Co-Benefits

What are co-benefits?


When businesses purchase offset credits, they are not only lowering global emissions, but are also contributing to social, cultural and economic outcomes for local communities involved in the carbon offsetting project. These outcomes are called co-benefits. Many businesses choose their offset units to align with their own corporate values and as a way to engage employees and staff in the organisation’s carbon neutral story.


On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.

Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years to 2030.

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It is in this context that emissions reduction is no longer viewed by the global community as an isolated goal – climate change is inherently linked to so many other challenges (and SDGs) that communities around the world now face, and will be affected by in the years to come. Around the world carbon projects are increasingly being viewed in a SDG lens, and incorporating co-benefits is becoming a basic requirement for developing any new projects. Understanding the SDGs and how carbon projects can deliver on each goal is critical for ensuring Australian credits are aligned internationally, as well as promoting sustainable growth in Australia.

For nations, communities and organisations that operate across the globe, combining emissions reduction activities with other SDG projects ensures a more efficient and effective way of dealing with multiple challenges through a single channel, resulting in climate change ‘co-benefits’ – broadly categorised as environmental, social and economic co-benefits.

Environmental co-benefits include those benefits that sit outside the well understood carbon sequestration and emissions reduction benefits. These include supporting the maintenance of habitat for native animal and plant species, avoiding clearing of vegetation and re-establishing vegetation on previously cleared areas. These benefits can also extend to the simultaneous reduction of other non CO2 pollutants (such as methane and HFC’s) and increase the bio-diversity of habitats which increase the strength and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Social co-benefits are associated with delivering positive outcomes to the community in which the project is based. Social co-benefits include indigenous employment opportunities through the use and preservation of traditional practices, recognition of traditional owners and practices, employment for local people, reduced social welfare, health improvements and stronger community and social cohesion. Social co-benefits are particularly relevant for projects located in remote or disadvantaged communities.

These additional benefits can also incorporate opportunities for scientific research, eco-tourism and community education.

Economic co-benefits arise from the income generated through offset projects from the sale of offset credits. This income is delivered to the communities in which the project is located through employment and community support. As with social co-benefits, economic co-benefits are especially relevant for the development of remote or disadvantaged areas.

These projects can also result in efficiency gains and subsequent reductions in energy use; greater productivity from the implementation of new technologies; a reduced reliance on fossil fuels in the economy; and positive economic impact through provision of jobs and financial benefits for local industry.

Environmental co-benefits include those benefits that sit outside the well understood carbon sequestration and emissions reduction benefits. These include supporting the maintenance of habitat for native animal and plant species, avoiding clearing of vegetation and re-establishing vegetation on previously cleared areas. These benefits can also extend to the simultaneous reduction of other non CO2 pollutants (such as methane and HFC’s) and increase the bio-diversity of habitats which increase the strength and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Social co-benefits are associated with delivering positive outcomes to the community in which the project is based. Social co-benefits include indigenous employment opportunities through the use and preservation of traditional practices, recognition of traditional owners and practices, employment for local people, reduced social welfare, health improvements and stronger community and social cohesion. Social co-benefits are particularly relevant for projects located in remote or disadvantaged communities.

These additional benefits can also incorporate opportunities for scientific research, eco-tourism and community education.

Economic co-benefits arise from the income generated through offset projects from the sale of offset credits. This income is delivered to the communities in which the project is located through employment and community support. As with social co-benefits, economic co-benefits are especially relevant for the development of remote or disadvantaged areas.

These projects can also result in efficiency gains and subsequent reductions in energy use; greater productivity from the implementation of new technologies; a reduced reliance on fossil fuels in the economy; and positive economic impact through provision of jobs and financial benefits for local industry.

Why are co-benefits important for business?


Investing in carbon mitigation projects for example not only helps the environment, but depending on the structure, location, technology and community engagement can work towards other SDG’s such as poverty reduction, health improvement, and better water sanitation.

Purchasing carbon credits from verified projects enable organisations looking to offset (or go carbon neutral), to support the delivery of co-benefits associated with the project. Co-benefits are increasingly being seen as commercially valuable aspects of offsetting; as they provide multiple benefits to the communities in which the projects operate, credits from these projects are often valued at a higher price. Research by the International Carbon Reduction & Offset Alliance (ICROA) suggests that every tonne of CO2 offset, can deliver a staggering USD$664 in additional economic, social and environmental benefits.

Selecting projects with certain co-benefits are a way of aligning the offsetting process with an organisation’s culture and values. Companies can derive further value through increased community engagement, stronger internal engagement and cohesion around the offsetting narrative, and improved reputational benefits – supporting communities and initiatives that align with the interests and values of consumers helps to position organisations as a brand of choice in the marketplace.

Report: Unlocking the value of Carbon Offsetting
Presented by the International Carbon Reduction & Offset Alliance (ICROA)