Month: September 2023

The complete guide to carbon removals

As more companies look to address their carbon footprints, many realize that efforts to reduce their own emissions can be time-consuming and complex. Reaching long-term sustainability goals, like becoming a net zero organization, can take decades, and along the way, you might find that certain sources of carbon emissions are difficult or nearly impossible to truly abate.

For example, a technology manufacturing company might make great efforts to transport its products in electric vehicles charged via renewable energy, but the end user of the product might later charge those devices using electricity from fossil fuels, thus creating value chain emissions. 

So, to reach net zero or other climate goals, many organizations are turning to carbon credits and, specifically, carbon removal credits. By funding carbon dioxide removal (CDR), where existing carbon is removed from the atmosphere, companies are able to further their commitment to support carbon reduction and removal activities outside of their value chain and do their part to help the world stay below 1.5°C of warming.

What are carbon removals?

Carbon removals generally represent the removal of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e) from the atmosphere. These removals come from carbon projects that remove existing greenhouse gases (GHGs), producing what is called a carbon credit, which can then be bought and sold. Companies often use carbon removals to account for their ongoing emissions while still looking for reductions. Additionally, some organizations use carbon removals to go beyond net zero and become carbon negative.

Examples of carbon removals

There are three main categories of carbon removals:

  • Biological: Nature-based solutions remove existing carbon or other GHGs from the atmosphere. For example, reforestation projects can involve planting trees that sequester carbon as the trees grow.
  • Hybrid: These types of carbon removal projects combine biological and engineered solutions. For example, biochar comes from burning biomass through pyrolysis, creating a charcoal-like substance that can improve soil’s ability to sequester carbon.
  • Engineered: Carbon removal credits can also come from engineered solutions, like direct air capture and storage (DACS) systems. As the name suggests, DACS involves capturing carbon directly from the air and then sequestering that carbon, such as by injecting it underground. 

Carbon removals vs. emission reductions carbon credits

Carbon removals are generally a form of carbon credits, but not all carbon credits are carbon removals. In other words, carbon credit is an overarching term for two subcategories: emission reductions and carbon removals.

Emission reductions involve avoiding emissions that would otherwise be created, such as preserving forest land that is prone to logging or capturing methane emissions at a landfill, as explained in The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting.

In contrast, carbon removals take existing emissions in the atmosphere and sequester them, such as by improving soil management or directly capturing existing carbon in the air and injecting it underground for permanent storage.

Why are carbon removals important?

Carbon removals are important because reaching long-term climate goals will likely require reducing the high level of emissions already in the atmosphere. Some types of emissions are nearly impossible to avoid. So, carbon removals will fill those gaps. 

“All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century,” says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Additionally, organizations will likely need to include carbon removals in their sustainability strategies to meet their climate goals. For example, the Corporate Net-Zero Standard from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) requires companies to cut more than 90% of their emissions and then “use permanent carbon removal and storage to counterbalance the final <10% of residual emissions that cannot be eliminated [by their net zero target year],” explains SBTi. 

How should carbon removals be used?

Although carbon removals can sequester existing emissions, they do not give organizations license to emit freely.

Carbon removals should be used as a complement to long-term value chain emission reductions, rather than being the main tool in a climate strategy. Those who follow the SBTi guidelines, for example, will prioritize reducing their own emissions, with less than 10% of their emissions neutralized.

When looking to procure carbon credits, experts advise to begin incorporating removals early into your carbon strategy and increasingly prioritize removals over other credits as your target year for your emissions goals approaches.

However, because the world is significantly off-track to meet the emission reduction targets set out under the Paris Agreement, it is imperative that organizations take advantage of both avoidance and removal opportunities within and beyond their value chains today to manage the climate crisis.

For that reason, emission reduction credits are still a useful tool in the short term, especially considering the limited availability of carbon removal credits and the high cost of some projects today.

Source: The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting

What are the key quality criteria for carbon removal credits?

Because carbon removal technologies and strategies have a wide range of maturity and accreditation, buyers should be mindful of how carbon removal credits meet key quality criteria. When assessing the quality of a carbon removal credit, you might consider criteria such as:

  • Additionality: Would the carbon removal activity have occurred in the absence of the carbon market? Projects must provide evidence that the removals go beyond “business as usual.” For example, a reforestation project might be additional because it demonstrated that the tree planting activity would not have occurred without carbon finance.
  • Durability/Permanence: How long will the carbon be sequestered? Some organizations set thresholds for the permanence of carbon removal solutionst, such as 100 or 1,000 years, while others use a tiered approach, grouping credits into short-, medium- and long-term storage. For now, there is no singular standard for what constitutes sufficient durability for carbon removals.
  • Risk of reversal: Some carbon removal projects face significant risk of reversal, meaning they may re-release the carbon they sequestered. For example, a wildfire could cause a forestry project to lose carbon that it had stored. 

To manage this risk, high-quality nature-based credits are supported by a shared buffer pool. Buffer pools require that a portion of issued credits from all participating projects are never sold, and are instead canceled or “retired” in case a purchased credit suffers a reversal.

  • Accreditation: Third-party accreditation is an important indicator of quality and oversight in the voluntary carbon market. Although most emission reduction credits are registered under third-party standards, the newness of carbon removals means not all projects are accredited.
    For carbon removal categories that do not have formal accreditation programs yet, companies might work with third-party consultants to assess the quality of these projects.
  • Scalability: One reason to purchase carbon credits is to help scale environmental technologies and strategies to make them more mature or affordable. With carbon removals, it is important to consider the maximum total potential of a specific approach or technology to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Carbon finance should ultimately be directed to project categories that can effectively deliver carbon removal at a global scale. For example, Frontier is an “advance market commitment (AMC) that aims to accelerate the development of carbon removal technologies by guaranteeing future demand for them.” Founded by Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify, Meta, and McKinsey, the AMC focuses on carbon removals that can be affordable at scale, meaning they will cost less than $100 per ton.
  • Co-benefits: Carbon removals can have benefits beyond removing greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, some projects improve biodiversity or create economic opportunities for local communities.

    Soil carbon sequestration projects, for example, can also increase agricultural yields via improved soil health. 

Organizations can also turn to third-party standards such as Carbon Direct and Microsoft’s Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal to help assess the quality of different removal credits.

Where can organizations purchase carbon removal credits?

Organizations can work with climate consultants like 3Degrees to source carbon removals that align with your long-term sustainability strategy. 3Degrees is both a carbon credit project developer and retailer that can help you find climate finance opportunities to meet long-term climate goals.

To reach net zero, for instance, you first need to understand your carbon footprint, which an advisor can help calculate. From there, we can work together to identify ways to reduce emissions within your value chain, and then source carbon credits to address any remaining emissions.

Want to see how you can incorporate carbon removals into your long-term carbon strategy? Contact us today.

FAQs about carbon removal

Want the quick scoop on carbon removal? Take a look at these FAQs:

What is the difference between carbon removals and “regular” carbon credits?

Carbon removals are a type of carbon credit that specifically removes existing emissions from the atmosphere. Other types of carbon credits, which some might consider to be “regular” carbon credits, aim to avoid emissions, such as by protecting a rainforest that would otherwise be used for timber. Carbon credits can also involve preventing new emissions from entering the atmosphere, such as by capturing landfill emissions. In other words, these credits stop emissions from entering the atmosphere, while carbon removals scrub emissions that have already entered the atmosphere.

Why use carbon removal credits?

Voluntary carbon markets for carbon removals enable companies to finance negative emissions technologies and biological natural carbon removal activities that can help the planet stay within 1.5°C of warming. Many organizations purchase removals to reach corporate sustainability goals, like how Microsoft plans to become carbon negative by 2030 with the use of carbon removals. 

What are some examples of carbon removals?

Carbon removals can be biological, engineered, or a hybrid of these two categories. For example, reforestation is a biological way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Biochar is a hybrid solution that can increase the carbon sequestration potential of soil. And an engineered carbon removal could involve capturing methane emissions from a dairy farm.

Building the business case for carbon management software

Two women talking while looking at a computer screen

As corporate climate action becomes increasingly commonplace, there has been a corresponding rise in climate tech solutions, like carbon management or greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting software, to help corporations reach climate goals. These solutions can streamline the operational aspects of climate work such as measurement, tracking, and reporting so organizations can focus efforts on implementation of decarbonization tactics across their business and supply chain.  

Over the last few years, the marketplace for climate-related software solutions has become crowded, with over 150 solutions available, covering anywhere from ESG reporting to lifecycle assessment. 

Once you’ve navigated the densely populated marketplace to find the right tools for your organization, you will need to pay for licensing and implementation of those tools – and there can be significant costs for both. In order to secure executive approval for the adoption of such tools, we recommend putting together a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to support your business case. This will help to uncover that while an initial investment in human resources and capital will be required, you can expect to realize a return in data reliability and the potential for deeper actionable emission insights. 

We recommend building a business case for your carbon management software using the following outline:


Being able to report emissions data that is transparent, reliable, and auditable is becoming a requirement – both from a regulatory and stakeholder perspective. 

Investors, customers, and suppliers are calling on companies to disclose for various reasons. Investors wanting to understand the climate-related financial risks of their assets are asking for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data that includes GHG emissions and decarbonization plans, and customers wanting to better understand what’s going into their products are taking a closer look at supply chains.

We’re also seeing mandated disclosures emerging worldwide from several evolving regulations:

These voluntary and mandatory pressures are pushing organizations toward a level of transparency and disclosure that is increasingly challenging and time consuming for organizations to sustain year after year. In your business case, you can outline this by identifying the specific pressures and requirements your organization expects to face in the next few years.


Completing a GHG measurement is a complex undertaking. There are both internal and external factors that need to be accounted for. This means that you or a designated team member responsible for tracking emissions will have a lot to juggle in order to complete your organization’s GHG measurement and reporting. 

While challenges span the entire GHG measurement process, it’ll be crucial to highlight the complex nature of scope 3 emissions reporting in the business case. Scopes 1 and 2 emission calculations are often relatively straightforward compared to your scope 3. This is especially true for companies with complicated supply chains and many streams of data, but even applies if you’re just working with a handful of suppliers.

Examples of the scope 3 supplier data streams that carbon management software can help manage.

Even before delving into data management, you will need to determine what data you need, then, how you will get that data. There is a lot of data a company can collect from its own records, but in order to improve on data quality, eventually you, or your team, will need to coordinate with suppliers. They can share data through surveys or give you access to the data through another method. Once you have it, all of that data will then need to be reviewed and input into your chosen data repository. 

In addition to these hurdles, there’s also the ever present risk of human error. Despite best efforts, there may be typos during data entry or formula errors within Excel, which can compromise the reliability of your reporting.


Now comes the fun part – dreaming up the ways your chosen carbon management solution will make your, and your team’s lives, much, much easier than tracking in an Excel spreadsheet. Software tools can do this by streamlining emissions measurement through:

Collecting primary data from your value chain (or scope 3)
Software tools have the ability to gather data directly from suppliers and customers, a crucial factor for moving your value chain measurement from a spend-based estimation to using supplier-specific data over time. The software also offers integrations that can connect to primary data sources either internally or with your suppliers. These integrations have the potential to automate the data collection process and allow you to get updates to emissions data in real time.

Also, you will likely not need access to all of your supplier’s data. Another benefit of using a tool is that it helps with determining the right assumptions to use to fill in gaps where supplier-specific data may not be available or necessary.


Reporting reliability
By using a digital tool, your team and executive leadership can feel confident in the integrity of the data for reporting purposes as many platforms offer APIs to streamline data collection or call out data abnormalities.
(It’s still important to review imported data to ensure accuracy, though!)


Ease of use and understanding
Software is built to be intuitive, allowing anyone at your company and any other stakeholders to pull information from the tool.



These tools have capabilities to serve as centralized data collection hubs, accommodating many users and enabling customized access controls for everyone from your sustainability team to your upstream suppliers, downstream customers, and consultants.


Large emissions factor libraries
Your team will get access to more precise measurement tools through the large emission factor libraries available in carbon accounting tools.


Ability to integrate reduction actions
Some platforms have capabilities for directly procuring renewable energy, buying carbon credits, and implementing your net zero strategy.



The cost of carbon management software can vary significantly depending on its capabilities, the level of support offered, as well as your organization’s size and specific needs. We have seen tools that cost anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000, with varying structures around annual licensing fees and implementation fees required for the successful integration of the software into your organization. 

When evaluating the cost, it’s essential  to understand and incorporate into your business case the services that will be bundled with the software. This is where you can outline the extent to which the technology will contribute to your team’s objectives, as opposed to areas where your internal team or consulting services may still be required.


Laying out the need, challenges, benefits, and cost of a carbon management software will help you demonstrate the value of the investment to your executive team. And in a world where the velocity of climate action is becoming increasingly interwoven with technology adoption, leveraging a business case to pursue climate software tools will help drive decarbonization actions for any organization that aspires to take urgent action on climate change.

If you have any questions about carbon management software, please contact us.

Take a closer look at your scope 3 emissions (infographic)

The need for companies to understand the emissions footprint of their value chain is becoming standard practice, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. To best account for the opportunities and risks associated with your scope 3 emissions, organizations need to understand both their value chain’s effect on climate change and the possible effects of climate change on their value chain. One of the best ways to do this is by reviewing the 15 reporting categories for scope 3 emissions, along with the climate risks for your business. 

The categories and your climate risks can vary depending on your company’s sector. If you’re in finance, food and beverage, heavy industry, or technology, you can download a guide that’s specific to your industry.

Even if you’re not in one of those sectors, you can still download our general scope 3 emissions identification guide to help you get acquainted with your value chain.



Ready to discuss how your organization can take control of its scope 3? We can help you identify the highest priority areas to get started today.

Uncovering solutions: Carbon Project Basics – Improved Cookstoves

What are improved cookstove carbon projects?

Improved cookstove carbon projects are intended to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve the overall environmental and human health impacts of common cooking practices, particularly in developing countries. 

Often, cooking methods in undeveloped regions involve open fires or basic stoves that burn solid fuels like wood, crop residues, charcoal, or other biomass. These cooking fuels release significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to deforestation, air pollution, and respiratory health issues. Improved cookstove carbon projects focus on introducing and promoting the use of more efficient and cleaner cooking technologies, commonly referred to as “improved clean cookstoves”.

How do improved cookstoves work?

  • Identification  The initial step is to identify communities or regions where advanced cooking techniques would significantly improve emissions reductions and the general well-being of the population. This process involves looking at a combination of factors, including areas that are prone to use open-fire cooking, areas with a history of deforestation, communities with a higher volume of health problems caused by indoor air quality, and general community engagement. 
  • Engagement, Distribution, and Education Once local communities are identified, it is critical for the project stakeholders to become engaged with the residents to help educate them about the benefits of the cookstoves and encourage long-term utilization. The engagement comes in the form of local partnerships, community workshops, demonstrations, and training programs. 
  • Monitoring Prior to distribution, a baseline is set which acts as the reference point for measuring emission reductions. Ongoing monitoring and data collection practices are put in place to track improved stove utilization and measure long-term emissions reductions.
  • Crediting The emissions reduced from the project are then quantified into carbon credits, measured in CO2 metric ton equivalent. The revenue generated from the sale of these credits is typically used to finance additional projects or to provide continued education to the local communities.

What are the benefits of improved cookstove carbon projects?


  • Advanced cookstove carbon offset projects promote biodiversity and decrease the rate of deforestation by eliminating the need for wood or other biomass for cooking.  
  • Advanced cookstoves burn fuel more efficiently, resulting in lower GHG emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). 


  • Oftentimes, jobs are created for the local community members to help with the distribution and education of the cookstove operation and its benefits. 
  • Cookstove projects support women’s empowerment by giving them access to clean household cooking solutions, significantly reducing the time spent collecting fuel. With less time spent gathering biomass, beneficiaries have a greater opportunity to generate income and enjoy other activities.

Health and Safety 

  • By improving cooking techniques, advanced cookstove projects lead to better indoor air quality, and reduce long-term health problems related to indoor air pollution, such as respiratory illness, especially among women and children who spend considerable time near the cooking area. 
  • Advanced cookstoves are built with significantly safer designs compared to open-flame cooking, reducing the risk of injury or household fires.


By the numbers:

  • In 2020, 2.4 billion people worldwide cooked with traditional polluting fuels and technologies.
  • It is estimated that an equivalent of 1-4 tons of CO2, or roughly 2-3% of global GHG emissions, is produced every year, per household, from wood-burning cooking methods.
  • Improved cookstoves can reduce fuel consumption by 40-60%.
  • Globally, over 15% of ambient air pollution comes from household air pollution.
  • Improved cookstoves can reduce indoor air pollution by up to 90%, resulting in fewer respiratory illnesses and health-related issues.
  • 50% of the world’s wood is harvested for use as a fuel source, and 30% of that is estimated to come from unsustainable sources.
  • Improved cookstove projects align with several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those related to health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), and climate action (SDG 13).

View other project profiles or contact us.