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To offset or insert? Carbon offset market insists it can provide ‘transparency and integrity’ as food firms look to supply chain solutions

Voluntary carbon credits, or offsets, allow companies to buy carbon credits to balance against their own emissions. A company might, for instance, invest in environmental projects like land restoration or tree planting in other parts of the world to compensate for emissions they can’t cut from their own value chains.

While many companies regard offsetting as a useful way to compensate for volumes of carbon that cannot otherwise be eliminated, there are detractors. Critics such as Greenpeace call the use of offsets to ‘get out of jail free card’. They believe there’s no time for offsets – trees can take 20 years to grow, after all. There are concerns about the credibility of credits in what is as yet an unregulated market – a whistle-blower famously called Australia’s carbon credit scheme ‘largely a sham’.

There are also fears that offsetting can take pressure off more meaningful work to address emissions produced by businesses and their supply chains. A company that says it is ‘carbon neutral’ will have got there using offsetting, for example. On the other hand, one that has reached ‘net zero’ will have successfully cut all emissions from its supply and value chains: called insetting. By way of an example of insetting, take Ben & Jerry’s plan to cut emissions on the dairy farms from which it sources its milk by using regenerative agricultural practices and new tech.

Aadith Moorthy, founder of CEO of Boomitra, which operates an international soil carbon credit market, noted the food industry shows a preference for insetting over offsetting.

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