The dominant players in the voluntary carbon market are optimistic about the future, despite a decline in volumes and prices between 2012 and 2013, according to the latest survey of the market by Environmental Finance.
"We see a strong increase in activity on the final buyer side," said Christophe Grobbel, CFO of South Pole Carbon, a Zurich-based developer of carbon offsetting projects and a multiple award winner in this year's rankings. (see Table).
The volume of credits traded in the voluntary market – defined as the purchase, trading and retirement of carbon offsets outside any mandatory emissions trading programme – slumped to around 76Mt of carbon dioxide in 2013 from almost 103Mt in 2012, according to a report from US not-for-profit Ecosystem Marketplace in May.
But many participants say the figures were distorted by a series of one-off factors. Most of this year's winners said they expect to see rising demand from the US this year, in part because of the success of mandatory carbon trading in California.
Zubair Zakir, director of carbon sourcing at the CarbonNeutral Company, voted Best Offset Retailer for the fourth straight year, said there is a growing perception in the US that climate regulations are not going away.
Craig Ebert, senior vice president at consultancy ICF International, said the California market is having an influence far beyond the state borders. "It's another harbinger of things to come, as other states and countries figure out their strategies" he said. ICF held onto its title of Best Advisory Service, for the fourth consecutive year.
Microsoft's ambitious carbon-neutral strategy – voted Best Corporate Offsetting Programme – is another factor encouraging US companies to offset their emissions, some winners suggested.
Other notable trends in the market include growing demand for offset credits from forestry projects and from 'charismatic' projects that generate significant health or other social benefits, in addition to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Such co-benefits are increasingly in demand by corporate sustainability officers when they buy carbon offsets, said Kathy Benini, global head of environmental products at Markit, which took the title of Best Registry Provider for the fifth year in a row.
The full list of winners can be found in the table below.
Companies:South Pole CarbonCarbonNeutral CompanyBest Offset RetailerICF InternationalMicrosoftMarkitElement MarketsVitolEcoActFirst ClimateBaker & McKenzieNorton RoseVan Ness FeldmanSCSFirst EnvironmentDNV GLClimeCoEvolution MarketsNumercoGreen TreesWildlife WorksClimate Action ReserveAPXWoodland Carbon CodeGold StandardVerified Carbon StandardMicrosoftTIST