Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to commonly asked questions. If you have a question that isn't on the list, please contact us. A glossary of common terms is available here.


Auditing & certification

What is the difference between Toitū enviromark, Toitū carbonzero and Toitū carbonreduce certification?

Toitū enviromark certification indicates a management system meets certain requirements to help organisations manage their significant environmental aspects and impacts.

Toitū carbonzero and Toitū carbonreduce certification indicate a carbon footprint has been measured, verified and is being reduced in line with climate science and best practice; in the case of Toitū carbonzero the footprint is also fully offset.

For more information on each programme, see these pages: carbon management and environmental management.

How much of my time/resources will I need to allocate to this?

The time it takes to prepare for and successfully pass an audit varies from business to business, and the certification programme you are applying for. Time requirements are mainly related to how well developed your existing systems are when you start.

As a rough guide, a small organisation with tidy records will only need a day’s worth of time spread out over several weeks. For a small to medium enterprise needing to develop systems or improve records, a few hours a week is enough to prepare for and pass your annual audit. The time needed each year is expected to reduce as you develop and improve systems and records.

Our expert staff can discuss your particular situation and help you develop a realistic project plan to guide your progress.

How often do I need to be audited?

In order to maintain certification, you are required to have an audit annually within 12 months of your previous audit once you have achieved your first certification. You can be audited more frequently to suit your circumstances and goals. Annual fees and ongoing annual surveillance audits must be paid and completed in order for the certification to remain valid.

What happens if I don't pass my audit?

Most companies have some outstanding issues they need to address after an audit – that is the value in having your work checked by the experts. You will be given any findings and recommendations, as well as a time frame to work on these. The auditor will then check the findings can be closed out and you will proceed to certification.

How long will it take to get certified?

The rate at which you progress is dependent on several factors: your current situation (e.g. how well organised your records are, existing systems and processes, etc.) and the resources you can put to the project. Most businesses are able to progress from sign up to certification in 3-6 months.

What does being certified mean?

Certification to one of our programmes means that your organisation or product has been independently verified as meeting the standard or requirements for that scheme.

This means your stakeholders can have confidence that you have achieved that standard and you can make environmental claims in the marketplace with credibility and confidence. Claims based on self-certification are of doubtful value in the same way that self-diagnosis will never be as useful as a visit to the doctor. An example of problematic self-certification is the Dole Banana ‘Ethical Choice’ label; this has since been removed from products.

What happens once a company has achieved certification? Does the process continue?

Certification is time-limited and you must demonstrate continuous improvement to continue to be certified annually.

Toitū carbonzero or Toitū carbonreduce members measure and verify emissions on an annual basis. Reductions must be achieved on a six year cycle.

Toitū enviromark members build continual improvement into their bespoke environmental management systems and regularly check that the current system is still the most applicable and appropriate framework.

Who is JAS-ANZ and what does accreditation mean?

Our Toitū carbonzero and Toitū carbonreduce programmes are accredited by an independent accreditation body, Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ). JAS-ANZ accredits Toitū Envirocare under ISO 14065, ISO 14066 and ISO 17065. This means they independently check our carbon certification programmes are in line with the appropriate international standards.

Accreditation is the process by which an organisation is authorised to issue certifications to third parties. Accreditation is different from certification. Accreditation is a specific organisation's process of certification and refers to the organisation that issues certification, not the organisation being certified.

Why do I need to be a member? Can't I just pay for the audits?

You can in fact opt to have only an audit, but you will not receive the tools, checklists, guidance or software that our members receive, nor will you be certified or have the right to use the certification logo to promote your achievements.

Membership is the core of our certification programmes. Members receive expert guidance, access to our world-class tools, resources and software, the use of internationally recognised certification marks and marketing support, and access to the member network for procurement and cross-promotion.

Will your certification programmes save me money?

Most organisations do find significant savings come from focusing on their environmental performance. Improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions generally result in cost savings although, for some savings, there may need to be an investment in new technology or behaviour change before the savings are realised. Many of our members have been able to better understand their largest impacts, or hot spots, and work to manage and reduce these. Many common hot spots, such as transport and fuel or energy use are also cost areas, so reducing these generally leads to cost savings. You can see member case studies here.

Many organisations join our programmes for other reasons, including ethical reasons, gaining reputational advantage, attracting innovative talent, market differentiation, help with compliance, or meet supply chain demands.

How can I find out more? What's the next step?

Have a look through our website and give us a call or email with any questions you have. We can help you determine which certification is right for your organisation and develop a proposal.

Quick links:


Promoting your credentials

How can I promote my certification?

Each certification scheme we offer has a unique logo. Once certified, you can use the relevant logo to clearly, credibly, and precisely share your achievement in the marketplace. This mark allows your environmental claims to be substantiated in line with advertising standards and legislation.

We encourage our members to promote their certification by using the logo on advertising, letterheads, displays, and on product labelling (where eligible). Members receive training and advice in the communications of their certifications.

How widely recognised are the certification marks?

Both central and local government have been involved with Toitū enviromark Solutions from the start of the schemes under its parent, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research. Many councils, businesses and organisations recognise Toitū carbonreduce, Toitū carbonzero, and Toitū enviromark certification as a way to meet tender requirements or to meet supply chain standards.

The Toitū enviromark certification programme is widely recognised within New Zealand. It does not currently operate overseas so international recognition is more limited.

The Toitū carbonreduce and Toitū carbonzero programmes have current members in 5 countries and the certification marks are recognised in over 60 countries. Toitū enviromark Solutions has scope to undertake audits for Toitū carbonreduce and Toitū carbonzero certification in17 countries. Toitū carbonreduce and Toitū carbonzero certification is a way to gain entry into certain export markets that have environmental requirements. For those reporting into the CDP, Toitū carbonreduce is an accredited verification standard and earns an extra 10-15% more points. Around 80% of the CDP climate change questionnaire can be answered from your Toitū carbonreduce or Toitū carbonzero reports. In the UK, Toitū carbonreduce is also licensed by the UK Environment Agency and recognised by the UK Energy Savings and Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) as a route to compliance.

Do you certify my products as being environmentally friendly or healthy for consumers?

No. We certify your carbon emissions or your systems for managing environmental impacts, but the certification does not guarantee that other environmental impacts have not occurred. Our certifications do not guarantee food safety or product composition or that your products or services are better than someone else's.

However, a company that has chosen to have Toitū carbonzero, Toitū carbonreduce, or Toitū enviromark certification for its products and/or organisation is likely to be concerned about the environment, therefore more likely to adopt other measures to reduce overall environmental impacts.

Consumers are also increasingly savvy about greenwash and vague ‘eco-friendly’ type claims. Credible environmental certification enables you to substantiate more specific and useful environmental claims.


Carbon emissions calculations

These FAQs apply to our Toitū carbonreduce and Toitū carbonzero programmes as well as our free public calculators.

What gases are counted as greenhouse gas emissions?

There are seven main greenhouse gases:

  1. carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly from fossil fuel use
  2. methane (CH4), mainly from animals and waste
  3. nitrous oxide (N2O), mainly from agriculture
  4. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), mainly from refrigerants
  5. sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), mainly from the electricity industry
  6. perfluorocarbons (PFCs), mainly from aluminium production
  7. nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), mainly from production of silicon wafers, liquid crystal displays and silicon-based solar cells.

Usually, all greenhouse gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and typically measured in kilograms or tonnes (kgCO2e or tCO2e). 1 tonne CO2e is emitted when you:

  • Burn 370 litres of diesel
  • Use 786 kg of standard office paper (embodied emissions)
  • Travel 3,400 km on domestic air flights

Do greenhouse gas emissions need to be continuously measured or monitored?

Typically, emissions are reviewed annually, looking at the previous year’s activities to extrapolate emissions. In practice, this mean collating 12 months’ worth of activity data such as electricity and fuel consumption invoices. This data is then entered into the emission calculation software, which uses formulas known as emissions factors to calculate your emissions total.

Is it possible for greenhouse gas emissions to be double counted by different parts of the supply chain?

In an ideal world every organisation would take responsibility for their own emissions, but double counting may occasionally occur. Double counting could take place if both the buyer and the seller (of the service or product) accounted for the emissions due to the same activity, e.g. international maritime freight.

The Toitū carbonzero programme requires organisations to disclose the full emissions inventory prior to any discounting of double counted emissions, to encourage continued resource efficiency and emissions reductions. Organisations that use Toitū carbonzero certified services will still account for those emissions but will not be required to offset that portion of the footprint, if seeking Toitū carbonzero certification.

How are emissions treated within the Toitū carbonzero programme for those that are covered under the ETS , and will this be carbon neutral through compliance to the ETS?

Fuel covered by the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ-ETS) cannot be recognised by the Toitū carbonzero programme as already offset, or carbon neutral. The reasons are summarised below:

To comply with Commerce Commission guidance on making a carbon neutral claim, the measurement of the emissions must be based on a suitable international standard, the amount of offsets must be equivalent to the measured footprint, offsets must be additional, the emissions reductions used to create the offsets must be verified as already achieved, and offsets must not be double counted. These requirements cannot be demonstrated for fuel participating in the NZ-ETS or from the cost of carbon being passed down to consumers.

Measurement of emissions for voluntary carbon neutral claims by organisations are generally undertaken in compliance with the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and ISO 14064-1:2006. These standards require Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions sources to be measured. Measurement for the NZ-ETS includes Scope 1 and Scope 2 but not Scope 3. Therefore, the fuel emissions reported into NZ-ETS do not meet the measurement standards required for voluntary carbon neutral claims.

Companies reporting into the NZ-ETS have been required to surrender one offset for each two tonnes of emissions. To make a carbon neutral claim, the number of offsets must be equivalent to the number of tonnes of emissions. The two-for-one arrangement is being phased out but this will take a number for years before the surrender of offsets is equivalent to the emissions reported.

Normally, an offset is created from a project that has reduced emissions. New Zealand Units (NZUs) may be allocated by Government to companies that are trade exposed and not matched to an actual reduction in emissions. The NZU is a financial instrument where there may be no associated emissions reduction. NZUs are not internationally tradable unless converted to Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) which come from the allocation to New Zealand by the United Nations. Companies may also choose to pay $12.50 per tonne of emissions instead of surrendering offsets. Therefore, the offset might not be equivalent to the emissions, the “offset” might not be created from an emissions reduction, or there may be no offset involved.

Both the Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) emphasise that the offsets (emissions reductions) used to make a carbon neutral claim must be additional to business as usual as defined by the Kyoto Protocol. Compliance obligations can be met without emissions reductions taking place. Compliance with regulatory requirements is not additional because the offset or payment is a legal requirement, i.e. it is part of business as usual. Therefore, participation in the NZ-ETS does not meet the additionality requirements for a carbon neutral claim.

The offsets or NZUs surrendered by participants in the NZ-ETS go to the Crown Account in the New Zealand Emissions Unit Register (NZEUR) where they are “retired”. These can be used by the Government to meet the national Kyoto obligations or they could be reallocated to another sector in the future. International standards for making carbon neutral claims require offsets to be cancelled, i.e. not able to be further traded or used again as an offset for another organisation. Therefore, double counting may be taking place.

The Commerce Commission guidance on carbon claims states that a carbon neutral claim cannot be based on forward offsetting. Only internationally tradable offsets or units can be used by the New Zealand government to meet the national Kyoto obligations. Units will be surrendered after the end of each commitment period. This means that offsets or units surrendered by participants in the NZ-ETS and subsequently used to meet the national obligations will not be cancelled until sometime in the future. A carbon neutral claim relying on offsets or units surrendered to the New Zealand government cannot be verified as real until the cancellation has taken place. Therefore, the surrender of offsets or units to comply with NZ-ETS obligations is a forward action.

Finally, the price added to fuel and paid by the consumer does not reflect the amount of greenhouse gases associated with the fuel because the measurement is not complete and only half of the emissions may have been offset. At the Point of Obligation, offsets may not have been used. Where offsets were used, it is a forward action, not additional and may be double counted. A carbon neutral claim that recognised “offsets” made though the NZ-ETS would fail to meet many of the criteria set by the Commerce Commission and the ACCC. Claims that fuel is carbon neutral because it is covered by the NZ-ETS are misleading to consumers.

My electricity use is from renewable sources only. Is it possible to omit this electricity from my footprint?

It is difficult to separate the renewable energy from the fossil fuel energy in the distribution system (national grid). As electricity demand goes up to meet peak demand periods during the day, it is generally the fossil fuel generators that produce more electricity to meet that demand. For New Zealand electricity emissions, we use data provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that accounts for the total mix of electricity sources that go on the national grid, including electricity from renewable sources.

Even where your electricity retailer supplies carbon neutral electricity, you still need to record your electricity usage. Carbon neutral electricity still produces emissions, but these are offset for you by the electricity provider. Where you are seeking Toitū carbonzero certification and you purchase Toitū carbonzero certified electricity, you are not required to offset that component of your footprint, but it is still measured and reported.

Are waste recycling initiatives included?

Waste sent to landfill produces emissions and must be considered as part of your footprint. Minimising waste, composting and recycling can reduce emissions because you are either preventing waste or preventing the use of virgin (new) materials.

Why is food and diet not considered in the household calculator?

Food does make a considerable contribution to emissions. Unfortunately, there is a lack of New Zealand specific food data to power the calculations as robustly as energy, transport and waste. We are actively working to source this information in order to add this to the calculator.

In the meantime, you can find resources to help individuals reduce their lifestyle impacts, including diet, here.


Carbon credits

Isn’t the Toitū carbonzero programme just a way for organisations to buy a good emissions profile?

The Toitū carbonzero programme requires its members to continually reduce emissions, not just offset them. However, offsets can play a vital role in reducing overall emissions immediately while those reductions are achieved.

Research has shown that companies offsetting through the purchase of carbon credits are more likely make greater efforts to manage and reduce their emissions as this internal cost of carbon provides an incentive to reduce the need for carbon credits.

What offsets or carbon credits does the Toitū carbonzero programme use?

The programme sources credits from projects that have been generated through both compliance, and voluntary standards from a range of projects. The projects are located in New Zealand and other countries such as Brazil, China, India, Turkey and Thailand. All offset projects are assessed and approved by the programme prior to using any of the carbon credits. If you would like to know more about the specific credits used for your certification, the programme can provide you with more details on request.

We recommend that you seek an offset project that aligns with the values of your company and enhances your sustainability story. If you want to use a particular type of carbon credit project then we will endeavour to accommodate your preferences, including provision of appropriate communication materials for your customers and stakeholders.

I wish to source my own carbon credits to use for offsetting my emissions within the programme. Can I do this?

Possibly, but they need to be assessed by us to ensure they meet the programme requirements. Essentially the credits you are using must have been issued through a standard approved by the programme, and then your particular project is further assessed for suitability within the programme.

This option is restricted to members that have credit volume requirements greater than 1,000 tonnes. If your requirement is greater than 1,000 tonnes and you are interested in sourcing your own credits, contact your Account Manager for further guidance.

Can I just plant a certain number of trees to offset my emissions and gain Toitū carbonzero certification?

Any tree planting project would need to be considered under the current programme accounting rules for inclusion in the emissions inventory and the related effects on the offset requirement.

What happens to the money (when purchasing carbon credits)?

The money you pay for carbon credits goes to both the carbon credit supplier (to cover the additional costs associated with implementing the project over and above the ‘business as usual’ situation) and to Toitū Envirocare to cover administrative costs associated with activities such as sourcing and supplying carbon credits, quality assessment of offset projects, and registry account management.

Why is there a difference in prices? Why are the credits from overseas often a lower price?

There are various factors that affect the price of carbon credits. There are differences in perceived value of credits that have been issued from voluntary and compliance standards and this creates differing demands for these. Generally compliance based credits are more expensive as these are backed by AAUs or NZUs. There is stronger demand for this type of unit from organisations that face legal requirements to purchase (for example to comply with an emissions trading scheme). Many of the credits from overseas are created through voluntary standards where the unit is a VCU (voluntary carbon unit). VCUs may not be used for compliance offsetting obligations.

Another significant driver is the price set by the owners of the offset project in order to cover the additional costs of implementing the project over what would have been ‘business as usual’.

Some projects are more attractive based on additional characteristics such as additional environmental and/or social co-benefits.

Exchange rates are also a factor in price of carbon credits.

Does carbon credit price reflect quality?

Just like any market, some carbon credits are more desirable than others (e.g. a certain offset project might have better brand/marketing alignment than others) but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the price reflects quality. As covered in the question above on 'why there is a difference in prices', there are various factors that may affect the price per unit.

Can I choose the type of credit that I would like to buy from?

If you have a particular preference for a type of credit, we will do our best to provide this based on what we have available at the time of certification.

We have forest on our land and we’re a Toitū carbonzero certified client. How can we maximise the benefit of this land within our certification?

If you own land that has forest growing on it, this can be considered under the current programme accounting rules for inclusion in the emissions inventory and the related effects on the offset requirement.