In the words of the International Standards Organization, ISO 14068 “provides principles, requirements, and guidance for achieving and demonstrating carbon neutrality.” It is also referred to as ISO 14068-1:2023, because this first iteration was published in December 2023. 

What is ISO 14068? 

The new international standard ISO 14068 aims to improve trust in carbon neutrality claims by covering the following key elements: 

  • An emphasis on ambition, urgency and the transition toward a net-zero society
  • Extending the scope of carbon neutrality claims beyond products and organizations to events
  • Science-based, conservative accounting principles that promote transparency and a value chain and life cycle perspective
  • A hierarchy that prioritizes direct and indirect GHG emissions reductions and removal enhancements over offsets
  • Introduction of governance structures to hold senior management accountable
  • Creation and maintenance of a carbon neutrality management plan
  • Exclusion of counterfactual avoided emissions, which are emissions savings outside of a product’s value chain—such as through packing in a reuseable bag, for example. Companies commonly cite avoided emissions in comparison to competitors’ products. 
  • The mandate of avoiding adverse impacts elsewhere (unintended consequences) to prevent “carbon tunnel vision.” This is when stakeholders focus too narrowly on emissions, often at the expense of other environmental aspects. 

According to the ISO: “Standards are the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter.” In the case of ISO 14068, Sphera’s sustainability consultants contributed expertise in environmental management and life cycle assessment to the technical aspects and requirements of the new standard. 

A benchmark for carbon neutrality 

ISO 14068 provides organizations, products and events with a basis for achieving carbon neutrality in support of the ultimate goal of net zero. It belongs to the ISO 14060 family, which addresses climate change management and mitigation, particularly for activities related to GHG emissions reductions and removals. 

Previously, carbon neutrality claims and labels were based on carbon footprint quantifications following the existing standards ISO 14064 for organizations and 14067 for products. However, there was no international consensus on a standardized approach for moving past quantification to managing, achieving and demonstrating carbon neutrality.  

As such, it was left to individual organizations to define the requirements for carbon-neutral claims. This resulted in a multitude of carbon neutrality labels of varying comparability and credibility. 

On its website, ISO describes a standard as “a formula that describes the best way of doing something.” And almost certainly, the standard will be the new benchmark by which carbon-neutral claims and labels will be judged. Falling short of it will reduce the credibility of any claims, with accusations of greenwashing or misleading marketing likely to follow. 

Achieving ISO 14068 carbon neutrality 

Understanding the requirements of the ISO 14068 standard is the first step to reducing your organization’s GHG emissions and adhering to climate change reporting mandates. Here are key actions to take: 

  • Assess your GHG baseline. 
  • Identify and prioritize potential emissions reductions and removal enhancements. 
  • Create a carbon neutrality management plan and governance structure. 
  • Execute the plan and monitor progress. 
  • Offset residual GHG emissions only. 
  • Have resulting carbon neutrality claims independently verified. 

Reliable, internationally accepted standards are increasingly important in light of legislation aimed at protecting consumers from greenwashing and misleading environmental claims. 

For example, in January 2024 the European Parliament adopted a new law that regulates sustainability labels and product information. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working on updating their Green Guides, which govern the use of terms such as “eco” and “environmentally friendly.”  Both regulations require marketing claims to be backed up by credible proof. 

With ISO certification, companies are able to provide science-based validation of any carbon neutrality claims. 

Collaboration on the transition to net zero 

With decades of experience in conducting corporate and product carbon footprint assessments and with our consultants contributing their expertise during the development of ISO 14068, Sphera is well positioned to assist you in all aspects of achieving carbon neutrality.  

Our services include support in assessing your baseline, creating a carbon neutrality management plan and executing against it. We can help you verify your products and organization in line with ISO 14068.    

Sphera’s sustainability consulting expertise combined with our leading software and data ensure that your carbon neutrality claims are robust, credible and trustworthy. Carbon neutrality is not an end in itself, but a means to accelerate the transition to net zero with urgency and ambition.  

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