Being Carbon Neutral

Sustainability-Ahead-iStockPhoto-600x550“To be, or not to be” is the opening line in the most famous speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which young Prince Hamlet struggles against the unfairness of life. Likewise, Agenda has struggled with its decision to remain “Carbon Neutral.”

In January 2013 Agenda Office Interiors (formerly Heritage Office Furnishings Victoria Ltd.) was proud to become Carbon Neutral. The company had worked diligently to measure its carbon footprint, reduced emissions wherever possible, and offset the remainder–which totalled 62.8 MTCO2e for the 2011 calendar year. Agenda signed a contract with Pacific Carbon Trust and became the first office furniture dealership in North America to become carbon neutral.

The following year, in March 2013, B.C.’s Auditor General issued a scathing report on Pacific Carbon Trust, concluding that the “claim of carbon neutrality was not accurate” and that Pacific Carbon Trust “did not provide credible offsets.” In summary, carbon offsets from Pacific Carbon Trust were not offsetting emissions. B.C.’s Environment Minister, however, rejected the report’s conclusions, maintaining that “British Columbia became the first carbon neutral government in North America in 2010 [to be] recognized as a world leader in climate action, and will continue to be carbon neutral.”

In November 2013 the BC Government announced that the controversial Pacific Carbon Trust would be eliminated and the Climate Action Secretariat would become responsible for the province’s greenhouse gas offset program going forward. At the same time, offsetting services to other organizations were suspended, and Agenda was encouraged to “look at other options to continue our climate leadership.”

All this controversy caused Agenda to stop and think. Having spent considerable time and money to achieve carbon neutrality, Agenda could not find any tangible benefit for its off-set expense, and had no enthusiasm to continue with another off-setter.

Instead Agenda looked for ROE (“Return on Environment”) from a program that would deliver tangible results. Rather than purchasing carbon offsets, Agenda decided to invest in its own environmentally beneficial projects to compensate for its own greenhouse gas emissions. In lieu of carbon offsets, Agenda invested more in efforts to find new homes for good used furniture, divert waste from the landfill and support the not-for-profit community with improved office furniture.

Since deciding in 2014 to “go our own way,” the Agenda Annex has achieved a 20-times ROE and delivered almost $150,000 in used furniture to local not-for-profit communities. Agenda’s results are tangible, measured in the chairs and desks that supply through the Annex, and in the smiles on the faces of the tireless organizations we serve.

Agenda is no longer certified carbon neutral. Instead, we take responsibility for our own stuff and are working with what we have to make a positive difference in our community.