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March 20, 2008

The Carbon Neutral Smoke Screen

It is all the rage for companies to strive for carbon neutrality. A system has been set up to trade carbon credits on the open market where carbon neutrality can be bought at a price. No longer are companies applauded for simply reducing their footprint, it requires an additional outside investment in, usually, a non-profit carbon harvesting plan.

True carbon neutrality is impossible to achieve using even the most modern technologies. It is the marketing and advertising arms of large companies have convinced them that carbon neutrality is still achievable. It is one thing to be able to make the claim that you've reduced your carbon impact on the environment by 45%. It's another to say that you have no impact on the environment. This leads down the messy path towards carbon positive companies which I can only imagine is not far down the road due to typical corporate one-upmanship.

There is a better way to achieve carbon neutrality as a company that will put those additional dollars at least partially toward the bottom line: invest in carbon reduction technologies for your suppliers and customers. You make the investment for them and claim the carbon savings for yourself. Any agreement with them would be for them to pass along operational savings to your costs as well.

Retailers should invest in improved manufacturing processes for their suppliers. Manufacturers should invest in improved transportation modes from producers of raw goods. Real Estate companies should invest in the infrastructure of leasable buildings. Restaurants and grocery stores should invest in the growth of local agriculture.

The pay-back for reduced item costs is a bonus on top of the ability to claim multi-year carbon neutrality. The good will it will generate also has a value. Sure your competitors will benefit as well, but why should their good fortune keep you from making a wise business move? Is it really better to put your money into some carbon farm that has no financial benefit to your company other than the claim for one year of carbon neutrality?

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