Carbon Offsetting: An essential action or an ineffective distraction?

Carbon Offsetting is, in essence, paying others to prevent, reduce or remove carbon emissions in order to compensate for one’s own emissions. It is therefore unsurprising that “carbon offsetting” has received such bad press, giving the impression that a business is just avoiding taking responsibility for its own actions.


My impression is that while some may continue to “pay to pollute’’, more businesses are turning to carbon offsetting to complement genuine action to reduce their impacts.

The pitfalls of offsetting

Of course, it is more complex than that. Businesses need to guarantee that the chosen offset is genuine, permanent, accountable, and measurable. It can be difficult to verify that projects are actually offsetting as much carbon as needed. Offsets also have to demonstrate that the emission reduction or carbon removal would not have taken place anyway, and that the investment makes a genuine additional contribution. There are even instances where offsetting programmes cause more harm than good, for instance by decreasing biodiversity through infrastructure impacts or monoculture tree planting, which could result in higher net emissions over time. It certainly pays to check before you buy to ensure your investments deliver.

Can you offset biodiversity impacts?

The market for biodiversity offsets is not as mature as the carbon one, but it is clearly subject to similar complexities and uncertainties, probably to an even greater extent. In ANIMONDIAL’s most recent publication with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, offsetting was acknowledged as a limited part of a business’ commitment to Nature Positive Tourism. This is because it is considered unreliable by many experts, and in the case of biodiversity does not directly address the impacts on species, habitats and ecosystem services that are being compensated for.

Mitigate, mitigate, mitigate

Instead, we advocate that businesses identify their dependencies and impacts on nature (including their carbon emissions) and then, using the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ (see page 39 of the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report), to prioritise their responses. This involves first avoiding or reducing both direct impacts and indirect impacts from the value chain, then taking efforts to restore biodiversity after damage has taken place or, if necessary, conduct equivalent restoration at a nearby or ecologically similar location. Only after these steps is offsetting a suitable approach to balancing remaining negative impacts. Offsetting is therefore recommended as a limited action taken as a last resort, and certainly not the only mitigating action.

Is there any place for offsetting?

In the case of carbon emissions, the Net Zero Standard set out by the Science Based Targets Initiative recommends offsetting no more than 10% of emissions, with at least 90% of savings coming from avoiding and reducing emissions.  Many leading companies commit to offsetting no more than 5%.

What is the role of biodiversity in carbon offsetting?

Biodiversity loss and nature protection continue to be widely disconnected from most conversations about carbon emission reduction, despite the fact that many of the most cost-efficient, large-scale and long-term emissions reductions or removals are nature-based solutions. In 2021, the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts acknowledged that biodiversity loss and climate change mutually reinforce each other and can only be tackled together. Businesses, particularly those in Travel &Tourism, should therefore consider how to harness the power of nature (its natural ability to absorb and store carbon) to both offset their emissions and contribute to their biodiversity, as well as sustainable development goals.

Making the most of minimal offsets

Increasingly, carbon offset projects are available that also provide biodiversity and social impact benefits. This can be an efficient way to contribute to multiple Nature Positive goals at once, but it should never be used as a way to side-step more effective mitigation activities. The old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ still applies – it is far better to avoid doing the damage in the first place than to try to make up for it afterwards.

Mitigation Hierarchy Tips for impacts on nature:

  • Focus on avoiding impacts by changing activities at a fundamental level – consider what outcomes the activities are intended to produce and think of other ways of achieving these.
  • Maximise reduction activities with bold goals for the level of reduction – combine a range of techniques in optimal ways to get the best results.
  • Restoration activities should be done on-site, for instance by replanting natural vegetation in areas that have been damaged during construction works.
  • For areas that cannot be restored on site, find ways to restore equivalent natural features nearby that provide similar habitats and ecosystem services.
  • Only offset as a last resort, using credible, long-term investments – where possible combine this with carbon offsetting if required.

» Learn about Mitigation Hierarchy and the Nature Positive Tourism approach

» Identify your dependencies and impacts on nature

» Learn about 5 carbon reduction actions to achieve Net Zero by ANIMONDIAL, Partner ecollective

Daniel Turner, Director ANIMONDIAL

Beyond Sustainable Tourism – the future is Nature Positive

Making the transition from Sustainable Tourism to ‘Nature Positive Tourism’


When I speak to Travel & Tourism professionals on the importance of Nature Positive Tourism, it is clear many are just overwhelmed by the sheer number of targets required to protect both ‘people and planet’. From ending poverty and single-use plastics to managing energy consumption and animal interactions or halting biodiversity loss and carbon emissions, the expectation on tourism businesses to understand and adopt so many ‘sustainability’ measures can create gridlock.

How to BREAK The Gridlock

This was a key consideration when ANIMONDIAL co-drafted the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) report “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” and developed its accompanying Toolbox.

Not only were we providing businesses with a step-by-step guide on how to adopt a Nature Positive approach, but we also wanted to encourage a “bigger picture” perspective on sustainability planning. All too often, the sustainability approach focuses on generic, mainstream issues rather than considering the individual business’ impact, its environmental strategy and which issues are most relevant to achieving it.

How to ACT for Nature

Fundamentally, nature loss is not just an environmental issue but something that threatens our economies and societies too. Biodiversity loss threatens everything that ensures our prosperity, wellbeing, and survival, from the provision of life-preserving ecosystem services to our ability to lessen climate change and viral pandemics. Therefore, the ultimate goal of sustainability planning has to be conserving and restoring nature. To do this, we need to think about which issues are most relevant to our operations and supply chain, and what actions are needed to address them. This should be the starting point for any sustainable tourism strategy, and it is exactly the starting point of Nature Positive Tourism.

How to UNDERSTAND Nature Positive Tourism

Nature conservation must be the priority for all businesses, no matter the sector. A Nature Positive approach ensures each business identifies and mitigates its specific negative impacts and, through its operations and activities, seeks nature-related opportunities to restore and enhance biodiversity. While there will be common themes between businesses, such as reducing plastic use or avoiding deforestation, there will be differences in the range of identified impacts and their severity. Using this perspective, we can ensure that mitigating actions are material to the business and have the most effective outcome.

We now understand that is not enough just to consider how we use natural resources; all business efforts must ensure an overall positive impact by conserving and regenerating nature.

How to INTEGRATE Nature Positive Tourism

Accompanying the WTTC Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report is the Toolbox of resources to aid your transition from a sustainability paradigm to a comprehensive Nature Positive approach. The Toolbox includes a series of frameworks that demonstrate how the theory covered in the main report, and the straightforward Phases and Steps of the Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap, can be practically applied. It also provides additional external resources, support services, and business case studies that provide information to cover every business type.

How to START your Nature Positive Tourism approach

The first phase for all businesses is to consider operational dependency and impact on nature, a key business requirement in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This is covered by the first Phase of the Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap: Assess & Define. You can find helpful frameworks in the Toolbox to guide your business to defining its biodiversity loss drivers, or alternatively receive this information with aligned actions through ANIMONDIAL’s in-depth evaluation tool, Animal Footprint. Phase two, Reduce & Restore, focuses on addressing the identified priority issues from Phase one. The Toolbox provides a range of tools and services to suit any business’ needs. This includes services to identify the biodiversity in your key destinations, which can provide vital baseline data for Phase three: Monitor & Report. The fourth and last Phase of your Nature Positive approach is to Collaborate & Communicate: consider partnership building in your destinations to overcome challenges that are out of reach for your business alone, and ensure you shout about the great Nature Positive work you are doing! (Then, return again to Phase one to assess the impact of your actions!)

Adopting a Nature Positive approach requires businesses to think beyond sustainable resource use

We understand that this is a significant adjustment, but there is an urgent need to make this shift. There is no greater threat to our prosperity, wellbeing and survival than nature loss, and we all have a part to play to protect biodiversity and restore nature to reach our global goal to ‘Live in Harmony with Nature”.

» Please support the Vision for Nature Positive Travel & Tourism

» Use the Toolbox and begin your Nature Positive Tourism journey

» Discover your dependency and impacts on nature with Animal Footprint

Daniel Turner, Director ANIMONDIAL

NOW is the time for Travel & Tourism to position itself as a ‘Guardian of Nature’

On September 21st 2022, ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released a new report, “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”. Devised to help tourism businesses act on the very real and urgent need to better protect biodiversity and nature, the initiative provides an opportunity for the sector to transform its relationship with nature.

Travel & Tourism is in a unique position to influence the better protection of nature in every region around the world. Halting and restoring biodiversity loss is considered essential to limit climate change and for businesses to achieve Net Zero. Encouragingly, businesses are now recognising the synergies between climate regulation, biodiversity and carbon capture.

The Report, the first to frame a Nature Positive pathway for travel & tourism, explains the fundamental relationship between tourism and nature and the business case for the sector’s commitment to nature protection. It provides guidance on animal welfare safeguarding, illegal wildlife trade and pandemic prevention, sustainable consumption, and nature conservation in the context of tourism operations. It also provides insight into how these vital commitments contribute to climate change mitigation. Packed with practical steps, advice, and case studies, the Report will help businesses act for nature and contribute to climate mitigating action.

So, how can protecting biodiversity and nature reduce climate change?

Climate change is a driver of biodiversity loss. Alterations in atmospheric temperature and weather patterns, as a result of heightened carbon emissions, disrupt natural processes and displace species as they struggle to survive in a changing environment. The resulting biodiversity and habitat loss can impair the ability of plants and soils to absorb and store carbon. This means that more CO2 remains in the atmosphere – fuelling climate change. So, the more actions we take to minimise impact on biodiversity and proactively restore nature, the greater our ability to reduce greenhouse emissions, and prevent ecosystem collapse.

Travel & Tourism businesses should not only ensure nature protection is included in their decarbonisation strategy, actions also need to be taken to reduce dependency and impacts on biodiversity while seeking opportunities to better protect and restore nature.

How can Travel & Tourism help to protect biodiversity and nature?

The Report encourages the industry to adopt a Nature Positive Tourism approach by assessing operational impacts and dependencies, defining a policy and strategy to reduce them, and identifying opportunities to restore nature.

Managed well, tourism can support the conservation of wildlife, subsidise protected areas, and protect natural resources on which local communities rely. Tourism can help raise awareness, influence governments, and phase out practices that damage nature, while stimulating investment in green solutions to reduce impacts and restore biodiversity.

Nature Positive Travel & Tourism can also help people connect with nature, to experience it, but also to understand and respect it. We inspire travellers to understand the importance of nature and the need to take positive actions to protect it, we support local communities and bring value to the wildlife that they live alongside, and we drive local economies by providing jobs and opportunity, as well as influencing the legal protection of their natural heritage. Travel & Tourism is already playing an important role in the protection of nature, just think what could be achieved if the sector realised its full potential!

Accompanying the Report, is our shared vision that the sector has the potential to become a global Guardian of Nature. This recognises the sector’s ability to generate employment and provide opportunities for countries and their communities; to connect billions of people with nature; to operate sustainably to minimise impacts; and to protect the rights of local people.  The Travel & Tourism Vision will be submitted, together with the Report, to the COP15 proceedings taking place in Montreal this December

Where does a Travel & Tourism business start?

  • We first need to define how the business depends and impacts on animals, ecosystems and local communities. We consider not just the destinations that we visit, but also the actions and impacts at HQ level and through the supply chain. Do the products you sell, the materials you source, the buildings you run and the partners you work with also align with the same goals?
  • Then we comprehensively assess all of these touchpoints against recognised, science-based targets. We appreciate this can be daunting, so. to support you ANIMONDIAL has developed the ANIMAL FOOTPRINT assessment and reporting tool, which guides a travel business through the journey.
  • Once we have identified your touchpoints with nature, the next step is to take action to reduce further harm and set new achievable targets that each department can take to proactively restore nature.

» Find guidance and useful tools in the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report and Toolbox

Presenting our Vision for Travel & Tourism at the global biodiversity conference, COP15!

ANIMONDIAL, WTTC and its members, and the wider travel and tourism sector, will be presenting the ‘Travel & Tourism Vision’ at COP15 this December, in the hope that the role of Travel & Tourism, as a ‘Guardian of Nature’, will be recognised. Will you join us?

» Learn more about ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint nature-impact evaluation tool

» Read the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Report

Helen Usher, Director ANIMONDIAL

Realising our Vision for Travel & Tourism

Can Travel & Tourism become nature’s saviour?


In the coming month, the long-anticipated report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” will be published. Produced by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with ANIMONDIAL, it will help to explain nature’s ability to sustain tourism, absorb carbon emissions, prevent pandemics, and support life. It also underlines Travel & Tourism’s key challenges, which the sector must be overcome, and sets out, what I believe, is a huge potential to address biodiversity loss, and with it, climate change.

These are indeed worrying times – heatwaves are exhausting fresh water supplies, agricultural crops are failing, fish stocks dying, and wildfires destroying vast expanses of nature and people’s homes. There is no doubt that we need to reverse our exploitative and unsustainable ways and seek a future where humanity lives in harmony with nature.

Sounds great in theory, right? But with society and geo-political tensions currently taking us in the wrong direction, could this just be wishful thinking? Or is the solution yet to be fully realised?

I believe that the solution lies with responsible and sustainable tourism. 

Take the last couple of years as an example: COVID-19 took hold across the world, people no longer travelled, and the tourism revenues that sustain local livelihoods and protect fragile nature, dried up. The devastating loss of income and an inability to access nutritious food, caused many local people (especially those that live alongside nature) to return to harvesting wildlife and natural resources for survival. With nature-based tourism operations suspended, wildlife poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and the degradation of nature by opportune industries caused widespread biodiversity loss – to an extent not previously seen.

These alarming outcomes demonstrate the relevance and power of tourism. 

Just through its operation alone, tourism has an ability to sustain community resilience and wellbeing, while also providing for nature’s health. Consider then its full potential if efforts were directed to lessen operation impact, and support nature-enhancing actions. Imagine the extent of the benefits that could be achieved!

The WTTC ANIMONDIAL report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”, highlights these mutual dependencies as well as the business case for a Nature Positive approach. It encourages Travel & Tourism to assess and better manage its environmental impacts, while also identifying nature-related opportunities to restore, or regenerate nature. Within the publication, this process has been called “Nature Positive Tourism”.

Recognising that pre-COVID tourism revenues contributed to over 10% of global GDP, and nature-based tourism generated upwards of US$600 billion in direct in-country expenditures a year, that supported over 21 million jobs, there appears huge potential for Travel & Tourism to drive Nature Positive change. Managed well, Travel & Tourism can reverse the environmental impacts of COVID, bring greater value to nature, and help to convince even the most disengaged of communities and governments to better protect their natural heritage.

Using the “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report as a springboard, the WTTC and ANIMONDIAL hope to work with the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, and others, to position Travel & Tourism as a key player in supporting global efforts to protect our planet’s natural wonders – in effect, to become ‘​GUARDIANS OF NATURE’.

ANIMONDIAL’s Nature Positive Tourism services are available for any business keen to adopt a Nature Positive approach. These services range from an evaluation tool to assess operational impact on biodiversity, risk mitigation tools, such a nature-based product ‘healthcheck’, and a matchmaker service to find biodiversity and animal protection partners to fit business need.

Adopting a Nature Positive Tourism approach can be as easy as ABC …

  • Assess your business operations and activities against the five-drivers of biodiversity loss.
  • Build a Nature Positive approach that integrates biodiversity safeguards throughout the business and its operations.
  • Complement your actions to mitigate nature-related impacts with measurable opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
  • Develop destination biodiversity partnerships with NGOs, educational institutions, or government agencies to halt any exploitation or degradation of the natural world, and restore nature lost.
  • Empower your employees, destination partners and suppliers, affected communities and customers through simple yet informative communication to encourage the better protection of animals and nature.

» Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint initiative to discover your environmental impact.

Daniel Turner, Director ANIMONDIAL

So… Where do we start? 

Baby green sea turtles in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

First steps to identifying actions that reduce impacts and restore nature.

The main message of Nature Positive Tourism is deceptively simple – measure the ways your business impacts on nature, measure the ways it protects and enhances nature, and make improvements until the positives outweigh the negatives. The principle is simple, but at ANIMONDIAL we understand that putting it into practice can be difficult.

Focus on Destinations

The prospect of making all those improvements can seem daunting when you are only just starting the journey. In fact, it may well be simpler than it appears once you understand what needs to be done. For many, the real challenge comes earlier in the process – how do we go about measuring our biodiversity impacts and benefits in the first place?

The key to answering this, lies in the classic environmental slogan: “Think globally, act locally”. Impacts on nature come in many forms, and these depend on the activities that happen and the locations they happen in. For Travel & Tourism, this means looking at the destinations you visit.

The difference we can make

For many travel businesses the focus may be on providing services to customers, however most of the environmental impacts will actually take place on the ground. This is where new developments can destroy vital natural habitat, or existing sites can secure and enhance it. It is where nature viewing trips can disturb and harass wildlife, or sensitively and sustainably fund its protection. Where food supplies can be flown in from intensive farms hundreds of miles away, or sourced from sustainable local agriculture. Destinations are ‘where the rubber meets the road’.

We are all about the Destinations

For many Travel & Tourism businesses, this will mean looking at products and supply chains. In our industry no company is an island – we have to work together to make our clients’ travel dreams come true. Everyone involved in that process has a stake in the traveller’s experience in the destination, and so everyone has a stake in the consequences of that experience. Travellers around the world are increasingly aware of their impacts and keen to ensure that their trips don’t ‘cost the earth’. We have to work together, as an industry, to meet their needs and demands. (The upcoming WTTC and ANIMONDIAL report on Nature Positive Tourism provides a clear and compelling focus for doing just this.)

Focusing on key destinations is crucial to understanding the environmental impacts and opportunities of a Travel & Tourism business. It is likely that operations will vary from one place to another, but it is certain that nature will. A broad understanding of environmental issues at each location is essential to identify the major threats, challenges, needs and opportunities for the wildlife and ecosystems that live there.

Your guide to thinking local

ANIMONDIAL can help Travel & Tourism businesses build that knowledge and insight. Whether you choose to create extra capacity in-house, through local partners or by engaging professional consultants, we can guide the process with the level of input you need. As well as supporting you with our years of experience and contacts, ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint online tool offers an evaluation of your Nature Positive business performance. We also have a network of trusted partners that can provide specialist services. Whether you want to identify the biodiversity at a specific site with Nature Metrics eDNA analysis, calculate the economic value of a particular animal in your area with the Endangered Wildlife Biodiversity Valuator or conduct a rapid assessment on the ground with Organeco, we can help you identify and engage the expertise you need.

Where does the journey start?

As with so much of Travel & Tourism, local knowledge is the key. As we build our understanding of an area, our nature-related impacts and opportunities within it become clear. So, if you want to improve your Nature Positive credentials but are still wondering where to begin, just remember that a Nature Positive Tourism journey starts at the destination!

Don’t forget …

  • Think about impacts and opportunities in the Destinations you serve
  • Work closely with suppliers and partners as a Travel & Tourism team
  • Build lasting partnerships with local nature-focused NGOs and other organisations to generate additional benefits for everyone

CoP26: Mind the Gap!

It really depends on who you speak to, whether CoP26 was judged a success. Yes, the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed by 197 countries in the final hours. And yes, there were some ground-breaking side agreements on coal, forests, cars, and finance. But there remains a huge gap between the pledged emission-reduction targets and those agreed in Paris in 2015.

Further, there remains a lack of commitment from high-income countries to subsidise the lower-income countries that are, for the most part, more affected by climate change. On a positive note, however, there is broad agreement that change is going in a positive direction, despite the gap that must be filled to limit global warming to 1.5°C

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018), the leading authority, states that exceeding a 1.5°C global temperature rise would be catastrophic for much of life on Earth. Some island nations believe that they will not survive the sea-level rise, let alone the increasingly destructive weather patterns.

What is certainly clear is that we can’t wait for our governments to step up and bridge the gap. CoP26 reports indicate that talk of net-zero is mostly just talk, with plans to offset emissions alarmingly light on detail (Economist, 2021). Climate change action has become a political football, with those willing to act only committing to distant targets. So, what can we do when our political leaders fail to take a strong lead?

Businesses must ultimately take charge, and I was encouraged learn that during CoP26 businesses were pushing ahead to focus minds and deliver actions. The ‘Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism’, the ‘Declaration on Forests and Land Use’, and the ‘Ocean for Climate Declaration’ are all intended to bridge the gap between good intentions and meaningful climate action; tangible actions that finally and firmly put biodiversity on the climate agenda.

As countries and businesses – and even individuals – consider their actions to achieve net zero, few consider the relevance of natural systems. It’s ironic, when these can present a host of sustainable, low-cost solutions to many of our challenges: including harnessing the capability of many ecosystems to absorb and store carbon. You may have heard the recently-coined term “nature-based solutions”, referring to the protection and restoration of natural habitats and wild areas as a way to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere. Regular readers of ANIMONDIAL’s blogs will have already seen examples of the evidenced benefits of forests, oceans, and their biodiversity. Nature is an essential part of the effective and efficient response to climate change, and also to avoiding future pandemics and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It is my firm belief that bridging the gap between emission reduction and carbon capture need not be a difficult and complex task. Effective actions to enhance biodiversity and restore nature will narrow that gap. Yes, it would help if our governments would regulate business to measure its impact on nature, and to demonstrate reduced negative impact, as proposed by Target 15 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. But why wait until this becomes law? We know what has to be done. Businesses, in fact anyone, can play their part in minimising negative impacts and boosting biodiversity.

What can you do?

ANIMONDIAL’s recommended path to minimising negative impacts, bridging the gap, and achieving Net Zero:

1. Assess

  • Evaluate your business operations and activities against validated, inter-related indicators to measure your impacts and dependencies on nature. Discover your ANIMAL FOOTPRINT here.
  • Identify where your business is doing well and, where you can do better for animals and nature.
  • Calculate your carbon emissions across your operations: transport, goods, food & beverage, services, etc.

2. Act

  • Commit to meaningful, time-bound, evidence-based targets across priority locations to halt and reverse the loss of nature and achieve Net Zero.
  • Minimise your negative impacts on nature by reducing activities that drive biodiversity loss.
  • Decarbonise your business operations and activities across your supply chain. Shift to alternative materials and actions to reduce carbon emissions.

3. Advocate

  • Regenerate and restore ecosystems in partnership with others, applying nature-positive action across your value chain.
  • Invest in nature-based, community-led solutions that support local people who live alongside natural areas, and encourage nature guardianship.
  • Encourage governments and policymakers to adopt and implement ambitious nature and climate policies

ANIMONDIAL will continue to work with our travel and tourism partners to support and advise businesses to better manage their impacts on nature and boost biodiversity through community-based, nature-positive solutions.

» Work with us to make the world a better place


REPORTS FROM CoP16

Daniel Turner, Director ANIMONDIAL