Climate Active Certification vs Trace

April 2022

What do the experts think...

Have you been thinking about making your business carbon neutral via the Australian Government’s Climate Active certification program? If you’re feeling a little confused about whether Climate Active is right for your business you are in the right place!

At Trace, we’re open supporters of the Climate Active program, so much so that our team members have undertaken training to become certified Climate Active consultants, and we’ve leveraged aspects of the program’s robust methodology to develop our own (read more about that here).

However, while the Climate Active program has many merits, it doesn’t suit all businesses as there can be many barriers to small to medium-sized companies getting certified. This is where Trace comes in! 

Trace was built to reduce the many barriers businesses face when trying to become carbon neutral and start their journey to net-zero. We offer SMEs and scale-ups the opportunity to leverage the core elements of programs built with big corporations in mind, such as Climate Active, while reducing the challenges that often prevent smaller businesses from taking action.

The Quick Rundown

The Quick Rundown

What is Climate Active?

The Climate Active initiative is the Australian Government’s certification program for businesses wanting to drive voluntary climate action and become carbon neutral. 

For a company to become certified, it has to meet the requirements of the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard (formerly the National Carbon Offset Standard), which is considered one of the most rigorous standards in the world. Once a business achieves certification under Climate Active, they are awarded a “stamp” it can use on public communications and collateral.

It’s worth noting that Climate Active uses the terms “carbon neutral” and “zero emissions” interchangeably as it refers to businesses who have demonstrated emissions reductions and then offset their remaining carbon emissions using verified carbon credits.

What does it mean to be carbon neutral with Climate Active? (Image credit: Climate Active.)

To become Climate Active certified, most businesses will need to enlist the help of an external environmental consultant who has completed Climate Active’s training program. These consultants help gather the relevant data for the application, can advise on emission reduction initiatives, procure and retire carbon credits on behalf of their client and help prepare the final submission. 

Fees for consultants who provide this service are paid on top of the fees associated with Climate Active’s license fees and the cost to purchase carbon credits (more on this later!).

What are the key differences between Trace and Climate Active?

Speed & cost

To become Climate Active certified, a company needs to pay fees for an external consultant in addition to the Climate Active licence fee and cost of purchasing carbon offsets. By comparison, Trace’s streamlined methodology and software allow us to charge a significantly lower membership (i.e. licence) fee, and our portfolio of carbon offsets has been developed to provide access to carbon credits from around the world, at an affordable cost per tonne, whilst maintaining a focus on quality.

Let's take the case of a service-based business with approximately 100 full time staff. If this business chose to become Climate Active certified, and needed to enlist the help of an external/ independent consultant to conduct the measurement process (which is the case for most businesses), the company would need to spend around $25k (AUD). By comparison, if the same business chose to become carbon neutral with Trace, the total estimated cost would be around half that, leaving the remaining $12,000+ available for investment in other areas of positive impact, including towards emission reduction efforts.

Trace’s platform also allows us to complete carbon assessments and purchase carbon credits on behalf of our members in a significantly shorter time frame, meaning businesses can achieve carbon neutrality in days, compared to months under the Climate Active process.

Visualising your emissions & using data to drive action

When a company completes its carbon footprint assessment with a Climate Active consultant, the result is usually data presented in spreadsheets and static reports. 

Businesses that join Trace have their carbon footprint visualised in our platform that can be accessed by team members across the businesses, with an interactive visual breakdown of the company’s emissions across key emissions categories. Each year a business re-measures their emissions with us their data is updated and reflected in the platform with the ability to see historical assessments to help with tracking progress over time - meaning anyone joining the team in future can get up to speed, fast!

The Trace platform - Measure' dashboard

And your positive impact is visualised with Trace too - the number of tonnes of CO2 you’ve offset (and what this means), trees you’ve planted, and where exactly your investment is going via the climate projects in our portfolio.

The Trace platform - 'Impact' dashboard

Help with offsetting & reduction

While the Climate Active program requires participants to secure their own carbon offsets and determine how they will make emissions reductions (hence, the reliance on an external consultant), Trace helps our members with both procuring offsets and providing guidance on reduction, all included in our annual membership fee.

Progress over perfection

Early-stage businesses & SMEs often don’t have the internal resources or are simply growing too fast to collect the granularity of data required for in-depth carbon footprint analysis such as that required for Climate Active. Trace helps these businesses still achieve carbon neutrality by providing credible data benchmarks so they can get their assessment completed and start taking action today, rather than waiting for when the ‘time is right’.

Start your net zero journey today

trace can help your business take the first step on the sustainability journey. We make measuring, managing & reducing your emissions straightforward & engaging

Compare the Pair: Climate Active & Trace

Compare the Pair: Climate Active & Trace

An overview of the differences between Trace and Climate Active are in the following table, with more detailed explanations of the most important areas down below.

Climate Active Vs Trace comparison table

Dive into the Detail

Dive into the Detail


How does Trace’s calculation methodology compare to Climate Active’s?

Trace’s methodology is designed on the principles of transparency, simplicity, completeness and quality. The Trace emissions engine leverages best practice carbon accounting methodologies including Climate Active & the global GHG Protocol. 

Our methodology adopts the 80:20 rule - 80% accuracy comes from 20% of the effort, which allows us to analyse your emissions in a matter of days not weeks. We include emissions from our client’s operations, employees and supply chain, using data readily available in your business. Where data is unavailable we use benchmarks and our own research to fill the gaps so that your emissions assessment is comprehensive. It’s not about cutting corners, it’s about being pragmatic.

Trace customer Phyto Therapy was Climate Active certified before deciding to also join Trace (more on how this works here). When they received our assessment they were pleased to find that our final calculations were almost identical to those they got in their Climate Active assessment.

“As well as Trace’s accreditation, we are also Climate Active. With choosing to become both Climate Active and  Trace certified we were able to confirm the accuracy of Trace’s measurement process compared to the Government recognised Climate Active Certification.” - Maya Collinson, Phyto Therapy

Our model is independently reviewed by a carbon consultant on an annual basis and we are continually reviewing and enhancing the underlying data with external advisors to ensure the accuracy & transparency of our methodology.

How does Trace streamline the process to become carbon neutral?

The Climate Active team is not able to tell you how to calculate your inventory or review your entire inventory prior to submission. Nor can they purchase offsets on your behalf or help your develop a plan for reducing. This is why most companies relying on an external consultant to assist with these steps.

Because Trace is a ‘one-stop-shop’ to become carbon neutral - we’ve been able to streamline every step of the process, from data collection right through to offsetting and sharing your impact internally and externally. 

They say pictures speak a thousand words, so to demonstrate the comparative complexity of the two processes, take a look at the below diagrams.

Climate Active - how it works
Trace - how it works


What becomes ‘public’ when I join Climate Active compared to Trace? What are the different reporting requirements?

Central to the Climate Active certification process are strict and detailed reporting requirements, which are core to the credibility of the program, particularly as it caters for some of Australia’s largest businesses (and therefore emitters). 

However, while reporting transparency is important for any business on its journey to net zero, we know that smaller businesses often don’t have the capacity to complete regular detailed reporting and hence, in order to make progress toward their impact goals, are better off spending their resources ‘walking the walk’. This is why we create a public Impact Page (like this one) on behalf of each of our new Carbon Neutral Businesses to confirm the details behind their membership, including the scope of emissions measurement, the number of tonnes of CO2 offset and trees planted. We also encourage companies to declare their current sustainability initiatives for display on this page. To ensure the credibility of this data, only the Trace team can make edits to this information.

Under Climate Active, once certified, an organisation’s public disclosure statement is published on the Climate Active website to allow the public to see their carbon neutral claims are credible. Climate Active requires you to report publicly on your emissions each year with an updated public disclosure statement and as part of this, identify where reduction activities have contributed to lower emissions.


What do I get for my money?

The Climate Active licence fee pays for your “stamp” (i.e. badge) and simple marketing toolkit. This licence fee is then paid annually to allow you to continue using the stamp. Anything you need for your next steps towards net-zero outside of this, is over to an external consultant to provide, or for you to source.

In contrast, Trace’s membership fee allows you to measure your emissions in a matter of days, offset your emissions via our pre-selected portfolio of offsets and gives you access to our proprietary software platform including

  • Interactive dashboards that visualise your emissions data
  • An overview of your positive impact via offset projects and tree planting
  • Guidance on next steps to reduce your emissions, and 
  • A suite of content to help up-skill and engage your whole team to take climate action and sharing your impact into your own hands. 

And, because we’re a fast-growing startup, we have the agility to ensure our platform is evolving and improving every day to reflect the needs of our community, so the value you get is only growing by the day!

How does buying carbon offsets work under each program?

Both Trace and Climate Active require businesses to purchase offsets for any emissions they have been unable to reduce or avoid, in order to be awarded carbon neutral status.

Under Climate Active, you will need to seek the assistance of a third-party consultant or ‘retailer’ to help select high-quality credits that meet Climate Active’s standards. In other words, selecting, procuring and retiring (i.e. cancelling) carbon credits is not included in the Climate Active licence fee.

By comparison, Trace provides customers access to carbon offsets from our blended portfolio of carbon offset projects, handpicked by our own expert team. This means our team have done the hard work of ensuring the projects selected are not only high-quality and have various co-benefits that support UN Sustainable Development Goals, but also have a range of supporting content (images and background information) available for you to use in your own impact communications.

To find out more about how we choose our projects, read this article.

To see the current and past projects in our portfolio, click here.


Can I be a member of Trace & Climate Active certified? 

Yes! In fact, there are already members of Trace that are also Climate Active certified.

Particularly for smaller businesses, or those just beginning to measure and manage their emissions, Trace is the perfect platform to start your journey to net zero as we’ve removed the most significant barriers SMEs face when considering the Climate Active certification process. As your business grows and your knowledge and ability to manage your emissions improves, you may decide to become Climate Active certified in addition to maintaining your Trace membership as the tool that engages your team in action.

How can Trace support my Climate Active certification (now or in the future)?

If your business joins Trace now, and then later decides to pursue Climate Active certification, you will be incredibly well placed to embark on this process as you’ll already be in the habit of collecting data relating to your emissions and will have a wealth of existing information on hand to use in your Climate Active application. Businesses who are in the habit of collecting data for their Trace assessment will have built-up a level of knowledge and understanding within their teams as to why this process is important and how it works and will have had the opportunity to improve their data collection over time, allowing for much more rich data inputs for a Climate Active application and potentially reducing the effort required.

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