The CarbonNeutral Protocol Index

2.3 Quality assurance and verification

Purpose of this guidance

The foundation of a CarbonNeutral certification is the GHG assessment of the defined subject.

The CarbonNeutral Protocol places strong emphasis on quality assurance to support the integrity of CarbonNeutral® certifications. This guidance explains how quality assurance is conducted and the roles and responsibilities of the CarbonNeutral Certifier; the client applying for and using CarbonNeutral certifications; and independent third-party consultants.

Quality assurance roles and responsibilities

The CarbonNeutral Certifier’s primary assurance responsibility is to ensure that the requirements of the Protocol are met for the award of the specified certification. The client is responsible for completing a Protocol compliant GHG assessment that is the foundation of all certifications.

The CarbonNeutral Certifier requires that assessments are undertaken or reviewed by a qualified independent third-party which has the responsibility for attesting that GHG assessments meet the requirements of the Protocol and are in line with the approach and principles of The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

To this end, the CarbonNeutral Certifier recognises three types of Assessment provider:

  1. Approved Assessment Partner: third-party assessor which has a formal agreement with the CarbonNeutral Certifier to conduct GHG assessments in accordance with the requirements of the CarbonNeutral Protocol on behalf of clients, and whose assessments can be accepted as CarbonNeutral Protocol compliant without additional calculations check/validation.
  2. Recognised Assessment Provider: a third-party assessor which has:
  • completed a review and training session with the CarbonNeutral Certifier to clarify the requirements of the CarbonNeutral Protocol and assessor’s role and responsibilities;
  • completed a minimum of two assessments that have been validated by an Approved Assessment Partner and accepted by the CarbonNeutral Certifier; and
  • received formal notification from the CarbonNeutral Certifier confirming its status as a Recognised Assessment Provider.

Assessments conducted by Recognised Assessment Providers are accepted as CarbonNeutral Protocol compliant without additional review.

GHG assessments conducted by the client directly or by a client-appointed third-party assessor require a review by an Approved Assessment Partner or Recognised Assessment Provider, which will provide an attestation that the underlying assessment meets the requirements of The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

Approved assessment partners and recognised assessment providers

The appointment of Approved and Recognised Assessment Partners is conditional on evidence of the following competencies and experience specific to the type of assignment (assessment or assessment review) and type of certification (entity; product or activity):

  • Practitioners qualified and experienced in GHG, Life Cycle Assessments and / or EPDs having performed at least three assessments following one or more of the referenced product standards;
  • Experienced reviewers having performed at least three GHG assessments, LCA or EPD critical reviews following one or more of the referenced standards.

The Approved Assessment Partners and Recognised Assessment Providers are reviewed periodically to ensure that qualifications are maintained, and that Partners/Providers maintain satisfactory performance.

Verification, quality control and quality assurance requirements

Verification is an independent evaluation conducted by an expert third party to the requirements of an recognised verification standard (such as ISO 14064:3 or ISAE 3410) to confirm that the quality of input data, a GHG assessment, or that the use of a CarbonNeutral® certification logo, meets the requirements of CarbonNeutral® certification and is in line with the approach and principles of The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

Verification of input data, calculations and CarbonNeutral communications is at the discretion of the client. The CarbonNeutral Certifier may request third-party review or verification of all or any of these aspects should its quality assurance review surface concerns about whether these are correct, complete and accurate.

Clients should consider third-party review of the management systems supporting certifications and third-party verification of the data, calculations, carbon credit retirements, carbon neutrality and communication of CarbonNeutral® certifications when:

  1. The subject’s GHG emissions are material or in excess of 100,000 tCO2e/yr
  2. Certifications are publicly reported or presented to audiences which may use CarbonNeutral® certifications to make commercially material decisions
  3. Certifications are used in support of mandatory reporting requirements or submissions to regulatory authorities

The additional costs of verification should be weighed against the value derived from third- party review. The value of third-party review comes from increased rigour and integrity, and from the identification of management system improvements which increase cost-effectiveness and improve management of climate risks.

Routes to increased rigour and integrity of certifications include, but are not limited to:

  1. Maintaining on file the data, assumptions, models and supporting calculations to a recognised standard such as ISO 14064-1 or the GHG Protocol
  2. Ensuring that staff and management involved in the CarbonNeutral® certification have the requisite qualifications, competencies and experience
  3. Subjecting the accuracy of the input data, assessments, and carbon neutral claims to third- party verification against a recognised verification standard such as ISO 14064 or ISA E3410
  4. Independent confirmation of the accuracy of the CarbonNeutral® communications and claims

The quality assurance and verification requirements across the 5 steps to certification are summarised in Table 8.

Table 8: Quality assurance and verification requirements for the five steps to achieving CarbonNeutral® certification