New Zealand Law Society - Can we offset our way to a cooler, cleaner future?

Can we offset our way to a cooler, cleaner future?

Can we offset our way to a cooler, cleaner future?

LawTalk investigates CarbonClick founder and CEO Dave Rouse’s mission to make sure organisations around the world are using a suite of tools toward creating a carbon zero future, a journey which has earned him a seat at the global climate change table.

CarbonClick founder and CEO Dave Rouse is on a mission that has earned him a seat at the global climate change table. While the core business is delivering high-trust carbon offset programmes for the betterment of people and the planet, he is the first to say that offsetting is just one of a suite of tools toward creating a carbon zero future. Proudly B Corp certified1, CarbonClick is the leading, voluntary carbon offset platform in NZ, and is now one of the leaders on the international stage.

While Rouse advocates for high-integrity carbon offsetting programmes to repair the damage already done, in isolation it could be regarded as “like pulling the plug out of the bathtub while the water is still running.”

Putting our best foot forward through law reform to create legislation fit for purpose

Rouse believes that law reform and “better legislation” would offer a higher level of regulatory assistance to the mission of cooling the planet and managing the challenges associated with our climate crisis. Given the human need and often comfort to be regulated, law reform around climate change could also answer that age-old question, ‘what difference can I make?’

Dave Rouse, CarbonClick founder and CEO

Rouse points to current legislation under the Climate Change Response Act 2002 (CCRA), and the 2019 Amendment Act as directed at large-scale entities and enterprises including public sector, infrastructure, large and listed companies, making up around 800-900 organisations. “With SMEs making up a large proportion of New Zealand’s business population, this legislation does not capture this majority group.”

Likewise, current legislation targets scope one emissions which are direct operational emissions and scope two emissions which are the indirect emissions generated directly by the energy purchased and used by a company.

The exclusion of scope three emissions accounts for around ten per cent of other emissions in what’s covered by the CCRA; that is, everything not included in scope one and two. “In New Zealand, we mostly export this problem elsewhere. Bringing scope three emissions into law would be big and difficult to manage but would make a huge difference to our effort. Particularly as scope three makes up approximately seventy-five per cent of a SME carbon footprint,” says Rouse.

Rouse is keen to see the law applied across more than just the largest organisations to upweight our effort and engage the populous as a collective.

“We need an IRD-type, large scale system. Accounting software systems, for example Xero, are already working on carbon measurement tools. A good legal framework would unlock some of this R&D and could further optimise areas like the Xero ASI algorithms. Funding for this and the likes of MYOB systems would put New Zealand at the forefront of carbon capture. With a population of 5.1 million, we can make a mistake and evolve, which is also why New Zealand has been such a popular test site for everything from EFTPOS to telco tech over the past decades.”

An evolutionary trajectory

Driving de-carbonisation is a critical and achievable goal for all, no matter how big or small an organisation. “Taking the green agenda into the boardroom and giving sustainability a seat at the board table will effect the greatest organisational change.” Rouse believes that as a collective, we need to employ the same strategies as we did with workplace health and safety 20 years ago. Reporting first became routine, and then mandatory. This is the evolutionary trajectory we need for sustainability now.”

By integrating sustainability as part of the corporate structure, law firms can lead by example and carry this across into their client and supplier relations. Rouse encourages this by saying, “a single step can be easily taken without requiring much effort.”

Five ways firms can improve their sustainability practices

  1. Appoint a chief sustainability officer (CSO) to look at simple reductions and measurement processes.
  2. Consider carbon offsets and certifications.
  3. Bring green talk into the boardroom.
  4. Hold yourself accountable and empower the CSO to activate the work culture.
  5. Connect with sustainable companies – off-the-shelf solutions such as eBrief Ready software, climate-conscious drafting, and climate clauses. Programmes to assist companies with achieving their sustainability goals; ‘Think Step ANZ,’ ‘Go Well Consulting,’ and ‘Sustainability Consultants.’

With an increase in climate change cases across the western world, Rouse speculates about an increased risk profile for companies and directors. For the profession, this would mean greater provision for and litigating against climate-related risks and issues. In a way that has never been seen before, the legal profession and the creation of a climate-conscious legal framework will sit front-and-centre in the considerations of our way forward.



  1. The B Corp movement began in 2006 to transform the global economy to benefit all people and the environment. B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. To achieve certification, a company must:
    • Demonstrate high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above. Multinational corporations must also meet baseline requirement standards.
    • Make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and achieve benefit corporation status if available in their jurisdiction.
    • Exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.