After over 12 months of rocky road testing, a rulebook for making high-integrity ESG-compliance claims has been released to stop greenwashing.

On 30 June 2023, the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative (VCMI) published its Claims Code of Practice, a rulebook for organizations to follow in order to ensure their ESG practices are sound and of high integrity.

The Claims Code enables organizations around the world to understand how they can use carbon credits in their climate strategies in a way that is accepted by consumers, investors, civil society, government regulators, and policymakers. By following the Claims Code, organizations will be able to demonstrate their climate leadership, mitigate potential risks to their reputation, and position themselves to succeed in a world transitioning to a prosperous low-carbon future.

With its publication, the Claims Code fills a critical gap, bringing integrity to the demand side of the complex Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs). The publication describes three tiers of claims that firms can make: Platinum, Gold and Silver, each of which recognizes investment in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and removals that are above and beyond corporate action to meet their science-aligned targets.

This work will be supported by additional guidance in November 2023, specifically on the VCMI Measurement, Reporting and Assurance (MRA) framework, additional claim tiers and claim names.

High integrity VCMI claims

The Claims Code stipulates four steps that an organization must undertake to make a VCMI Claim:

The Claims Code stipulates four steps that an organization must undertake to make a VCMI Claim:

    1. It must first meet VCMI’s Foundational Criteria, which serve as the backbone of an ambitious and robust climate strategy
    2. It must then select the tier which it falls under: Platinum, Gold or Silver
    3. To make the claim, the organization must select carbon credits that meet stringent quality thresholds in line with the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets (IC-VCM) Core Carbon Principles (CCPs)
    4. The organization must disclose information to support its claim and conduct independent validation and assurance in line with the VCMI MRV and Assurance Framework (to be published in November 2023)

Commented Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28: “This is a decisive decade and a decisive year for tackling climate change. We are woefully off-track from where we need to be and we need to use all the tools in the box, working at full pace. The voluntary carbon market is one tool that can mobilize the much-needed finance to low and middle-income countries towards climate solutions that will accelerate the net-zero transition. It’s not too late to drive progress, and the VCMI Claims Code released today is a welcome step forward.”

According to Rachel Kyte, Co-Chair, VCMI Steering Committee: “Voluntary carbon markets bring considerable benefits as part of companies’ net-zero transition and as a means of financing climate transition worldwide. Against a backdrop of recent criticism, we are now at a juncture where only consistent, well-considered global guidance can underpin a high-quality market and stimulate the rapid scaling of corporate use we need. The Claims Code will give greater confidence and develop trust in those who use it. If you build integrity, trust will follow, and trust is the foundation of a high value, high impact market.”

VCMI is also constituting its Stakeholder Forum with a broad range of participants to provide a sounding board in which to improve guidance and shaping of the additional modules that will be delivered later in 2023.