Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to commonly asked questions. If you have a question that isn't on the list, please contact us. A glossary of common terms is available here

General FAQs

What is the difference between Enviro-Mark, Energy-Mark and carboNZero and CEMARS certification?

Enviro-Mark is a management system that provides a framework to help organisations develop and implement  a systematic approach to managing their significant environmental aspects and impacts – it is especially helpful for manufacturers. Energy-Mark is also a management system; it helps organisations understand their energy consumption and identify opportunities to use energy more efficiently and develop good internal systems to specifically manage energy use and energy efficiency – it is especially useful for high energy users such as large organisations and public institutions. The carboNZero and CEMARS programmes are carbon accounting systems that help businesses and public bodies understand and manage their greenhouse gas emissions– they are  is especially helpful for exporters or those wishing to reduce their climate change impacts. For more information on each programme, see these pages: carbon management, environmental management, and energy management.

Do you certify my products as being environmentally friendly or healthy for consumers?

No. We certify your systems for managing environmental impacts, energy use or carbon emissions but the certification does not guarantee that other environmental impacts have not occurred. Our certifications do not guarantee food safety or product composition or that your products or services are better than someone else's.

However, comprehensive certification takes into account your organisation’s full impacts or product’s production, distribution, and disposal. Furthermore, a company that has chosen to have carboNZero, CEMARS, Enviro-Mark or Energy-Mark certification for its products and/or organisation is likely to be concerned about the environment, therefore more likely to adopt other measures to reduce overall environmental impacts.

What incentive is there for consumers to purchase products with carboNZero, CEMARS, Enviro-Mark or Energy-Mark certification?

Personal ethics will drive consumers to purchase products that have a sustainable certification. Increasingly consumers are expecting the businesses they support to be sustainable and taking action for a better environment. Consumers are also increasingly savvy about greenwash and vague ‘eco-friendly’ type claims. Credible environmental certification provides a positive contribution to overall brand perception and enables consumers and business partners to trust your environmental claims.

What can I do as an individual?

We provide resources for individuals, including a list of our member’s products and services for purchase. We also offer free use of our online public calculators for you as individuals to measure and optionally offset your carbon footprint. These calculators are based on the same robust research and calculations as our business solutions but are simplified for household and personal travel applications.  

We encourage you to look for ways to reduce your environmental impacts by reducing your emissions, reducing waste to landfill, and choosing energy efficient and sustainable products and services wherever possible. To reverse the impacts of climate change, we must achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

Will your certification programmes save me money?

Most organisations do find significant savings come from focusing on their environmental performance. Improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions generally result in cost savings although, for some savings, there may need to be an investment in new technology or behaviour change before the savings are realised. Many organisations join our programmes for other reasons, e.g. for ethical reasons or to gain reputational advantage, attracting innovative talent, market differentiation or to help with compliance. Many of our members have been able to better understand their largest impacts, or hot spots, and work to manage and reduce these. Many common hot spots, such as transport and fuel or energy use are also cost areas, so reducing these generally leads to cost savings. You can see member case studies here.

Where does Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research fit in all this?

Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research is a New Zealand Crown Research Institute specialising in sustainable management of land resources, optimising primary production, enhancing biodiversity, increasing the resource efficiency of businesses, and conserving and restoring the natural assets of our communities. It was under Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research that the Enviro-Mark, carboNZero and CEMARS programmes were developed.. In 2013 the three programmes came together under one wholly owned subsidiary, Enviro-Mark Solutions Limited.  Enviro-Mark Solutions has since developed a fourth programme, Energy-Mark. See more at

Getting started

How can I find out more? What's the next step?

Have a look through our website and give us a call or email with any questions you have. We can help you determine which certification is right for your organisation and develop a proposal. You can also fill in a short online form for an initial quote.

Quick links: 

How much of my time/resources will I need to allocate to this?

The time it takes to prepare for and successfully pass an audit varies from business to business, and the certification programme you are applying for. Time requirements are mainly related to how well developed your existing systems are when you start. As a rough guide, a small organisation with tidy records will only need a day’s worth of time spread out over several weeks. For a small to medium enterprise needing to develop systems or improve records, a few hours a week is enough to prepare for and pass your annual audit. The time needed each year is expected to reduce as you develop and improve systems and records. Our expert staff can discuss your particular situation and help you develop a realistic project plan to guide your progress.

Who is the best person to coordinate this programme within my organisation?

Appointing a coordinator or project manager is an important step and can make all the difference to achieving your sustainability goals. Good communication skills are required; an understanding of systems and standards is advantageous, e.g. quality, safety and environmental standards; middle management is ideal if your company is big enough; prior environmental knowledge is useful but not essential. We provide training to our members individually and in hands-on workshops and online webinars. See our event schedule for more information on upcoming training options or contact your account manager.

What does it mean to be a primary contact?

The primary contact is the person or programme champion within your organisation who has overall responsibility for coordinating your certification programme. We may have a number of contacts (often referred to as site contacts) within an organisation but the primary contact is the key person who we contact for membership renewals, technical training, booking of audits and communicating any updates or changes to the programme.

How much does it cost?

Membership subscriptions are based on the size and complexity of your organisation and provide you with access to world class tools and resources, technical support, preparation for audit, licence to use the certification mark or logo after certification and marketing support. Auditing costs are separate and based on the time required by the auditor to complete the on-site audits in accordance with the relevant audit standard. For carboNZero members, carbon credit costs are additional and depend on quantity needed and market rates (<see more below>). These factors mean that costs vary for each organisation. As a guide, for a small, simple, office based organisation with 1-2 offices and under 15 employees, the membership starts at approximately $4,000 annually plus audit fees (and plus carbon credits if joining carboNZero programme). If you need more technical support than in the standard package, you can include more hours in the initial contract or purchase more at a later date. In order to provide you with a more accurate quote, please contact us.

I've taken over from someone else. What do I do?

First, make sure you let us know so that we can update our records and make you the new primary contact. We can update you on your organisation's current programme status and help answer any questions you might have and provide you with copies of any guidance and tools needed. We can also provide training and help develop a project plan for maintaining your certification.

Auditing & certification

How often do I need to be audited?

In order to maintain certification, you are required to have an audit annually within 12 months of your previous audit once you have achieved your first certification. You can be audited more frequently to suit your circumstances and goals. Annual fees and ongoing annual surveillance audits must be paid and completed in order for the certification to remain valid.

How do I book an audit?

To book an audit, please contact your account manager or our general enquires line 0800 ENMARK (366 275) or You should book your audit well before you are due for recertification. As much notice as possible is required as our auditors are usually booked about six to eight weeks in advance.

What happens if I don't pass my audit?

It is not unusual for a company to have some outstanding issues they need to address after an audit. You have a six-week time frame from the date of your audit report to address any Corrective Action Requests (CARs) or close Non-Conformances (NCRs). When you have addressed the requirements you provide the information directly to your auditor. Depending on the complexity of the open issues, another visit may be required by the auditor to confirm all the requirements have been met. If it is a minor issue then close-out can occur by exchange of information without a further on-site visit.

Why do I need to be a member? Can't I just pay for the audits?

You can in fact opt to have only an audit, but you will not receive the tools, checklists, guidance or software that our members receive, nor will you be certified or have the right to use the certification mark or logo to promote your achievements.

Membership is the core of our certification programmes. Members receive expert guidance, access to our world-class tools, resources and software, the use of internationally recognised certification marks, and access to the member network for procurement and cross-promotion.

What does being certified mean?

Certification to one of our programmes means that your organisation or product has been independently verified as meeting the standard or requirements for that scheme. This means your stakeholders can have confidence that you have achieved that standard and you can make environmental claims in the market place with credibility and confidence. Claims based on self-certification are of doubtful value in the same way that self-diagnosis will never be as useful as a visit to the doctor. An example of problematic self-certification is the Dole Banana ‘Ethical Choice’ label; this has since been removed from products.

How long will it take to get certified?

The rate at which you progress is dependent on several factors: your current situation (e.g. how well organised your records are, existing systems and processes, etc.) and the resources you can put to the project. Most businesses are able to progress from sign up to certification in 3-6 months.

Promoting your credentials

How can I promote my certification?

Each certification scheme we offer has a unique logo. Once certified, you can use the relevant logo to clearly, credibly, and precisely share your achievement in the marketplace. We encourage our members to promote their certification by using the logo on advertising, letterheads, displays, and on product labelling (where eligible). Members receive training and advice in the communications of their certifications.

How widely recognised are the certification marks? In New Zealand? Overseas? By governments and councils?

Both central and local government have been involved with Enviro-Mark Solutions from the start of the schemes under its parent, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research. Many councils, businesses and organisations recognise CEMARS, carboNZero, Enviro-Mark and Energy-Mark certification as a way to meet tender requirements or to meet supply chain standards.

The Enviro-Mark certification programme is widely recognised within New Zealand. It does not currently operate overseas so international recognition is more limited. 

The CEMARS and carboNZero programmes operate in 5 countries and the certification marks are recognised in over 60 countries. Enviro-Mark Solutions has scope to undertake audits for CEMARS and carboNZero certification in17 countries. CEMARS and carboNZero certification is a way to gain entry into certain export markets that have environmental requirements. For those reporting into the CDP, CEMARS is an accredited verification standard and earns an extra 10-15% more points. Around 80% of the CDP climate change questionnaire can be answered from your CEMARS or carboNZero reports. In the UK, CEMARS is also licensed by the UK Environment Agency and recognised by the UK Energy Savings and Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) as a route to compliance. 

The Energy-Mark certification programme is a new scheme and Enviro-Mark Solutions is currently working with pilot organisations and partner agencies. It was co-developed with EMANZ and is recognised by EECA as an energy management solution for their members.

Carbon emissions calculations

These FAQs apply to our CEMARS and carboNZero programmes as well as our free public calculators.

What gases are counted as greenhouse gas emissions?

There are seven main greenhouse gases:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly from fossil fuel use
  • methane (CH4), mainly from animals and waste
  • nitrous oxide (N2O), mainly from agriculture
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), mainly from refrigerants
  • sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), mainly from the electricity industry
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs), mainly from aluminium production
  • nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), mainly from production of silicon wafers, liquid crystal displays and silicon-based solar cells.

Usually, all greenhouse gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and typically measured in kilograms or tonnes (kgCO2e or tCO2e). 1 tonne CO2e is emitted when you:

  • Burn 370 litres of diesel  
  • Use 786kg of standard office paper (embodied emissions)
  • Travel 3,400 km on domestic air flights

What happens once a company has achieved carboNZero or CEMARS certification? Does the process continue?

carboNZero and CEMARS certification is time-limited and you must demonstrate continuous improvement.  Emissions must be measured and verified on an annual basis, and management plans must be revised and updated for each recertification period.

Obtaining carboNZero or CEMARS certification also requires a commitment to manage and reduce your emissions, and to demonstrate this over time.  Your Key Account Manager can further explain the criteria for what reductions need to be achieved.  Obtaining certification also allows a company to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining and enhancing New Zealand's environmental performance, for example by:

  • Reducing the demand for more electricity generation from fossil fuel sources
  • Supporting the demand for more electricity generation from renewable sources
  • Supporting energy efficiency initiatives
  • Supporting regeneration of indigeneous biodiversity through offsetting

How do the CEMARS and carboNZero programmes relate to food miles?

The food miles concept is actually misleading because it focuses on only one aspect of a carbon footprint – the freight to market. Because of New Zealand’s electricity supply has such a high renewable component and much of New Zealand’s agriculture is efficient, the overall carbon footprint for New Zealand products, including freight, is generally lower than the same product produced in other geographies. The CEMARS and carboNZero programmes help you to put the distance from market into the context of the whole life cycle carbon footprint of your product. For some products, freight may be 30% of its carbon footprint while for other products, freight may be 5% of the carbon footprint. While there are opportunities to reduce the impacts of transporting goods around the world through lighter packaging, selecting freight providers with more efficient shipping options and smarter freight logistics, making your product carboNZero certified may provide competitive advantage in export markets where customers continue to use the foodmiles concept to compare products. Reducing emissions and offsetting your remaining unavoidable emissions for growing, production and distribution can give you a market advantage and reinforce New Zealand's clean green image.

Isn’t the carboNZero programme just greenwash or a way for organisations to buy a good emissions profile?

The carboNZero programme is based on over a decade of research and we ensure that the measure, manage and mitigate steps are based on credible science, international best practice, and checked via a robust verification process. Organisations seeking certification must prepare an emissions inventory compliant with international standards.  Additionally, they must implement an emissions management plan and achieve reduction targets on a six year cycle. Research has shown that for companies that offset through the purchase of carbon credits are more likely make greater efforts to manage and reduce their emissions as this internal cost of carbon provides an incentive to reduce the need for carbon credits.

Is it possible for greenhouse gas emissions to be double-counted by different parts of the supply chain?

In an ideal world every organisation would take responsibility for their own emissions but double counting may occasionally occur. Double-counting could take place if both the buyer and the seller (of the service or product) accounted for the emissions due to the same activity, e.g. international maritime freight. The carboNZero Programme requires organisations to disclose the full emissions inventory prior to any discounting of double counted emissions, to encourage continued resource efficiency and emissions reductions. Organisations that use carboNZero certified services will still account for those emissions but will not be required to offset them, if seeking carboNZero certification. 

Do greenhouse gas emissions need to be continuously measured or are formulas used to work out the emissions?

No. The minimum requirement is to calculate your emissions on an annual basis.  In practice, this mean collating 12 months’ worth of emissions activity data such as electricity and fuel consumption invoices. This data is then entered in to the emission calculation software to produce your annual total emissions.

How are emissions treated within the carboNZero programme for those that are covered under the ETS, and will this be carbon neutral through compliance to the ETS?

Fuel covered by the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ-ETS) cannot be recognised by the carboNZero programme as already offset, or carbon neutral. The reasons are summarised below:

To comply with Commerce Commission guidance on making a carbon neutral claim, the measurement of the emissions must be based on a suitable international standard, the amount of offsets must be equivalent to the measured footprint, offsets must be additional, the emissions reductions used to create the offsets must be verified as already achieved, and offsets must not be double counted. These requirements cannot be demonstrated for fuel participating in the NZ-ETS or from the cost of carbon being passed down to consumers.

Measurement of emissions for voluntary carbon neutral claims by organisations are generally undertaken in compliance with the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and ISO 14064-1:2006. These standards require Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions sources to be measured. Measurement for the NZ-ETS includes Scope 1 and Scope 2 but not Scope 3. Therefore, the fuel emissions reported into NZ-ETS do not meet the measurement standards required for voluntary carbon neutral claims.

Companies reporting into the NZ-ETS have been required to surrender one offset for each two tonnes of emissions. To make a carbon neutral claim, the number of offsets must be equivalent to the number of tonnes of emissions. The two-for-one arrangement is being phased out but this will take a number for years before the surrender of offsets is equivalent to the emissions reported.

Normally, an offset is created from a project that has reduced emissions. New Zealand Units (NZUs) may be allocated by Government to companies that are trade exposed and not matched to an actual reduction in emissions. The NZU is a financial instrument where there may be no associated emissions reduction. NZUs are not internationally tradable unless converted to Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) which come from the allocation to New Zealand by the United Nations. Companies may also choose to pay $12.50 per tonne of emissions instead of surrendering offsets. Therefore, the offset might not be equivalent to the emissions, the “offset” might not be created from an emissions reduction, or there may be no offset involved.

Both the Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) emphasise that the offsets (emissions reductions) used to make a carbon neutral claim must be additional to business as usual as defined by the Kyoto Protocol. Compliance obligations can be met without emissions reductions taking place. Compliance with regulatory requirements is not additional because the offset or payment is a legal requirement, i.e. it  is part of business as usual. Therefore, participation in the NZ-ETS does not meet the additionality requirements for a carbon neutral claim.

The offsets or NZUs surrendered by participants in the NZ-ETS go to the Crown Account in the New Zealand Emissions Unit Register (NZEUR) where they are “retired”. These can be used by the Government to meet the national Kyoto obligations or they could be reallocated to another sector in the future. International standards for making carbon neutral claims require offsets to be cancelled, i.e. not able to be further traded or used again as an offset for another organisation. Therefore, double counting may be taking place.

The Commerce Commission guidance on carbon claims states that a carbon neutral claim cannot be based on forward offsetting. Only internationally tradable offsets or units can be used by the New Zealand government to meet the national Kyoto obligations. Units will be surrendered after the end of each commitment period. This means that offsets or units surrendered by participants in the NZ-ETS and subsequently used to meet the national obligations will not be cancelled until sometime in the future. A carbon neutral claim relying on offsets or units surrendered to the New Zealand government cannot be verified as real until the cancellation has taken place. Therefore, the surrender of offsets or units to comply with NZ-ETS obligations is a forward action.

Finally, the price added to fuel and paid by the consumer does not reflect the amount of greenhouse gases associated with the fuel because the measurement is not complete and only half of the emissions may have been offset. At the Point of Obligation, offsets may not have been used. Where offsets were used, it is a forward action, not additional and may be double counted. A carbon neutral claim that recognised “offsets” made though the NZ-ETS would fail to meet many of the criteria set by the Commerce Commission and the ACCC. Claims that fuel is carbon neutral because it is covered by the NZ-ETS are misleading to consumers.

My electricity use is from renewable sources only. Is it possible to omit this electricity from my footprint?

It is difficult to separate the renewable energy from the fossil fuel energy in the distribution system (national grid). As electricity demand goes up to meet peak demand periods during the day, it is generally the fossil fuel generators that produce more electricity to meet that demand. We are aware of this concern and we regularly review the protocols for the carboNZero programme calculations. For New Zealand emissions calculations, we use an electricity factor for calculating the carbon dioxide emissions using data provided by the Ministry for Economic Development and this accounts for the total mix of electricity sources that go on the national grid including electricity from renewable sources.

Where your electricity retailer supplies carbon neutral electricity, we still require you to record your electricity usage so that you can see the results of your efforts to be more energy efficient when you compare your monthly or annual data. Using carbon neutral electricity is not a reduction on your part, it is an offset made on your behalf by the electricity provider.  Where you are seeking carboNZero certification and you purchase carboNZero certified electricity, you are not required to offset that component of your footprint.

Are waste recycling initiatives included?

Waste to landfill is a mandatory emissions source that you must report as part of your carbon footprint, and so recycling and minimising waste contributes to reduction of your emissions because you are either preventing waste or preventing the use of virgin (new) materials. 

Is there a difference in the calculation between using litres of fuel or kilometres travelled for measuring the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle use?

The most accurate way to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with using vehicles is to measure the litres of fuel used. Factors have been developed for estimating the emissions from vehicles using the kilometres travelled; however, these factors need to assume a particular fuel consumption rate, which may not reflect the actual consumption rate of your particular vehicle(s) and/or driving behaviour. By measuring the litres of fuel used, you can see improvements in your fuel efficiency that result from keeping your vehicle well maintained and driving responsibly.

Is there a difference in the calculation between using litres of fuel or kilometres travelled for measuring the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle use?

The most accurate way to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with using vehicles is to measure the litres of fuel used. Factors have been developed for estimating the emissions from vehicles using the kilometres travelled; however, these factors need to assume a particular fuel consumption rate, which may not reflect the actual consumption rate of your particular vehicle(s) and/or driving behaviour.  By measuring the litres of fuel used, you can see improvements in your fuel efficiency that result from keeping your vehicle well maintained and driving responsibly.

What are the emissions of some common flights?

The tables below provide some examples of emissions for common flights within New Zealand and to Australia.  Calculations were current as at July 2017.

International flights

Flight routeDistance*

Emissions** (tCO2e)

One-way, one person 

Emissions** (tCO2e)

Return, one person 

Auckland - Sydney2,163 km

Economy class: 0.357

Business class: 0.536 

Economy class: 0.714

Business class: 1.071

Auckland - Melbourne2,641 km

Economy class: 0.436

Business class: 0.654

Economy class: 0.872

Business class: 1.308

Auckland - Brisbane2,292 km

Economy class: 0.378

Business class: 0.568

Economy class: 0.757

Business class: 1.135

New Zealand domestic flights

Flight routeDistance*

Emissions** (tCO2e)

One-way, one person

Emissions** (tCO2e)

Return, one person

Auckland - Christchurch759 km0.2120.423
Auckland - Dunedin1,065 km0.2040.408
Auckland - Queenstown1,037 km0.4410.883
Auckland - Wellington496 km0.0730.146
Christchurch - Dunedin316 km0.0740.148
Christchurch - Queenstown348 km0.2040.409
Christchurch - Wellington303 km0.0510.102
Wellington - Dunedin618 km0.1020.204
Wellington - Queenstown641 km0.1590.317

*Note that the distance is calculated airport to airport using the great circle distance so will be different to road distances or Google map distances.

**Note that the emissions calculation includes a factor for “taking off and landing” and an aviation multiplier or radiative forcing index (RFI) to account for the impact of nitrogen oxide gases and water vapour contrails at altitude – this is in line with international best practice. Water vapour has a higher climate forcing impact than carbon dioxide. Other calculators may not include these factors in their calculations.

Why is food consumption is not considered in the household calculator?

Food consumption does make considerable contribution to emissions..  In order to truly reduce your household impact you do need to consider consumption of goods and food, including aspects like food waste and type of diet.

You can find resources to help individuals reduce their lifestyle impacts here.

Carbon credits

What offsets or carbon credits does the carboNZero programme use?

The programme sources credits from projects that have been generated through both compliance, and voluntary standards from a range of projects. The projects are located in New Zealand and other countries such as Brazil, China, India, Turkey and Thailand. All offset projects are assessed and approved by the programme prior to using any of the carbon credits. If you would like to know more about the specific credits used for your certification, the programme can provide you with more details on request.

We recommend that you seek an offset project that aligns with the values of your company and enhances your sustainability story. If you want to use a particular type of carbon credit project then we will endeavour to accommodate your preferences, including provision of appropriate communication materials for your customers and stakeholders.

Are any carbon credits at risk of being double-accounted?

Yes there is a risk that the credits from a discrete project are already being accounted for in a national inventory. For example, voluntary credits should not be claimed for reductions from a project where the emissions are captured in a country’s national inventory reporting obligations (for reporting under the Kyoto Protocol and in future under the Paris Agreement). This is because any potential credit is likely to be claimed at the national level rather than at the project level. Carbon credits created from New Zealand forestry projects that are outside the Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative (PFSI) may be double counted.

The carboNZero programme minimises the risk of using double counted carbon credits by sourcing credits that have been generated through reputable standards and have rules in place for preventing double counting.

I wish to source my own carbon credits to use for offsetting my emissions within the programme. Can I do this?

Possibly, but they need to be assessed by us to ensure they meet the programme requirements. Essentially the credits you are using must have been issued through a standard approved by  the programme, and then your particular project is further assessed for suitability within the programme, i.e., not all offset projects will necessarily be assessed as appropriate for use in the carboNZero programme even though they may be using one of the standards approved for the programme. Standards currently approved by the programme can be supplied on request.

If I believe my project is eligible for carbon credits, where do I go to get them recognised?

Enviro-Mark Solutions does not currently provide any services related to applying for and issuing carbon credits. You would need to apply directly to an appropriate offset standard. To get an idea if your project may be eligible for carbon credits from any standard, we suggest considering the following key questions:

  • Additionality: are the reduction activities additional to “business as usual”?

For example, one additionality test is that a project must be able to demonstrate that revenue from the carbon credits is required to make the project viable.

  • Are the reduction activities already being counted by national accounting measurements?

If the projects reductions are associated with emission sources already being measured at a national level (e.g. for Kyoto Protocol UNFCCC reporting), then any carbon credit claim would effectively be double counted.

Most credit standards also require several other principles to be met such as  “no leakage”, being “permanent” (with respect to the carbon reduction), “measurable”, and “verifiable”. These terms are usually explained within the specific credit standard.

My technology reduces emissions – can I get recognition for this (e.g. carbon credits)?

You can only get recognition in the form of carbon credits if your technology meets the requirements of an appropriate offset standard. You would need to make an application to the body that administers the standard in order to be issued the credits. The other form of recognition is by marketing your technology as reducing emissions, which is where CEMARS or carboNZero certification can assist to provide robust assurance over your claim and therefore enhances the potential to for you to attract more customer business.

As part of the certification requirements, clients must set targets to manage and reduce their emissions by having a verified management and reduction plan. Therefore, these businesses will be seeking options to reduce their emissions by various means including the adoption of new technologies and other capital investment projects. So if you think you have a technology that reduces emissions, then carbon conscious businesses and individual consumers is a market you can tap into.

Can I just plant a certain number of trees to offset my emissions and gain carboNZero certification?

Any tree planting project would need to be awarded carbon credits through  a body with the authority to issue carbon credits based on an appropriate offset standard and the project would be assessed for suitability against the carboNZero programme criteria for offset projects. There have been examples where tree planting for offsetting emissions has been unsubstantiated. For example, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has previously ruled that there was no scientific basis for a claim by a company that the number of trees they had planted would sequester carbon dioxide equivalent to the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

What happens to the money (when purchasing carbon credits)?

The money you pay for carbon credits goes to both the carbon credit supplier (to cover the additional costs associated with implementing the project over and above the ‘business as usual’ situation) and to Enviro-Mark Solutions to cover administrative costs associated with activities such as sourcing and supplying carbon credits, quality assessment of offset projects, and registry account and transaction fees.   

Why are there not many New Zealand carbon credits available?

There is currently a limited range of New Zealand carbon credits available due to the policies implemented for meeting New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations. New Zealand was allocated a certain number of AAUs or “units” (1 unit equals 1 tonne CO2e) based on national emissions in 1990,.  Some of these units were allocated to defined carbon credit projects via the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI) and the Projects to Reduce Emissions (PRE) mechanism (some are managed within the Emissions Trading Scheme and the remainder our held in the Crown accounts).  Credits issued to PRE projects have all finished and many of these units have been sold already. PFSI credits continue to be available including via the carboNZero programme.  

Why is there a difference in prices? Why are the credits from overseas often a lower price?

There are various factors that affect the price of carbon credits. There are differences in perceived value of credits that have been issued from voluntary and compliance standards and this creates differing demands for these. Generally compliance based credits are more expensive as these are backed by AAUs or NZUs. There is stronger demand for this type of unit from organisations that face legal requirements to purchase (for example to comply with an emissions trading scheme).  Many of the credits from overseas are created through voluntary standards where the unit is a VCU (voluntary carbon unit). VCUs may not be used for compliance offsetting obligations.

Another significant driver is the price set by the owners of the offset project in order to cover the additional costs of implementing the project over what would have been ‘business as usual’.   

Some projects  are more attractive based on additional characteristics such as additional environmental and/or social co-benefits. 

Exchange rates are also a factor in price of carbon credits.   

Does carbon credit price reflect quality?

Just like any market, some carbon credits are more desirable than others (e.g. a certain offset project might have better brand/marketing alignment than others) but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the price reflects quality.  As covered in the question above on 'why there is a difference in prices', there are various factors that may affect the price per unit.

Can I choose the type of credit that I would like to buy from?

If you have a particular preference for a type of credit, we will do our best to provide this based on what we have available at the time of certification. 

We have forest on our land and we’re a carboNZero certified client.  How can we maximise the benefit of this land within our certification? 

If you own land that has forest growing on it, you can receive benefit from this. If you are in the carboNZero certification programme we suggest you account for this as a ‘removal’ in your emissions balance sheet, as opposed to an official carbon credit.  This is because to be recognised as a carbon credit, you need be assessed against an appropriate offset standard and receive units from a body authorised to issue carbon credits. The assessment and certification fees for offset projects may not be cost effective for small land holdings. However, if you count it as a removal, if is simply incorporated into the carbon measurement.

Accounting and reporting for removals is optional under the Programme, and only applies to post 1989 permanent forest (i.e. this does not apply to commercial forestry activities). 

Note that if you choose to report removals then it is obligatory that you also report the liabilities and be prepared to replace the removals with carbon credits if the removals are lost through fire, flood or felling.

If we have forest land that we want to gain credits for, where do we go?

If you own land that has forest growing on it and you want to explore the possibility of being issued carbon credits for this, we suggest applying to an appropriate standard.  As at July 2014, the most appropriate scheme in New Zealand is the Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative -, or phone 0800 CLIMATE (254628).

If we just buy offsets to make ourselves carbon neutral, is this just ‘buying our way out’?

No. Both the CEMARS and carboNZero certification programmes require participants to demonstrate emission reductions, via an emissions management and reduction plan. 

How much of our fees actually end up with the project owners?

The  percentage of fees ending up with the project owner varies according to the carbon trading market. A typical carbon credit project’s final price includes expenses such as: 

  • the project developer (who works in conjunction with the owner to make the project feasible)
  • fees to auditors (who validate and verify the offset project)
  • bodies authorised to certify offset projects against appropriate  standards and issue carbon credits (they set the standard against which the validation and verification is conducted and approve the project) 
  • registries (where the ownership of credits is listed and transactions are tracked to ensure no double counting takes place)  
  • facilitator (i.e. Enviro-Mark Solutions, who conduct due diligence on the offset projects to ensure they meet public expectations both technically and perception-based, maintain registry accounts, manage stock holdings in the registry accounts, cancel credits on behalf of clients and manage client enquiries etc)

Why are ‘REDD’ projects not acceptable to the programme? 

REDD+ refers to “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries”. REDD+ projects generally quantify avoided GHG emissions from avoiding unplanned and planned deforestation and forest degradation. This methodology is applicable to forest lands that would be deforested or degraded in the absence of the project activity.  These methodologies are currently relevant mainly to the VCS standard where there are several methodologies available for projects.

To achieve real reductions, REDD+ projects must satisfy the following conditions: additionality, no leakage, and permanence.

Our position: REDD+ project principles have good potential benefits in terms of avoided environmental impacts including climate change.  REDD+ projects are very dependent on demonstrating that a business as usual scenario involves clearance of the forest, and replacing this with a legal commitment to maintain the forest in perpetuity.  It is difficult to place reliance on  these conditions being met.  In addition, there are several other risks around community impacts and potential emissions leakage.  These risks make this type of project undesirable for the purpose of reliable emission offsetting for a carboNZero certification claim, and currently are not accepted by the programme.

Enviro-Mark Programme

Why are there five levels to the programme? Do I have to start with Bronze?

The task of developing impressive, comprehensive environmental credentials can seem rather daunting. The Enviro-Mark programme divides the necessary work into five logical steps. Enviro-Mark Bronze deals with the starting point of understanding your health, safety and environmental obligations. You might already be doing many of these activities, but in an ad hoc fashion. 

Can I be audited for more than one level at a time?

Yes. You should first read through the checklists and guidance notes we supply for each level, to ensure you meet the requirements, and also have a chat to one of our advisors to assess your preparedness. When booking your audit we'll need to ensure the auditor is able to spend additional time on site if required. Please alert us to your plans and the level of certification you are aiming for. Generally, we only issue a certificate for the highest level achieved at the audit, but sometimes our members like to display the full range of certificates, so additional copies of the certificates can be arranged on request.

We've got more than one branch/site; can we still join?


Does the whole organisation need to progress at the same rate? What's the best way to implement this if I have multiple sites/branches?

The choice is yours. You can structure your membership to have each site progress at the rate that suits them best or you can coordinate it as a corporate system and have the entire business progress through the Enviro-Mark levels at the same rate. For larger companies with a range of divisions and operations in different geographic locations you can choose whether you would like a company-wide certification or have operations progress at their own rate. You can discuss the relative merits of each approach with one of our advisors .

I'm already doing lots of green stuff in my business. Can I go straight for Gold?

Depending on the state of your existing systems, you may already be doing many things that contribute to the sustainability of your business and these may relate to Enviro-Mark levels. If you are legally compliant with all environmental and health and safety requirements, then it is possible you could meet the requirements of Enviro-Mark Bronze. The Enviro-Mark programme helps you identify and manage environmental risks. Even though you may have lots of green initiatives, that may not necessarily equate directly to the Enviro-Mark levels as Enviro-Mark is based on the systems you have in place and not just on the initiatives you may be involved in, e.g. recycling.

I've heard of ISO 14001; how does the Enviro-Mark programme relate to this?

The Enviro-Mark programme covers all the requirements of ISO 14001. We also include some additional requirements around legislative compliance at the time of your audit. It is a five level certification, each level building on the last until all the criteria of the ISO 14001 standard are fully expressed at the Enviro-Mark Diamond certification level. The only difference in content is that the Enviro-Mark programme requires evidence at audit that the organisation is compliant with their regulatory obligations, where ISO 14001 requires only identification of obligations and that they be “taken into account” when developing the environmental management system. Therefore, as Enviro-Mark Diamond certification contains all the requirements of the ISO 14001 criteria along with additional assessment of legislative compliance, we consider it to be a more robust and relevant standard than ISO 14001.    

But, more importantly, the approach taken by the two programmes are significantly different.

ISO 14001 is a very “hands off” process which needs either existing in-house expertise or the hiring of consultants to help your staff implement the systems required by the standards. 

ISO 14001 is an all-or-nothing certification, while Enviro-Mark recognises when you have achieved each step along the way.

Enviro-Mark Diamond provides a mentored approach to the process of implementing the systems. Our approach concentrates on up-skilling your staff to establish, implement and maintain the in-house systems needed by the standard. In addition, the Enviro-Mark programme requires participants to be able to prove compliance with New Zealand’s most commonly applicable Health, Safety and Environmental legislation. Therefore an ISO 14001 certified organisation might not meet the Enviro-Mark Diamond criteria, but an Enviro-Mark Diamond certified organisation will meet the ISO 14001 standard.

When I reach Diamond, do I automatically get ISO 14001?

No. These two certifications are quite separate and are issued by different organisations. When you reach Enviro-Mark Diamond you will have satisfied the requirements of ISO 14001 but you will need an audit carried out by a qualified ISO 14001 auditor and registration with the appropriate certification provider. A number of our Enviro-Mark Diamond members hold both certifications. To enable you to hold both certifications without “doubling up” on auditing, we arrange a single (dual) audit by a suitably qualified auditor. If you are interested in speaking with a client who holds both certifications, to understand what benefits they see in holding both, we would be happy to provide such an introduction.

How will the new Health & Safety Reform Act impact my organisation?

The Health and Safety Reform Bill is focuses on improving the proactive Health and Safety performance of organisations.

The regulations drive enhancement through:

  • More active involvement of governance bodies (Boards, Directors, and Partners) in ensuring appropriate Health and Safety systems are active in your organisation, and
  • Ensuring active staff involvement in the Health and Safety system, and
  • Ensuring Health and Safety systems covering shared environments are appropriately integrated.

The requirements of the Act have been incorporated into the Enviro-Mark programme checklists and guidance.