Online Retailers Offered Carbon Offset Service

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Ready-made application launched amid concerns about the future of carbon offsetting

A US start-up has launched a service which aims to provide online retailers with a ready-made carbon offset application.

Announced late last week by start-up GreenWorld, the ShopGreen application is aimed at retailers who want to offer consumers the opportunity to offset the delivery of items purchased online. The application is only available to sites based in the US at the moment but there are plans to expand it internationally.

According to GreenWorld, its ShopGreen application makes it easy for companies and customers to donate to specific carbon offset projects as well as tracking services.

“ShopGreen removes the cost and complexity of creating and managing a carbon offset program for US-based online retailers,” said Jason Sperling, managing director at GreenWorld.

According to GreenWorld one of the benefits of the service for online retailers is that keeps customers on the site for the whole transaction – as opposed to some carbon offsetting applications which take users to a separate location – which increases the chances of the process being completed successfully.

GreenWorld says it is working with carbon offsetting specialist EcoSecurities to manage the relationship with offsetting providers. “Developments such as ShopGreen are fundamentally important in helping companies, both within the US and internationally, benefit from scalable solutions which help to reduce and neutralize carbon intensive elements of an organisation’s distribution chain,” said Bruce Usher, chief executive of EcoSecurities.

Carbon offsetting has received a lot of attention in the recent past however some organisations claim that it is a distraction from more substantive action to tackle climate change – and may even have little real worth.

Commenting on the UK government’s decision to support a voluntary code of conduct for carbon offsetting, environmental campaigner Greenpeace said: “Too often carbon off-setting is Enron environmentalism, a neat accounting trick that does little to stop global warming. The government should focus on transforming the way we use energy here in the UK at the same time as helping to put the growing economies of the developing world on a low carbon pathway,” the organisation said at the time.

Also some analysts claim that the recession may have curbed interest in investment in carbon offsetting projects – such as sustainable forests – as consumers and businesses’ “green guilt” may take a back-seat to more pressing financial concerns. “Buyers are definitely more price sensitive,” Martin Berg, carbon emissions originator at US bank Merrill Lynch told Reuters recently.

However interest in carbon offsetting schemes could receive a boost following the announcement late last week by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that green house gases including carbon dioxide pose a threat to human health – the first time the EPA has made such a ruling despite calls from environmental groups.

“This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations. Fortunately, it follows President Obama’s call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation,” said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”

GreenWorld says it is already working with 14 online retailer including ElementalThreads.com, AestheticsBodyMod.com, BudgetPilot.com, JHElectronics.com, and EclecticaClothing.com.