Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Freshly picked leaves in Hunan, China

Freshly picked leaves in Hunan, China

You might have just read it somewhere… We’ve gone carbon neutral.

That means we’re absorbing as much carbon as we produce. How, you might ask, does a business ‘absorb carbon’?

Through carbon offsetting. Which leads to another question… What is carbon offsetting?

To answer these questions and more, we’ve put together this piece. It explains exactly what we will be doing to justify our status as a carbon neutral tea company.

We hope it shows you we’re serious about doing the right thing by our planet and its people – and answers all of your questions. But if you do have any more, get in touch here!

What does ‘carbon neutral’ actually mean?

Companies and their product supply chains produce greenhouse gases (GHGs) including carbon dioxide. They are considered ‘carbon neutral’ when these emissions are measured and offset by internationally recognised ‘carbon offset’ projects.

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Sustainability, with tea producers in Sri Lanka

Lucy, head of sustainability, with tea producers in Sri Lanka

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Green tea expertly processed in Hunan, China

Green tea being expertly processed in Hunan, China

How exactly do you measure emissions?

Emissions fall into three categories:

  • Scope 1: the emissions a company makes directly. For example, while running its boilers or any vehicles it owns.
  • Scope 2: the emissions it makes indirectly. For example, when the electricity or energy it buys for heating and cooling its buildings are being produced on its behalf.
  • Scope 3: the emissions that occur up and down a company’s value chain. For example, JING buying teas from our producer partners.

To cover all three, we measured our ‘company carbon footprint’ (our office and employees etc) and our ‘tea carbon footprint’. There’s more detail on these here.

What is ‘carbon offsetting’ then?

Carbon offsetting is businesses like ours investing in environmental projects in order to balance out our carbon footprint – i.e. the emissions we are responsible for as we source and bring you single garden teas from around the world.

Some of those emissions might be avoidable, which is why we are working with our producers and other supply chain partners to find all the ways we can eliminate or reduce our emissions.

Some emissions, however, are unavoidable. If they can’t be eliminated completely, the best thing to do is to offset them.

Isn’t offsetting a bit of a cop out?

We don’t think so. It’s sometimes said offsetting is a way for businesses to avoid changing their ways. In fact, because we are also working to reduce avoidable emissions, we really are changing our ways. Given the scale of the climate emergency, it’s important we take any and all urgent actions to reduce global emissions from today – including offsetting where necessary.

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Exploring tea gardens in Zhejiang, China

Catherine, CEO, exploring tea gardens in Zhejiang, China

What do carbon offset projects look like in practice?

Carbon offset projects remove GHGs from the atmosphere or prevent them entering it in the first place. Typical projects include afforestation (planting new forests), forest protection (looking after old ones) and renewable energy development.

To be a certified carbon offset project, any initiative has to meet four criteria:

  1. Additionality: it must be ‘above business as usual’, i.e. its positive impact on emissions would not have happened unless the project was implemented.
  2. No double counting: double counting is when more than one party/business claims the same carbon removal or reduction credit.
  3. Permanence: any carbon the project removes cannot be reintroduced to the atmosphere later on.
  4. Verification: the project is regularly inspected by an independent third party.

 

For voluntary offsetters like JING, there are various programmes you can enrol in. We have chosen to work with Gold Standard.

Why Gold Standard?

Gold Standard is considered the most rigorous climate standard by many NGOs, including WWF. As well as reducing carbon, Gold Standard offset projects contribute to sustainable development in project countries, for example by developing local infrastructures which create employment opportunities for local communities and help to preserve biodiversity. In this way, every pound we spend offsetting creates more value for local communities and ecosystems and contributes in a measurable way to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Tea Gardens in Assam, India

Tea Gardens in Assam, India

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Organic tea gardens in China

Organic tea gardens in China

You’ve mentioned you have a carbon reduction plan too – what does that look like?

We’ve been working on this for a while and have already reduced our scope 1 and 2 emissions to very low levels. For example, since 2020 we have only been buying renewable energy to power our office.

Now we are working on an ambitious carbon reduction plan for our scope 3 emissions. These are harder for us to influence, but that won’t stop us. We have strong relationships with producers and throughout our value chain, and will address carbon ‘hotspots’ wherever they appear in that chain.

Packaging is often mentioned as a specific problem area for tea companies – what are you doing about that?

We now know that packaging makes up less than 5% of the carbon footprint of our average loose leaf tea. Nevertheless, it remains a top priority, and the key for us is to make a well-informed transition. Specifically, we won’t be swayed by buzzwords such as ‘plastic free’ or ‘compostable’ because the full lifecycle of this sort of packaging could in fact have an overall worse impact on the environment. Right now, we’re working with packaging experts to develop sustainable outer bags with the water and oxygen barriers required to retain the freshness of our leaves.

Loose Leaf Tea, Carbon offsetting - Tea leaves being harvested in Sri Lanka

Tea leaves being harvested in Sri Lanka