The recent Guardian article “Scientists raise doubts over Leon’s ‘carbon-neutral’ burgers” (20 August 2021) misportrays the climate leadership shown by Leon, a UK restaurant chain, and makes unfounded claims about Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), without having invited Verra to comment.
Leon has announced that it will reduce its carbon footprint by sourcing ingredients as locally as possible, switching to 100% green power and featuring menu items from alternative, low-GHG sources of protein. Leon has also announced that it will offset its residual emissions by purchasing carbon credits. These actions position Leon as a model corporate citizen that follows the recommended steps for minimizing its impact on the climate.
The Guardian article both fails to acknowledge Leon’s climate leadership and also uses false and outdated allegations to dismiss the impact of the carbon credits it purchased from projects certified under the VCS.
First, it states that “project credibility is based almost entirely on the [Verra] seal of approval.” This disregards the facts that Verra has developed its Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) in consultation with experts and has undergone numerous public consultations, that each VCS methodology undergoes public consultation as well as review by an independent third-party auditor, and that each project has a 30-day public comment period and is assessed by an independent third-party auditor. In other words, the VCS seal of approval is achieved through a transparent, robust, and credible process that considers the input of numerous experts and stakeholders.
Second, the statement that “the VCS has apparently since changed its methodology to address a methodological shortcoming present in the Madre de Dios project” is factually wrong. Verra released updates to its forest preservation and restoration standard in early 2021, stating that the updates in question apply to the entire REDD+ framework and will have to be used by all projects (and not just one particular project), and also that they would enable “the closer integration of project activities with jurisdictional (i.e., government-led) efforts in a way that is designed to build on the strengths of each”.
These changes reflect both new internationally agreed accounting principles and could not have been developed until clear rules for national carbon accounting emerged under the Paris Agreement. They are not to be understood as addressing shortcomings of any particular project. Rather, per our press release, they are “the product of two years of work by experts around the globe” and “will ensure their requirements follow latest scientific findings, best practices and technology innovations.”
One-sided and imbalanced reporting that uses old and discredited information to criticize a company that serves as a model for a low-carbon future does nothing to advance real and impactful action on climate mitigation, the need for which has never been more urgent. Further, if allegations are to be made about Verra, basic journalistic integrity would require, at the very least, an invitation for Verra to comment.