Co-benefits and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Offsetting projects can do much more than remove carbon from the atmosphere

Shaun Mattingley


2 mins

We know carbon projects are all about CO2 avoidance or removal – or are they? Carbon offset generating project developers are increasingly recognizing how important project “co-benefits” are and how buyers would like to know more about them. Many offsetters want to dig deeper into the biodiversity and human nature of the region and the challenges faced.

Co-benefits to a project address issues that are not directly related to emission reductions, but happen as a deliberate and positive consequence of the funding the project receives through the sale of carbon credits. Many of these co-benefits can be aligned to the UN defined SDGs, giving a good snapshot of what the project is achieving and some developers are being transparent in which goals they have indeed addressed. Not all co-benefits can be directly aligned to SDGs so it is always worth checking for more – our detailed project briefs may help.

So let’s take a closer look at SDGs. The UN SDGs were not “invented” for the voluntary carbon market! Far from it - nearly all the countries in the world have promised to improve the planet and the lives of its citizens by 2030. They’ve committed themselves to 17 life-changing goals, outlined by the UN in 2015. These targets, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), include ending extreme poverty, giving people better healthcare, and achieving equality for women. The aim is for all countries to work together to ensure no one is left behind. Here you can learn more about the goals.

The goals themselves are set out below and are headings setting out ideals. Which goals are achieved by a carbon offset project may help you decide which ones are right for you.

Every year, the UN Secretary General presents an annual SDG Progress report produced by national statistical systems and information collected at the regional level. You can read and hear more from the UN themselves on SDGs at .

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