Credible Carbon Reporting: The Importance of Verification

Authored by: Rebecca Berg, Policy Associate, The Climate Registry


As we get closer to the critical thresholds for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 globally, more and more companies and organizations are taking the necessary step to address their own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With the rise of organizations publicly announcing net-zero emissions targets, the public has become increasingly concerned about the reliability of companies following through to achieve these goals. Without evidence of organizations’ progress in achieving their ambitious sustainability goals, stakeholders may become skeptical that it is just another instance of greenwashing to make a company appear more environmentally-conscious than they are. These doubts can be alleviated by reporting complete and consistent GHG emissions inventories, demonstrating a downward trajectory of an organization’s emissions as they implement the GHG mitigation strategies outlined in their sustainability or climate action plans. However, the public may still question the validity of data underlying the organization’s GHG accounting methodologies. In order to provide assurance that the data is accurate, complete, and converted into emissions using acceptable methodologies, it is essential to have that data verified by a qualified third party. 

Ensuring accurate emissions data not only provides stakeholders with the peace of mind that a company is approaching their sustainability efforts with integrity and transparency, but it is also a key factor to reliably track progress towards reductions in GHG emissions. Accurate data helps organizations understand the true progress being made towards sustainability goals and allows them to evaluate their efforts and adjust targets accordingly. Verified data ensures that the emissions reporting down the line are built on accurate data, which is essential to maintaining certainty that targets are on track and aligned with overall goals. This is especially true when defining an emissions baseline to guide sustainability and net-zero goals. Confidence in the data provides opportunities to identify potential areas for emissions reductions by comparing performance across facilities. Additionally, verifying the credibility of data to demonstrate progress towards sustainability goals signifies a priority of transparency and accountability within an organization. Using verified data to support sustainability initiatives allows an organization to share accurate progress with executives, shareholders, and stakeholders, ultimately limiting potential backlash, controversy, or claims of greenwashing and exemplifying climate leadership among other organizations and companies.

In addition to the value of informed decision-making and added trust from stakeholders, with mandatory GHG disclosure regulations being enacted around the world and incorporating assurance requirements, reporting and verifying GHG inventories to limited or reasonable levels of assurance can help prepare for compliance with current or future disclosure mandates. In situations where assurance requirements will be phased in over time, it is beneficial for an organization to be proactive about verifying emissions data before the mandates become effective. This can allow organizations to identify material errors in data collection and processing early and voluntarily, before they result in missing deadlines and penalties from the governing body to which they must report. Building sustainability efforts, particularly net-zero and carbon-neutral targets, on robust, verified data is the key to building a credible, climate-forward organization, and is the foundation for what we at The Climate Registry (TCR) strive to support our members to achieve.

TCR strongly encourages organizations reporting their GHG emissions to verify the accuracy of their emissions data and use the data to make informed decisions towards achieving climate and sustainability goals to the fullest extent possible. The cornerstone of success in emissions reporting is the ability to ensure credibility of data and transparency of processes to executives, customers, stakeholders, and shareholders. With the confidence that they are working with accurate data, organizations can tackle their carbon footprint with confidence. TCR prides ourselves on our motto of credible carbon reporting, not for our own piece of mind, but for the assurance that our members, who we know are committed to sustainability and climate leadership, can be confident in their data. In order to ensure that our members are receiving an accurate verification of their GHG inventories, TCR works exclusively with verifiers that have been accredited to perform verification by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB). ANAB accredits organizations that validate and verify organizational carbon footprints as well as offset projects. Verification bodies are assessed against the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14065 standard, which specifies requirements and general principles for organizations validating and verifying environmental information. Gaining accreditation to this standard is a rigorous process encompassing document reviews, witnessing verifications, and ongoing monitoring, all designed to ensure an organization meets high standards and can be counted on to deliver an impartial and accurate verification. The requirement for verifiers to be accredited by ANAB ensures that they meet TCR program requirements, use correct verification methods, and are competent to undertake the process of verification. In addition, verifiers are being accredited to the same international standard used by verifiers across the globe. This provides assurance that a verification conducted for TCR follows the same process as one conducted to ISO standards anywhere in the world. Verifying inventories with an accredited verification body provides an independent review of the data and processes taken to gather that data, and gives the organization confidence that the data is true and correct.

TCR has developed a protocol, the General Verification Protocol, to provide a clear standard to make verification more accessible to a wider group of organizations. The original version of the protocol was released in October 2002, and TCR has provided regular updates to the protocol to ensure our members and stakeholders have the most up-to-date information and best practices. Our protocol is built on international standards, with additional requirements on materiality thresholds, specifications about the verification cycle to minimize conflicts of interest, and guidance on the appropriate uses for the different levels of verification. TCR strives to provide guidance and support to make the process of verification standardized, clear, and easy to follow. This not only improves the process for those who are mandated to report and verify, but also makes verification more accessible to those who are voluntarily engaging in this process. We are committed to providing a transparent process with step-by-step guidance on how to achieve these standards in order to streamline verification and improve the value of this important step on the road to a sustainable, net-zero economy. 

Recently, TCR released an update to our General Verification Protocol. Credible carbon accounting, which encompasses measuring, reporting, and disclosing verified emissions, is an evolving practice. GHG accounting guidance and best practices are updated as we understand more how to refine the processes and utilize the data to the best of our abilities. It is essential for us to keep up with advances and changes in this evolving discipline, while also ensuring continued alignment with international standards. It is also important for us to engage with our members and stakeholders to receive their feedback on what aspects of the process are most relevant to them and where our guidance is most valuable. We use updates to our protocols as an opportunity to solicit feedback from members and verification bodies about the verification process and where TCR can lend more support and guidance. Some key updates to the General Verification Protocol include an update to the format to align with our General Reporting Protocol, updated principles of verification to align with the most recent changes to the ISO 14064-3 standard requirements for types of verification engagements, more details to distinguish the levels of assurance, and specifications on qualitative versus quantitative materiality. The full updated version of the General Verification Protocol 3.0 is available and can be found on our website.

If your company or organization is committed to achieving sustainability and net-zero goals in a transparent and credible manner, please contact us at to learn more about how we can support your efforts.