FAQs: Updating the Toitū carbon programmes

17 March 2023 – Updates to the Toitū Carbon certification programme

This update is for Toitū Envirocare carbon certification organisation members only and does not impact members on a product programme.

This page answers important questions about the update and we welcome all questions from members. If your question isn't listed below or you'd like to ask one ahead of the webinar, you can submit a question online here.

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Reducing carbon emissions and creating a brighter future

Our purpose is to catalyse action for a zero carbon future, with our members doing the mahi under the Toitū carbon certification programme. The programme is the gold standard for environmental action rooted in data and science. As evidence and practice evolves, our programme needs to change as well.

When the IPCC delivered its latest report last year, it confirmed the news we’d been expecting – the climate status is code red for humanity. Based on all the projections, we have less than 800 days left to stop increasing emissions. From 2025, emissions must go down if we’re to have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, and adapting to the changes already baked in.

To remain the leading edge, science-based climate action provider in Aotearoa and beyond, we are updating our Toitū carbon certification organisation programme requirements to keep them in line with the latest international science and best practice.

These updates will help you meet your commitments to your business, employees, community, and our planet. The enhanced version of the programme is designed to empower businesses to create meaningful change.

You can download our latest infopack to find out more or carry on reading below for details.

Cover page for Toitū Pathway to zero carbon infopack

Download the carbon certification infopack

The future of Toitū carbon certification

Why is it changing?

We want members making Toitū carbonreduce, net carbonzero or climate positive certification claims to be recognised as science-aligned climate leaders.

The programme updates aim to align the certification requirements with evolving global leading practice, to better support a seamless transition and race to a net zero future.

When do these changes come into effect?

Details about the new organisation requirements will be released shortly.

Audits scheduled for 1 July 2025 or later will be conducted against the new Standard.

If you want to move to the new requirements earlier, talk to your account manager about how to add these additional steps to your current work.

You can also register interest to be an early adopter here.

Who does this impact?

This update is for Toitū carbon certification organisation programme members only, including those certifying their farm operations.

We’re currently reviewing the product and event programme requirements and will communicate those updates at a later date.

Will I need to sign a new contract?

Not at this stage, as updates to the Programme Technical Requirements are covered in your existing Contract and Terms & Conditions. Please be aware we are reviewing the standard T&Cs and will provide 30 days' notice before implementing any new Terms.

Updates to the Toitū carbon certification programme

Mandatory reductions for net carbonzero and climate positive

Making net carbonzero status will place the focus squarely on decarbonisation. All members making net carbonzero or climate positive claims will be required to clearly disclose what is or is not offset.

What this means for members?

Members will need to demonstrate reductions to achieve net carbonzero and climate positive status. The primary focus for resources needs to be decarbonisation. We will also maintain a minimum offset boundary, despite expanding the measurement to cover the full value chain. All members making net carbonzero or climate positive claims will be required to clearly disclose details about offsets.

Including value chain screening

We will move to full organisational value chain emissions measurement, allowing a staged approach of engaging with your suppliers and estimating your emissions, followed by working toward a more accurate measurement over time.

What this means for members?

Reductions will be assessed on a like-for-like basis – so the expanded scope of value chain sources will be compared against themselves. We won’t compare your overall total to the previous total, but instead look in more depth at the different categories. We will also assess reductions against your own targets and pathways.

Science-aligned reductions

To earn and maintain certification, all members, regardless of certification type, will need science-aligned reduction commitments limiting warming to 1.5°C. Our requirements will align with the Science Based Target initiative. This includes short and long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and pathways to be established no later than 2025.

What this means for members?

Guidance and tools will be provided by Toitū for setting science aligned targets.

Climate reporting

Members will show top management commitment by transparently describing how climate-related risks and opportunities are considered in strategic planning and include how all employees are informed of their role in emissions generation overall. This will help to drive collective action within a company and between companies.

What this means for members?

We’ll provide guidance, tools and materials to support your reporting and communications, as well as doing education ourselves to raise awareness overall.

Adaption and advocacy

Members will assess climate related risks and opportunities to include adaptation in their management plans. We will also require members not to engage in advocacy with real or perceived misalignment with climate action.

What this means for members?

Look at your existing plans to manage risk and consider ways they can be updated.

Toitū will require that certified organisations must not participate in advocacy or direct and indirect lobbying that represents perceived or real misalignment with climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts; for example, lobbying against government policy on phasing out coal combustion activities.

Certification claims backed up by progress

Continual progress and improvement against commitments to maintain annual certification will now be required. Your carbonreduce, net carbonzero, and climate positive status will be earned, based on progress against milestones. The framework will clearly define these milestones, including additional benchmarks, as members mature in their climate performance programmes. Members will need to show progress in line with their custom reduction pathway over each three-year certification cycle, though progress is reviewed annually.

What this means for members?

If you are unable to achieve the requirements, you will be moved to a carbon measure claim. This is a written certification claim signalling programme status, as opposed to a Toitū certification mark badge that can be used externally.

Annual carbon programme updates

We will shift to a review and update of the programme requirements each year to regularly integrate the latest science and international best-practice. Science and available data change, and our framework and accreditation producers need to be flexible as leading practice evolves.

What this means for members?

Carbon certification programme members will be advised of the transition period for any changes at the time of publication. Typically, members will have a default transition period of two years to demonstrate compliance with any updates.

Technology infrastructure

We’re investing $18.5M over three years to simplify and automate our digital platform and capabilities, and improve our level of service. Our goal is to minimise the impact of carbon programme updates on members. We are in the business of change, having adapted our programmes over the last 21 years, and are committed to supporting our members to change the way they operate.

What this means for members?

We are streamlining the programme process and rolling out new materials to equip you with the support you need. Keep an eye on your inbox for our updates, a series of workshops and new and improved materials, as well as software releases.

Q&A: Answers to your questions

There has been keen interest in the update to the Toitū carbon certification programme and we are committed to answering questions raised by members. To submit another question or if you want more detail on a specific issue, you can submit a question online here.


Can I get early access to the requirements, tools and guidance?

  • Yes! Please let your Account Manager know or opt in here. We’ll provide you with early access to materials, including beta versions of tools that you can test. All we ask in return is your feedback to help us better meet your needs.

Claims and certification marks

Will my Toitū net carbonzero or Toitū climate positive claim change? Will the certification logo change?

  • No, we are not expecting any changes to your certification claim or the logos.

I’m a current member and don’t want to lose my existing claim or undermine my progress to date. What exactly do I need to do to ensure I don’t go backwards?

  • You will continue to earn your current badge during the transition period and under the new requirements, provided you continue to pass your annual audits.
  • Audits before 1 July 2025 will be conducted against the current requirements.

Scopes and boundaries, base years and measurement periods

As we expand our boundary to include more of the value chain, what does this mean for our base year?

  • There are a few options available to you; we recommend them in this order:
  1. The ideal situation is to recalculate your base year to include those same sources, so that you continue to compare like with like and track progress. Having a single base year is recommended and can be cleaner, but it isn’t always practical to update that historical period.
  2. Once you are assessed against the future requirements (Organisation Technical Requirements V4.0), you’ll need to pass the annual audit under those value chain activities or subcategories. This will likely be the most practical solution for many organisations.
  3. The third option is to select a new base year as the best representative period of data to compare future emissions against. This isn’t our recommended approach in most cases, as it loses your good work to date and can appear as if you are changing the goal posts. There can be good reasons to do this though, so talk to your Account Manager if you think this will be the best fit.

Adding in these additional sources could increase our total emissions substantially. How do we manage this for the scope of our work and in our reporting and communications?

  • Measuring additional sources is a way to increase your impact on reducing emissions beyond your core operations. We are exploring the best way to help you report on the expanded scope of emissions across your certification materials and inventory to help you tell this story. We’ll provide guidance, tools and materials to support your reporting and communications, as well as doing direct public education ourselves.

How will Toitū assess reduction progress in light of expanding the scope of included emissions? Will adding new sources mean we can’t demonstrate reductions?

  • Reductions will be assessed on a like-for-like basis, so the expanded scope of value chain sources will be compared against themselves. We won’t compare your overall total to the previous total, but instead look in more depth at Scopes/Categories or Subcategories as required. We will also assess reductions against your own targets and pathways, which gives you the freedom to be more detailed if needed. You might consider having targets for your total Scope 1 and 2, and then a series of targets across Scope 3 to better reflect the rate of progress and targets you’ve set.

Value chain inclusion

What is the definition of ‘full value chain inclusion’? That is, how much of Scope 3 or Category 3-6 do we need to include? How far will we have to drill down?

  • Toitū will ask all members to include all indirect emissions in Scope 3 across the 15 subcategories, or across Category 3-6. This will include embodied emissions, but you won’t need to track down data for each stage.
  • For example you would include the paper you purchase for your office, but you don’t need to try to track down the ingredients of the paper or how the wood pulp was transported to the producer. Instead, you will measure the paper using the best available data and methods – this might just be the amount spent on paper, or there may be a more specific emissions factor available.
  • The best case would be if your paper supplier can provide a specific factor for you. In many cases, you will start with the more estimated method and over time seek to improve the data quality and accuracy, starting with the more material emissions sources or suppliers.
  • The table below shows how the GHG Protocol Scopes and Subcategories match to the ISO Categories, with some Toitū subcategories bridging the two frameworks. We’ll be asking members to assess all sources in those categories, if applicable. Following the initial estimation in the base year, members may thereafter exclude sources as de minimis (too small to be meaningful or taken into consideration); or on a materiality basis if:
  1. an individual emissions or removals source does not exceed 1% of the total Scope or Category; and
  2. total emissions and removals do not exceed 5% of the total inventory (classified as de minimis)
  3. The emissions or removal source is not otherwise considered significant to your inventory, intended use, or users.

GHG Protocol Scopes and Subcategories compared with ISO Categories and Toitū Subcategories

GHG Protocol Scopes and Subcategories compared with ISO Categories and Toitū Subcategories

How will the value chain screening be done? What is the process?

  • We will provide a screening tool and guidance, which will accommodate multiple methods across the value chain, depending on the type of data you have. The tool will also help you identify where you want to target efforts for more accurate or higher quality data and estimates, and where the hot spots in the chain may lie.
  • There are multiple methods to calculate emissions across your value chain, and in most cases you can use a combination of methods to complete the screening. The intention is to screen using the best available information at the time, and gradually improve the data quality or accuracy over time.
  • You may screen some activities based on the amount spent, there may be some averages or estimated default values that can be used, or you may have specific data from a supplier. We will allow for a range of methods, and ask that members work to improve the quality and accuracy over time. At each recertification you’ll be asked to show improvements or explain why they haven’t yet occurred.
  • We will have an early version of this tool available shortly for testing and feedback – if you would like early access to materials, including beta versions of tools, please subscribe here.

What resources and help will you provide for the new areas of the supply chain and downstream emissions?

  • To get you started, we will provide a workbook and guidance for members to screen both up and downstream. This tool will be ready for early testing soon, please sign up to our early adopters list and indicate interest.
  • We’re also planning a series of member workshops covering supply chain and downstream emissions. These workshops will be recorded and available to members.

Have you considered the resource impact and cost to your members to undertake this internal work?

  • Yes, we’re actively exploring ways to minimise the impact. We are simplifying and automating to reduce resources spent on activities like screening, freeing up your time for higher value activities. Our screening workbook will accommodate a range of methods and continual improvement and the two-year transition period will help you gradually meet the new requirements.
  • We recommend current members work on screening during the transition period to understand who holds the data within their organisation, any relationships or business cases that need to be developed, and identify opportunities to embed this into existing practices or management systems.

Will Toitū allow for industry-based methodologies other than those in the Toitū tools and templates?

  • Yes, although these may be subject to approval by the Programme. If you have a specific methodology or an existing screening or inventory, please let us know so we can identify if any further review or information will be required before or during an audit.

Adaptation, Risks and Transition planning

Can our existing company strategy documents or plans be used for the adaptation plans? 

  • You may already have plans or strategies in place to manage risks and opportunities related to your facilities, people, supply chain and revenue streams. Updating these documents with adaptation considerations will increase your company’s resilience in the decades ahead.


What guidance and tools are available to enable setting science-aligned targets for Scope 3 or Category 3-6?

  • Guidance and tools will be provided by Toitū for setting science aligned targets for ISO Category 3 – 6 (GHG Protocol Scope 3) emissions. The scope of the guidance will focus on target methods that apply to all members across all industry sectors (referred to by Science Based Targets Initiative as ‘cross-sector’ pathway methods).
  • For members considering using ‘sector-specific’ target setting methods, we will be referring to the latest available sector methods developed by Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

What will Toitū provide to help members make clear, substantiable claims that they have science-aligned 1.5°C targets, without seeking SBTi validation?

  • We are planning to include a badge and written endorsements on your certification documents. We’re exploring other options as well, and any feedback on your specific endorsement and communication needs is warmly welcomed.

What controls and checks will Toitū use to assess targets and pathways, as well as progress against targets?

  • Targets will be evaluated against 1.5°C trajectories using Science-Based Target initiative methodologies and materials, ensuring that all targets align at least with this trajectory. Toitū will also provide a tool to support your target setting and pathway development, including checks to help you assess your ambition levels.
  • Your specific pathway will be evaluated on a custom basis, looking at the milestones, projects and justifications, as well as testing that the milestones align with the overall target.
  • Peaks and troughs will be permitted where justified, as some projects will take time to implement sufficiently to show reductions, and there may be ground work such as feasibility studies or investment cases.
  • We encourage you to set targets and milestones in as much detail as needed to find your pathway, as this is how your progress will be assessed.
  • Progress against targets will be assessed against your organisation’s targets and pathway. There will be a buffer to account for the fact that not every project will show the planned results on time, only if the results diverge significantly from the plan, and cannot be justified, will Toitū explore the possibility of shifting your claim to a different level until reductions can again be proven.

How do the future requirements cater to growing organisations who currently have plans for intensity but not absolute reductions?

  • The future scheme will require absolute reductions for your Category or Scope 1 and 2 emissions in line with 1.5°C, though they will be assessed against your pathway which may incorporate further growth before fully bending the curve.
  • Category 3-6 or Scope 3 targets may have other methods, including engagement and intensity type targets, but the long-term ambition will remain absolute reductions and decarbonisation.
  • We appreciate this is a challenge for many organisations to shift to decoupling growth and emissions, ensuring you protect people, profit and growth while also protecting the planet. Toitū faces the same challenge, as business travel is a core part of how we work with our members and is our most significant emissions source. Setting the targets the world needs, and working back from there to map a pathway to those necessary targets will help shift the direction from what is currently feasible.

How will Toitū account for reductions for one-off projects, like a construction or refurbishment?

  • Where emissions can be clearly delineated as part of the one-off project, there are accounting allowances for these so that they don’t impact on your main trajectory. We recommend making choices for the project to minimise ongoing emissions (building design, heating efficiencies, etc). In some cases, the project may be sufficient to justify a new base year or recalculation of the base year, or shifting toward use of a three-year average for the base year. We offer a programme to specifically measure and offset these.

How should an organisation set targets and make plans for the near and long-term, knowing that lead practice will likely continue to evolve?

  • Toitū will require that targets are set to align with the 1.5°C trajectory, and we don’t expect significant changes to that threshold in the coming years. If needed, targets could be reviewed and updated if new information comes to light. A change in targets should be supported with transparent communications about what has changed and why.
  • It is more likely that plans will shift and evolve as you move forward, as new technologies emerge, business strategies transform, and new market or sector opportunities open. Toitū recommends that plans and progress are reviewed regularly so that an organisation can shift as needed. Building these checks into the way you monitor and report on progress, and your carbon systems, will help ensure your plans are agile and living, much like any good business practice.

We want to be more ambitious than the SBTi aligned targets. Will the programme allow for that?

  • Absolutely! We encourage all members to be as ambitious as possible, especially in the near-term. People and nature have a better chance of limiting climate change impacts and adapting to the changes if we can reduce emissions as urgently as possible. Setting ambitious targets can also provide the impetus for innovation and transformation, setting your organisation up for the future.

Will direct removals and sinks count as part of my reduction progress? 

  • Direct owned removals and carbon sinks are accounted for in your net emissions balance, so cannot be applied to your gross absolute reduction targets. They can be reported as part of your net balance, and used to reduce the total carbon credits required if you are seeking a net carbonzero or climate positive position. The climate needs all the help it can get in the near term, and removals will also play a key role in long term targets and plans to neutralise those hard-to-abate emissions that may not be fully reduced by 2050.

How will the programme allow for longer term reductions, such as long-term investment projects, technology or solutions that aren’t yet available at scale?

  • Toitū will assess your progress against your own plans and pathways, so we recommend making it clear these will fit into your longer-term pathway, perhaps supported by feasibility studies or other near-term projects that will help support the project. Longer term projects will likely be part of many organisation plans, particularly for emissions sources that will need new technology, infrastructure or systems change to truly show a new emissions balance.


What will the minimum offset boundary be if we are now measuring the full value chain?

  • For both Toitū net carbonzero and Toitū climate positive members, Toitū will maintain a minimum offset boundary. Offsets have an important role to play in the transition, and to support the climate while we reduce, but they should not be prioritised over reduction efforts. In most cases, offsetting beyond this boundary diverts resources from those projects. The minimum sources comprise the bulk of the core operations to substantiate a claim of a neutral or positive organisation:
    • All direct emissions, purchased energy, business travel, waste sent to landfill, freight paid for by the organisation, T&D losses.
  • Toitū net carbonzero members will offset to at least 100% of the offset boundary and Toitū climate positive members will offset to at least 125% of the offset boundary.

What is Toitū’s position on offsetting Scope 3 emissions, given they overlap with other organisations Scope 1 and 2 emissions?

  • Scope 3 emissions are indeed direct emissions for another organisation, but the business decisions you make can play a part in reducing these. Your purchasing choices will help drive demand for lower emissions options, for example goods or business travel.
  • It’s important to continue to work to reduce those emissions by engaging with the value chain partners to find mutual benefits. Offsetting those emissions, such as business travel or waste sent to landfill, aligns with reasonable expectations of what it takes to claim neutrality and what should be included, and is a way to help balance the scales while looking for new ways of working.
  • Where your value chain partners have already offset emissions and provide a carbon neutral service, these can be reflected in your accounting balance – the gross emissions are still calculated, but the net balance can be reduced by that portion. Encourage your key supply chain partners to provide a net carbonzero product or service.

Can we still apply removals, such as those from forested land we own, instead of purchasing carbon credits?

  • Yes, our current positions on the use of removals is not changing. We will continue to allow the use of removals or carbon credits under the same policy we currently implement.

If reductions are a prerequisite for offsetting and neutrality claims, do you measure reduction as a whole or by key activities? What are the reduction timeframes and thresholds to qualify for a net carbonzero or climate positive position? Can reductions be intensity rather than absolute?

  • Reductions are assessed against your own targets and pathways, so we recommend you set targets and pathways in as much detail as needed, such as by key activity type or subcategory in some cases, rather than overall. This will help you manage projects and monitor progress and make changes to your plans if needed on a more nimble basis.
  • To qualify for net carbonzero or climate positive, Toitū will require at least two years of data that demonstrate a reduction trajectory. These two years could be audited together in the first audit, but in most cases will happen by the second audit. Members will be given up to three inventories in total, or the full first three-year certification cycle, to show reductions and move from the carbon committed claim; thereafter members who cannot yet show reductions will receive the carbon measure claim.


How do you define negative advocacy?

  • Climate action advocacy can be either negative (communicating about climate change and not in support of climate action) or positive advocacy (communicating about climate change and in support of climate action).
  • In the future requirements Toitū will require that certified organisations must not participate in negative advocacy.
  • Negative advocacy includes relationships with trade associations, alliances, coalitions, and any other formal memberships.
  • Negative advocacy includes direct and indirect lobbying, or equivalent, that represents perceived or real misalignment with climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. A basic example of ‘mis-aligned’ advocacy would be lobbying against government policy on phasing out coal combustion activities.
  • Other examples of negative advocacy include any activity that risks delayed action across society as a whole, including but not limited to adaptation planning, reducing emissions following the mitigation hierarchy, enhancing removals, and any activity that compromises the concept of ‘peak and reduce emissions’ as soon as possible. Avoiding unnecessary ‘carbon lock-in’ is also in this definition.
  • Activities related to emissions and removals within an organisation’s value chain would not fall under the advocacy rules, but instead should be addressed through value chain measurement, and management plans, including supplier and/or customer engagement.

Is investment in fossil fuel portfolios or other high emitting sectors (such as construction, cement, transportation, cruise ships, or aviation) automatically considered negative advocacy?

  • No, investment in fossil fuels or other emissions intensive industries falls within the organisation’s value chain inventory and is not under the scope of the advocacy rules. It does however fall under the relevant measurement and management requirements and should be addressed accordingly.

Other questions?

To submit another question or if you want more detail on a specific issue, you can submit a question online here.

Watched our webinar? We have since finished running our ‘Carbon programme updates’ webinar series that ran over December, January and February. If you missed it, a recording from our first webinar in November and slides are available below, but please note the content above is the latest information.

Download the presentation slides