An important question for companies is how to communicate offsetting with corresponding adjustments or project funding according to the contribution claim model in an effective and factually correct way. Only if corresponding adjustments are present can one speak of offsetting. Contribution claims are not linked to compensation of emissions.

In the meantime, neutrality claims such as that of the climate-neutral company are strongly rooted in corporate communication. The term climate neutrality is not used consistently in communication. It is therefore not transparent for consumers what exactly climate neutrality of a particular company or even a product means. The IPCC definition of climate neutrality is that not only net zero emissions are achieved, but also that any impact of human activity on the climate is prevented. This includes impacts that result indirectly from biological or geophysical changes, such as the melting of the poles. This goal is not achievable for the individual company.

Possible claims for offsetting

More realistic claims are CO₂ neutrality or net zero emissions (Pineda et al., 2020). However, both targets should ultimately be achieved without offsetting, through emission reductions. For emissions that cannot be avoided, an equal amount of emissions must be removed from the atmosphere again (neutralisation). Offsetting should only be used additionally in the transition phase until the target is reached, to compensate for residual emissions. If a company describes itself as “CO₂-neutral through offsetting”, it makes it clear through the addition that residual emissions occur that are not neutralised and the target has not yet been reached.

Possible claims with the Contribution Claim Model

Since in the Contribution Claim Model the emission reductions achieved by a project are not transferred to the donor, but help the host country to achieve its climate protection goals, companies cannot use any compensation or neutrality claims in this case. They do, however, assume climate responsibility and make an important contribution to technology development in the host country and to climate protection. Claims that make this clear are, for example, ‘CO₂-friendly through climate investment in the host country’ or ‘climate-friendly through technology investment in the host country’.  It is important with the claims used that it does not appear that the company is offsetting emissions in its own value chain with the emissions reductions from the project.

Further links:

Double counting, misleading claims and other pitfalls in voluntary offsetting: (in German)