The Carbon Trust Standard: looking back over a decade of real reductions

Ten years ago, in June 2008 when we first launched the Carbon Trust Standard, the world was a very different place.

In the House of Commons the draft Climate Change Bill had just received its second reading, with only five MPs voting against it.

A young Senator from Illinois had just been selected as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President.

We were in the midst of the global financial crisis. Northern Rock had been taken into public ownership and Lehman Brothers was circling the drain.

Business as usual had received a shock. Against this backdrop, organisations were realising they needed to change and act in a more responsible manner. This included taking concerted action on climate change.

However, some of those organisations had also woken up to the reputational benefits of telling people how they were being more responsible and taking action to reduce carbon emissions.

The papers – which many people were still reading on paper – were rife with greenwash. The public were losing confidence in the claims made by companies, including the ones that were genuinely showing leadership on climate change.

With support from the UK government, we created the Carbon Trust Standard as a way of cutting through this greenwash. No exaggeration or embellishment. No offsetting.

It was – and continues to be – a credible, independent recognition of real reductions made year-on-year. It isn’t often that Greenpeace and the Confederation of British Industry agree on an initiative, but both got behind the launch.

Ten years on we are celebrating a decade of year-on-year reductions. Over that time the Carbon Trust Standard family of certifications has grown to help organisations make robust claims about using less water, improving waste management, achieving zero waste to landfill status, and working within the supply chain to drive upstream emissions reductions.

Over the past decade we have issued over 1,700 successful certifications.

These certifications have covered a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, similar to two years of the UK’s net emissions at current levels.

We have measured 5.7 million cubic metres of water use, enough to fill 2,280 Olympic swimming pools that if put end-to-end would reach a length of 114 kilometres.

And we have also verified 2.1 million tonnes of waste output, roughly the weight of 350,000 African bush elephants, which sadly is around the total remaining population on the continent. 

The theory of change behind the Carbon Trust Standard is that what gets measured gets managed. We are pleased to say that this has proven to be the case.

When looking back at the history of the certification over the past decade, our Standard Bearers are the real heroes of the story. Across the breadth of the economy and in the public sector, all around the world, organisations that hold the Carbon Trust Standard have been making real progress on creating a world where environmental sustainability and economic prosperity go hand-hand.

But over the next ten years, this progress will need to accelerate if we are to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. We look forward to working with our Standard Bearers over the coming decade, helping them to play a part in accelerating the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy.