ISO 14068-1:2023-11 - "carbon neutral" with certificate

What does "climate neutrality" mean?

"Climate neutrality" is a term that has not been conclusively defined and should therefore be used with caution.

The European climate targets refer to "net zero emissions" (EU Green Deal) or "greenhouse gas neutrality" (BMU Climate Action Plan 2050). In both cases, this refers to a state in which there is a balance between the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, etc.) and their absorption from the atmosphere into sinks. This means that only greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted that can be absorbed again by sinks.

The scientific definition of climate neutrality according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also takes into account non-greenhouse gas-related climate effects, which must also be offset or be net zero. These include, among others

  • Radiative forcing of contrails
  • Change in the albedo (reflectivity of the earth)
  • Discharge of warm waste water into rivers

Due to the sensitive political and social discourse surrounding the topic of greenwashing, environmental claims should only be used if they are based on a robust and internationally recognised set of rules that takes into account the Green Claims Directive.

With the ISO 14068-1:2023-11 standard published in November 2023, a standard was created that specifies the requirements for "carbon neutrality" and regulates the use of the term. As there is currently no German translation of the standard, we confirm the claim "Carbon Neutral" with a successful verification of ISO 14068-1 in order to exclude risks in communication.

"Carbon neutrality" can be achieved by services, products, companies, projects, events and other clearly defined entities.

Why become "carbon neutral"?

The last report published by the IPCC clearly stated that there is only one way to stop climate change - through massive reductions in GHG emissions.

More and more laws are being passed at national and international level with the aim of slowing down climate change in order to meet the 1.5 °C target set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. This includes, for example, the amended Climate Protection Act or the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) proposed by the EU Commission.

The pressure on the economy is growing. In addition to initiatives such as the IPCC or the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and multi-stakeholder organisations, customers and consumers are also increasingly speaking out. Sustainable corporate goals are also increasingly becoming a prerequisite for investments by financial institutions or inclusion in certain stock indices.

Be ahead of the legislation with your company and send a clear signal to your stakeholders that you are prepared to act in favour of compliance with the Paris Agreement.

How to achieve carbon neutrality? The process in 6 steps

Surely you have already taken measures to make your company or product "carbon neutral". An external review (verification) by an independent organisation strengthens the credibility and integrity of your efforts.

Carbon neutrality becomes a top priority: the top management of your organisation makes a clear commitment to carbon neutrality. A declaration of commitment to carbon neutrality is defined, documented, demonstrably implemented and maintained.

  • You decide whether you want to balance your entire company, a product/service or something else. The relevant accounting standard (ISO 14064-1 / ISO 14067 / GHG Protocol Corporate or Product Standard) should be defined as the basis for determining your carbon footprint.
  • You should then consider the accounting boundaries and the materiality criteria for recording your greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Once the balance limits have been defined, the carbon footprint can be created. If you already have an energy or environmental management system in accordance with ISO 50001 or ISO 14001, you can also use your established structures and data for the greenhouse gas balance. Please take a look at our guidelines.

The information gained from the carbon footprint can now be used to design a target-orientated and sustainable climate strategy:

  • A greenhouse gas reduction strategy to achieve carbon neutrality is anchored in the corporate policy.
  • You set yourself measurable medium and long-term reduction targets in relation to a time period compared to a base year.
  • Concrete and realistically feasible measures should be recognisable.

Your organisation successfully implements measures to reduce GHG emissions. Not only does the organisation's own emissions reduction play a role here, the removal of GHG emissions in the form of sinks such as forests and peatlands or through technical measures should also be included in the climate strategy as part of the hierarchy model. By the target year, only emissions that cannot be further reduced should remain.

Unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions are offset by investing in environmentally relevant projects, e.g. via international standards such as the Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). It should be noted that offsetting certificates must not be recognised as sinks in your GHG balance sheet. ISO 14068-1 places high demands on the offset certificates used. One of the key criteria is the exclusion of double counting.

Based on Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement, which was further developed in the subsequent climate conferences, double counting of emission savings and reductions through offset projects can only be ruled out if so-called Corresponding Adjustments (CA) are applied. These guarantee that the reductions or savings have not already been taken into account in the greenhouse gas inventories of the respective countries of origin.

The cycle described, including offsetting, is summarised and published in a report.

Your data and calculations as well as your measures are checked by an independent body – on the basis of documents and on site. Once any identified deficiencies have been demonstrably rectified, you will receive a test report and a certificate for your carbon neutrality.

Now you can communicate what you have achieved: Publicise your efforts and measures and strengthen the trust of your customers and society in your company.

You can find more information on our information website

What are the prerequisites and requirements for achieving carbon neutrality?

External, independent verification is mandatory if you wish to communicate carbon neutrality publicly. The top priority here is that the verification is complete, independent and without conflicts of interest, i.e. that the verification body has not been involved in any way in the preparation of your GHG balance sheet and the Carbon Neutrality Management Plan.

Accredited certification bodies for carbon footprints are regularly audited by the accreditation bodies of the European countries, in Germany this is the Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle GmbH (DAkkS). The DAkkS has not yet developed an accreditation programme for the ISO 14068-1:2023-11 standard, which is why the existing accredited verification bodies in accordance with DIN EN ISO 14064-3:2020-05 should be used. Non-accredited verification certificates should be scrutinised very critically!

A standardised definition is currently provided in the ISO 14068-1:2023-11 standard under the keyword Carbon Neutrality.

We are happy to combine our verification of your GHG balance sheet with the existing management systems or existing legal reporting obligations. Our auditors have multiple qualifications and can therefore audit different standards at the same time. Feel free to ask us about this and utilise synergy effects.

You can find further information on our microsite and at the GUTcert Academy seminars on carbon footprint and climate neutrality.

Information on the process and costs of verification and on your benefits with GUTcert as a partner can be found on the Carbon Footprint main page.

Guide from energy management to climate management

Guide from energy management to climate management

Do you already have an energy management system in accordance with ISO 50001? Then you are not far away from climate management: Our guide shows you how to do this in a structured way – over 5 stages in 14 steps.

Frequently asked questions

Read our FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions about the Carbon Footprint.