Carbon-offset pioneer changes CO2 strategy

LONDON - Sustainable travel-agent is to end its use of carbon offsetting, creating a buzz in green marketing circles in the process.

As one of the first brands to offer travellers the chance to offset their flights, the company's shift calls into question the usefulness of the practice and the concept of carbon-neutrality as a way to engage consumers who are concerned about the environment.

Yet brands that continue to use offsetting, such as The Co-operative and Sky, are adamant that they provide a good way to reduce the impact of their activities as part of a wider carbon-reduction strategy.'s managing director, Justin Francis, thinks differently. He says offsets 'distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions', both from a travel perspective as well as part of their everyday lifestyle habits.

The travel agent has replaced its offsetting service with new advice about carbon reduction. It has also published a 'carbon caution', which sets out ways that consumers can reduce emissions, such as flying less.

'Finding ways to reduce our carbon emissions is the only way we are going to meet the target cuts that science has set us,' says Francis.

He claims that demand for its offsets had been only 'modest'. 'My suspicion is that many consumers are increasingly sceptical about the idea of offsets,' he adds.

This view is echoed by industry experts. Diana Verde Nieto, chief executive of sustainability agency Clown-fish, says, somewhat bluntly: 'Offsetting is like the morning-after pill. It doesn't work.' She adds that by offsetting, 'you are announcing that you cannot lower your emissions independently any further. This can be interpreted as a means of paying to keep polluting'.

Tim Richman Gadoffre, chief executive of Marival, a consultancy specialising in luxury and sustainability, flags up the problem at the heart

of offsetting CO2 emissions generated by travel. 'Putting a chunk of metal like a Boeing 747 in the air is never going to be environmentally friendly,' he says.

He does warn, however, that's shift could be pounced upon by sceptics as proof that all efforts to reduce carbon emissions are a waste of time.

Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at The Co-operative, is 'befuddled' by's stance. While he agrees that offsetting is not the only answer, he sees it as a step in the right direction. 'It's mad to carry on selling flights but not sell offsets,' he adds.

The Co-operative offsets across its mortgages, travel and car insurance brands. Since 2000, it has offset 400,000 tonnes of CO2 via an energy-saving project in Cambodia, by replacing diesel generators with treadle pumps, and through combating deforestation in Uganda. led the way in introducing carbon-offsetting, but bigger brands that have embraced the idea of carbon-neutrality may not be so willing to mirror its latest stance any time soon.



Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360