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The more we deal with climate protection and a new environmental awareness, the more often we come across the term "CO2 neutrality". But what does that actually mean? And how does something become CO2-neutral?

What does CO2-neutral mean?

The term "CO2-neutral" has varying meanings in different contexts. Basically, one speaks of CO2 neutrality when products and actions have no influence on the concentration of climate-damaging gases (CO2 etc.) in the earth's atmosphere. In this context, the distinction between products and their CO2 footprint (Product Carbon Footprint = PCF) and corporate actions and the resulting footprint (Corporate Carbon Footprint = CCF) is particularly relevant. For the PCF, these are calculated from all parameters that potentially cause emissions, such as the production, transport, marketing and disposal of a product. In the CCF, all data that are relevant for the calculation of a company's emissions are recorded. On the one hand, these include direct emissions. For example, the heating of the building, the operation of the vehicle fleet and the use of refrigerants. On the other hand, there are the indirect emissions, which include, for example, employee mobility, business trips, the amount of waste and the resulting disposal. Direct and indirect emissions added together result in the complete corporate carbon footprint.

How do products become CO2 neutral?

Certain measures can be taken to offset the emissions that occur at product or company level. There are measures to bind CO2, such as reforestation projects. But also, by protecting peatlands and watering down peatlands that have already been drained, their CO2 storage capacity can be preserved or restored. Compensation can also be realised in the form of investments in climate-friendly energy production, e.g. by investing in hydroelectric or wind power plants. It is irrelevant for the success of an offset where the project is realised. There are corresponding projects in Germany as well as in the rest of the world. With the help of offsetting, even products and companies whose existence cannot do without emitting CO2 can remain without negative consequences for our climate.

What are the criticisms of the process of offsetting?

However, it is important to bear in mind that CO2 offsets are mainly functional in theory, but there can be practical problems. For example, since compensation measures are often outsourced to developing countries, problems can arise when calculating the savings. Let us think, for example, of a reforestation measure in a developing country that is financed by a European company. The respective European company will, in turn, consider the offsets from this project. Now it can happen that the respective developing country also claims the resulting CO2 compensation and therefore perhaps climate protection measures are neglected elsewhere. This leads to double counting for offsets resulting in a disadvantageous outcome for climate protection. Moreover, in the case of offsets, it is often difficult to determine whether the achieved reduction would not have happened anyway.

Of course, these problems must be considered and we regularly check our offsetting processes. However, we do not rest on our offsets or only use them as an excuse to forget about our emissions - on the contrary. For us, offsets are just a way to neutralise the impact we have on the environment through our actions and products. We are also constantly working to reduce our overall emissions and PCFs in our products as well, for example through shorter supply chains. Buying CO2-neutral products for us is not an option, it is our standard.