The problem, according to WSJ, is that Dell only counts the “emissions produced by its boilers and company-owned cars, its buildings’ electricity use, and its employees’ business air travel.”
It doesn’t count all the emissions associated with Dell: “All the emissions produced by its suppliers and consumers each amount to about 10 times the footprint Dell has defined for itself. That means the company is only neutralizing about 5% of the greenhouse gases that go into the making and use of its products,” the article states.
The carbon neutral trend started around 2003. But after Fiji Water’s “carbon negative” goal was criticized for pushing the bounds of credibility, many companies scaled back such announcements. But that’s not stopping all companies – Vattenfall announced a carbon neutral goal in October and, in June, Marks & Spencer set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2012.
In one of the boldest carbon neutral announcements made, Swiss Re, in April, bought and decommissioned emission reduction certificates equivalent to 230,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which the company claimed offset its entire emissions since October 2003. With this measure, Swiss Re said it had been carbon neutral since October 2003.
The WSJ article also calls out Dell for mostly purchasing renewable energy credits in order to make the carbon neutral claim and raises questions about the legitimacy of RECs. Dell hired ICF International to review some of its planned REC purchases and confirm their legitimacy, but neither ICF nor Dell would release the report to WSJ. (In April, ICF partnered with Merrill Lynch and launched “Green & Gold,” which the companies describe as a “full-service climate change solution with a strong focus on sustainability.”)
With so many companies announcing carbon neutral goals based primarily on purchasing carbon offsets, David Douglas, chief sustainability officer at Sun Microsystems, wondered how long it would be before a company announced it was going “double carbon neutral.”
What’s needed, according to Pankaj Bhatia, a policy expert at the World Resources Institute, is a carbon neutral standard.
Bill Burtis, spokesman for Clean Air-Cool Planet, says Dell’s carbon neutral announcement could lead consumers to believe “that buying a Dell computer means they’re not contributing to climate change at all.”