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Environmental, Social or Economic Sustainability: – What Motivates Companies to Offset Their Emissions?

Did you know that in 2008 the largest publicly listed companies in the world caused environmental damage for a total estimated cost of $2.15 trillion, accounting for 35% of total global environmental costs caused by human activity? Or did you know that three million people die every year because of outdoor pollution made by vehicles and factories?

Most companies have some sort of environmental policy that aims to reduce waste and pollution, but there are few that aim to become a climate neutral business. Our study has the intention to find out why some companies are willing to do something extra for the environment by voluntary compensate for their emissions through carbon offsets. Previous research has shown that there is a lack of understanding regarding the motivations to reduce emissions and that there is a need for studies to find out motivations for why companies buy voluntary carbon offsets, which leads us to our problem definition:

What motivates companies to buy voluntary emission offsets?
We developed four sub-purposes that helped us in our journey towards an answer to our research question. These were: identify incentives for emission offsetting, important aspects when evaluating which projects to support, if and how companies are communicating their offsetting activities and whether the possibility of buying emission offsets reduce incentives for companies to decrease their own emissions. Our degree project is written on commission for Respect Climate, a sustainability consultancy that operates in the area of Scandinavia. They help their customers to reduce their emissions, make climate calculations and offset emissions.

Our aim with our conclusions of our degree project is to help Respect Climate to market their services to potential customers. As our degree project focuses on underlying motivations behind their customers’ behavior, we have chosen to do a qualitative study. First we implemented two interviews with employees at Respect Climate, which acted as a foundation to our interviews with four of their business customers.

Further, we chose to collect communication data from their customers’ annual reports and websites in order to get a third dimension to our study. Our conclusions have shown that the primary motivation for engaging in emission offsetting is doing something good for the environment, but other incentives within the social and economic aspects of the Triple Bottom Line are expressed as well.
Source: Umeå University
Authors: Bergqvist, Moa | Lindgren, Charlotte

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