Offset - Mitigate your carbon footprint

Mitigate or OffsetOffset unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions to become carbon neutral

The everyday activities of businesses, communities and individuals create carbon emissions. The problem is that carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. It is vital we all reduce our emissions, but carbon credits also play a key role in the transition to a low carbon economy.

Carbon credits allow individuals, organisations and communities to balance the scales for those unavoidable emissions on the path to reduction.

Carbon credits are also key to achieving Toitū carbonzero certification. After measuring and reducing a footprint, users need to mitigate, or offset, the remaining unavoidable emissions with carbon credits, to create a net zero emissions balance. This is done through the purchase of high quality carbon credits.

What is a carbon credit?

Balancing emissions through offsetsA carbon credit is a financial instrument that represents a unit of greenhouse gases (measured in carbon dioxide equivalents or CO2e). One carbon credit is equal to 1 tonne of CO2e.

Carbon credits are awarded to defined projects that store, avoid or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. Cancelling one carbon credit, on a reputable registry, balances the atmospheric impact of emitting one tonne of greenhouse gases (in CO2e).

Read more: Carbon Credits 101

How does a project produce carbon credits?

Carbon credits are issued by an appropriate authority that has confirmed the project meets the requirements of their standard. Examples of common requirements, or principles, of the standards include additionality, permanence, verification, and leakage. Learn more about standards and principles below.

Store: These are usually forestry projects – land specifically set aside for reforestation with strict covenants to ensure the forest remains permanent and is not harvested.

Avoid: These are usually energy generation projects that use renewable energy instead of fossil-fuels, such as wind farms.

Reduce: These are usually a form of technology that reduces the usual amount of emissions produced, for example efficient solar cook stoves that replace inefficient fossil-fuel burning stoves.

We source carbon credits from a range of different project types. Read a bit more about the different projects below.

Read more: Carbon Credits 101

Additional benefits of carbon credits

The purchase of quality carbon credits also benefits the larger community. Research conducted by the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA) shows that "offsetting one tonne of carbon dioxide brings an additional $664 in benefits to the communities where carbon reduction projects are based" (see details here). So not only do businesses purchasing the offsets neutralise their carbon footprint and therefore reduce their impact on the global climate, but they also provide social and community benefits.

The Toitū carbonzero programme has seen evidence of this with two New Zealand projects. The programme regularly uses credits from Permanent Forest Sink Initiatives (PFSI) such as those at Pigeon Bush (near Wellington) and Hinewai (near Akaroa in Banks Peninsula). The PFSI projects are permanent carbon sinks of native forest. The landowners agree to permanently retire the land and allow it to regenerate to native forest, and in return are able to sell carbon credits from the verified carbon sink. The Toitū carbonzero programme is one of the primary supporters of these voluntary credit projects, providing these as New Zealand credit options for its clients and in its community calculators.

The suppliers at Pigeon Bush and Hinewai have reported to the Toitū carbonzero programme that this income from carbon sales has helped the owners of the land to look at purchasing more land for restoration, therefore extending the area of the carbon sinks. The Native Forest Restoration Trust, owners of Pigeon Bush, have been able to hire a general manager to formalise management of their sites, help with maximising the success of the sites in term of regrowth and conservation, and oversee communications and news.

Carbon credit quality - not all credits are equal

There are many carbon credit options out there, from all over the world, but they are not all created equal. We apply a thorough set of principles to determine if a given project is real, reliable and meets our quality standards. All credits used by Toitū carbonzero programme members, as well as those supplied through our calculators and other services, must be:

  • Issued under a voluntary or compliance standard recognised by the programme
  • Generated by a project that has been assessed and approved as being suitable for offsetting by the programme
  • Issued in a recognised registry
  • Retired, cancelled or otherwise taken out of circulation in the programme’s account in the relevant registry

In developing our assessment process, we consider a range of international regulations, recognised standards, and the best practice principles of International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA), of which we are a member. Claims of carbon neutrality based on offsets that do not meet the requirements of recognised standards may be subject to investigation by regulators of advertising standards or consumer protection laws, therefore it is important to ensure good quality credits are used.

Read more: Carbon Credits – high vs low quality


Most carbon credits available on the global carbon markets are issued from either compliance or voluntary standards. There are some carbon credits within the voluntary market that are based on no established standard, or a standard that the programme doesn’t have confidence with. Toitū Envirocare reviews and assesses carbon credits at the project level. This means that both the standard and the project are assessed, i.e., not all carbon credit projects from an acceptable credit standard will be accepted by the Toitū carbonzero programme for offsetting.

Read more: Carbon Credits – 3 Market Fast Facts

Carbon credit registries

Toitū Envirocare holds accounts in several external carbon credit registries as the means to publicly cancel (or equivalent) credits used to offset emissions for organisations obtaining Toitū carbonzero certification, and also for individuals that purchase offsets via the online calculators. The Toitū carbonzero programme opts to publicly disclose each transaction on these registers ensuring our carbon credit operations are fully transparent and traceable. The Toitū carbonzero programme is one of only a few NZETR participants that actually cancels credits – meaning the credits are permanently cancelled against an individual or organisation and cannot be double counted — rather than trading them as a commodity.

Toitū Envirocare currently has accounts in the following registries for managing and retiring carbon credits:

Toitū Envirocare relies on registries to satisfy some of the key principles for offsetting such as traceability and transparency, as shown in the table below.

Read more: Carbon Credits – 3 Market Fast Facts

Key principles of offsetting and how they are satisfied

We use dozens of guiding principles to help determine if a carbon credit project meets our requirements. The key principles are covered here; contact us for further information on our criteria.

Principle Registry or StandardExplanation
Additional Standard The credit standard should ensure that the project overcomes investment barriers by requiring appropriate additionality tests to be performed
Permanent Standard The standard should ensure the emissions reductions will be effective for at least 100 years
Leakage Standard The standard should ensure that the additional or unintended emissions will not take place as a result of the project’s implementation and operations
Measurable Standard The standard should ensure an appropriate methodology for measuring the emissions reductions generated by the project is used
Verifiable Standard The standard should ensure the credits claimed are verified by an accredited verifier
Traceable Registry A registry should have systems in place to ensure a user can track any credit back to the source project and demonstrate that there has been no double counting
Transparent Registry A registry should require sufficient documentation showing how the credit was created and/or provide references to source this from outside the registry

What credits do we use?

Toitū Envirocare sources a portfolio of credits from:

  • a range of compliance and voluntary standards including Gold Standard (and Fair Trade Gold Standard), Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and New Zealand’s Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI)
  • a range of countries including New Zealand, China, Thailand, India, Chile, and others
  • a range of project types (e.g. renewable energy generation, forest sequestration, landfill methane capture)

For details on the volume and type of credits sold by the programme please contact us.

Offsets for Toitū carbonzero certification

Members of one of our Toitū carbonzero programmes can select from three portfolios of carbon credits or a combination thereof. Toitū carbonzero members can then support their sustainability stories with the various initiatives funded by the carbon credits, including social and environmental co-benefits.

Sheep on a windfarmLandfill gas plantForest sequestration project
Windfarm development avoids business-as-usual fossil fuel electricity generation. Find out more about our wind energy projects. Landfill gas capture prevents business-as-usual release of emissions to the atmosphere. Forest regeneration that is additional to the business-as-usual land use captures and stores atmospheric carbon.

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