What Does It Mean to Be Carbon Positive?

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Gen Z customers (75%) are willing to pay more than other age groups for sustainable products, according to a report from First Insight. 

Today, many companies use different terms to describe their carbon emissions status. These labels are meant to help others quickly recognize their ambition to tackle climate change. 

‍However, the spread of new terms can unintentionally confuse people who aren’t familiar. This can be off-putting, even for people who care about the climate. 

Carbon positive is just one example of a phrase that has the potential to confuse people. In this article, we explain why, while offering a wide range of ways to communicate your ambitious carbon emissions reduction plans.  

Carbon positive, carbon negative, carbon neutral… Quick reminder

The phrase “carbon positive” is one of the least popular phrases used in corporate carbon emissions accounting today. Why is this? 

‍The descriptions “positive” or “negative” have two different meanings in carbon emissions lingo: they can refer to quantities above or below zero, or refer to qualitatively good or bad actions. The problem is if they’re misunderstood, it could reverse your intended meaning. 

For instance, in the phrase “carbon positive,” it means your business emissions are above zero, which worsens climate change. In fact, most businesses are carbon positive, because it is incredibly difficult to remove more carbon than you produce, today.  

However, if you say your business is “climate positive” it means your business emissions are below zero because you’ve removed more CO2 than you emitted. This phrase suggests your actions have reduced climate change. 

Let’s look at the full range of descriptions used to label carbon emissions reduction progress. 



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