More than words: Why we're updating our language

May 2022

What do the experts think...

When Trace was founded back in early 2020, co-founders Cat & Jo chose the term ‘climate positive’ to epitomise the status they wanted individuals and businesses to be able to achieve, with the help of their tech platform and tools.

They chose the term ‘climate positive’ because, at the time, it felt like an accurate representation of our offering - to help businesses and individuals make a positive impact on the climate (rather than limiting this to the concept of ‘carbon’ emissions alone). Our approach was, and still is to this day, to be conservative in the way we measure and offset to ensure we have definitely offset at least 100% of a company’s entire footprint, and we plant trees on top of offsetting as an additional avenue for positive impact.

At Trace, we strive to remove the barriers to climate action and a big barrier we see is the use of inconsistent terminology when it comes to describing how business’ should manage their emissions. We want to ensure that the language we use is clearly defined, in line with what is considered ‘best practice’, and importantly, is widely understood by both businesses and consumers. Why is this important? Because clarity in language allows for widespread adoption by businesses and informed decision-making by consumers.

How the language has shifted

How the language has shifted

Over the past two years as Trace has grown and evolved, so has the awareness and understanding of terminology like climate positive, carbon neutral and net-zero. We have actively observed a shift in the language used in our industry - by our peers and respected experts in carbon management and environmental consulting - whereby definitions for key terms are becoming clearer and more consistently applied.

‘Carbon neutral’ has emerged as one of the best-known and understood terms when describing the act of a company offsetting 100% of its carbon emissions. 
‘Climate positive’ is now increasingly used as the term to describe when a business has gone ‘above and beyond’ net-zero - i.e. they have not only neutralised their own emissions through reduction and offsetting but are also giving back to the planet in order to have a net-positive impact.

Journey to Climate Positive

Because of this shift, we have reflected on how we use the term ‘climate positive’ at Trace - particularly when it comes to the ‘badge’ our business customers receive annually after measuring and offsetting their emissions with us. In light of the broader shifts in the terminology used, we feel it’s now most accurate to describe businesses (and individuals) who are at the start of their journey to net-zero and are yet to undertake significant emission reduction activities, as ‘carbon neutral’, rather than ‘climate positive’.

The decision to make this shift was not taken lightly, however, the entire Trace team felt it was important to do this as part of our commitment to radical transparency. This is about more than just changing the words we use - it’s about demonstrating that we are willing to acknowledge when we need to revise our approach to doing things in order to ensure we’re keeping up with what experts would consider is ‘best in class’. It’s about ensuring that the language we give your business to use is reflective of what other companies leading the way on a journey to net-zero are also using.

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

Carbon Neutral is the first step, Climate Positive is the ambition

Carbon Neutral is the first step, Climate Positive is the ambition

While we will no longer award our new customers with a ‘climate positive’ badge, we certainly still consider ‘climate positive’ as the ultimate ambition we want to support businesses to achieve. Our team is working hard on building additional functionality in our platform that will bring this ambition (and all the milestones along the way) within reach. Our ‘Reduce’ dashboard, currently in the Beta phase, provides a checklist of essential initiatives that can significantly reduce emissions, engage employees and lay the foundations of a net-zero strategy, with future releases supporting informed emissions reduction target setting and more complex planning and reporting.

What does this mean for Trace business customers?

What does this mean for Trace business customers?

This change in terminology also comes with an exciting change to the way we offer our ‘badges’ to businesses who join the Trace community. To date, these badges have been static images provided when a company first joins, without personalised elements relevant to the business. We have now ‘re-built’ our badges as code snippets that, when placed on a company’s website, are automatically linked back to their impact page, and are further personalised to that business with the addition of the date up to which their carbon neutral status applies.

In line with our shift in language, these new coded badges will use “Carbon Neutral” rather than “Climate Positive”.

I'm a Trace business customer - where do I get my new badge?

Your new carbon neutral badge code snippet is now available on the Trace business platform, under ‘Share’. You can select from three different colour palettes so you can choose the one that best aligns with your own branding.

As with our previous badges, we recommend placing the new badge in the footer of your website as a starting point. Here’s a video showing how we implemented our own carbon neutral badge on the Trace website.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about how to implement your new badge. We would love to see all of our customers using the new badge as soon as possible - there may be a fun surprise for companies who confirm they’ve made the switch before the end of May!

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