectors, the terminology around  missions measurement and management is developing rapidly, with terms often being utilised inaccurately which can lead to confusion. Here is an Auditel interpretation of the key phrases around the subject.

Validation

This provides independent and most importantly credible authentication that the measurements and activities that the customer is claiming to be undertaken are in compliance with the standard, commercially viable and achievable.. The validation should be done under the guidance principles of an official  standard i.e. PAS2060. It applies in particular to Qualifying Explanatory Statements. Validation may be associated with a ‘stamp’ issued by the validator who themselves should demonstrate they are qualified to undertake this validation. This qualification should be transparent and available to stakeholders. Auditel have developed a framework that does just this.

Verification

The claims made and validated by an organisation (in the QES for example) themselves need to be verified. This means that if emission reductions are claimed, then the numbers and the method used to  calculate them are in compliance. If validation confirms what will be done – then verification confirms that it has been done.

Certification

Activities delivered by an accredited independent third  party (a certified body) . These bodies are able to offer a certificate proving that the organisation has met the requirements of a published official standard. These bodies are accredited by UKAS  and generally are recognised certified bodies operating within the standard field. It is generally recommended that certification is completed independently of validation and verification activities,  though whoever verifies or validates can prepare and help an organisation achieve certified status.