Planting trees to offset your brand’s carbon footprint is all the rage right now. And while trees are undoubtedly successful at removing carbon from the atmosphere - does ‘offsetting’ your carbon footprint really make you carbon neutral as quickly as the planet needs it?

Through burning fossil fuels, the commercial production of beef and lamb and deforestation (amongst plenty of other contributors), the world emits around 43 billion tonnes of carbon every year.

Red and white exhaust tower emitting cloud of burnt fossil fuels

If we don’t do something to tackle the carbon crisis, by 2100 sea levels will have risen by 1.8ft resulting in an 170% increase in flood risk, the arctic will be ice-free every summer and 18% of insects and 16% of plants will have lost their natural habitat.

Many brands - including BuxtonThreeTwo - try to tackle their carbon output in some form. From offsetting your team’s carbon footprint to planting a tree for every sale, thousands of organisations across the globe are working hard to create a better world. We should all be tackling the climate crisis however we can.

However, we need to be transparent in how we are tackling climate change. Many companies claim to be ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘carbon negative’. While these brands are working hard to slow down the effects of climate change, the measures they’re putting in place to offset carbon emissions aren’t fast acting and do not reduce the amount of carbon that is emitted directly into the atmosphere, today and tomorrow.

Looking up at trees in a forest

With a mature tree taking 20 years to grow, brands who claim that planting trees makes them ‘carbon negative’ aren’t necessarily telling it straight - as it’ll take two decades to reach carbon neutrality, let alone carbon negativity.

As such, claiming to be ‘carbon negative’ while continuing to emit carbon into the atmosphere lulls customers into a false sense of security - where their expectations for a company’s environmentalist policy doesn’t align with their real-world practice.

Researchers have explained that ‘natural climate solutions’ are more beneficial to the planet than the creation of man-made forests. Restoring wetlands, minimising emissions from farmland and protecting existing forests and reforesting degraded areas could have a much greater impact on the reduction of carbon - to the tune of 23.8 billion tonnes of carbon per year.

We need to try and act now with preventative methods, rather than attempting to mask over our existing negative impact.

So what else can businesses do moving forward to reduce their carbon footprint?

1. Build brands with the environment at the heart from day one.

Start with green intentions - and keep them at the core of everything you do. Instead of being reactive to the climate crisis, act proactively. Brands shouldn’t think ‘what can I do to offset the carbon I emit?’, but instead ‘how can I prevent our business from emitting carbon in the first place?’.

2. Retrospectively alter your model to be more climate-conscious.

There are plenty of ways to introduce environmentalist policy into your already successful business, too. It’s never too late to switch to recyclable packaging, invest in green manufacturing methods or transfer to local suppliers. Try introducing a cycle to work scheme, or continue to offer flexible remote working hours to your team.

3. Be transparent.

To strive for a positive outcome is to have positive intentions. Any brand that is working to fight the climate crisis is influencing others, leading the way and having a positive impact. But it is important to be cautious around the terms we use when discussing a company’s environmental policy, and to remain transparent in our endeavours to build a better future.

Everyday, society grows more climate conscious. And as such, the environmental expectations consumers hold of brands increases with it. While planting trees is a great way to reduce our carbon levels in the long term, this one action is not enough to claim climate neutrality or negativity, as it’s results aren’t seen quick enough.

Be honest with your consumers. No one is expecting any one company to be perfectly green - so don’t claim to be.

Sharing your company’s environmental pitfalls alongside the successes may even help you connect with someone who can offer a solution - we can combat the climate crisis, together.