Archives: Glossary


1.5 Degrees 

The International Panel for Climate Change has set 1.5˚C as a “defense line” for global temperature increase. The projected goal is to keep global rise below a 1.5˚C increase from pre-industrial levels.


An act, usually taken by a company in response to environmental regulation, to reduce its negative environmental impact. Abatements may be strategies to reduce various forms of pollution. 

Absolute Contraction 

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to emissions reduction, where all companies set emissions reduction targets that are aligned with the global, annual emissions reduction rate required to meet 1.5˚C (according to the SBTi). 


Environmental footprint (EF) impact category that deals with the effects of acidic substances on the environment. The emission of NOx, NH3, and SOx results in the release of hydrogen ions (H+) when these gases are broken down. These protons play a role in making soil and water more acidic when released in regions with limited natural buffering capacity, ultimately leading to issues like forest degradation and increased acidity in lakes.

Acute Toxicity 

Adverse effects that result from a single or brief series of exposures to a toxic substance in a very short period. 


In the context of the human relationship with climate change, adaptation refers to the way humans can shape their behavior to cope with the impacts of climate change that are already underway. 


The intentional incorporation of trees and shrubs into agricultural and livestock systems to generate positive outcomes for the environment, economy, and society. This approach has been employed in the United States and globally for many generations.

Air Quality Index (AQI) 

A numeric value that demonstrates the quality of air in a given area and time. AQI is negatively impacted by air pollution (such as smog) and smoke.


The unofficial unit of geological time that refers to the current period of Earth’s history, where human activity is considered the most significant driver of the planet’s climatic and ecological systems. In the Anthropocene, human activity can be demonstrated in the modern geologic record. 

Avoided Emissions 

The reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of one solution (produce, service, policy, etc.) compared to the reference/baseline scenario. 

Basin Water Risk 

The physical, regulatory and reputational risks due to the nature and conditions of a basin. Basin risk is determined by its geographical location. 

Beyond Value Chain Mitigation (BVCM) 

Actions that companies take outside their value chain to prevent, reduce, or eliminate sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Examples may include purchasing high-quality carbon credits and providing direct finance for climate mitigation such as afforestation projects.


Capable of quickly decomposing by microorganisms in natural conditions, whether aerobic or anaerobic. Examples of biodegradable substances include organic materials like food waste and paper.


The variability of life forms across various sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are a part of. This includes diversity within and between species, as well as that of ecosystems.


A form of renewable energy sourced from the combustion of recently living organic materials. 


Contaminated wastewater that must be treated independently; usually wastewater from toilets. 

Blue Economy 

The economics behind the use of marine resources; a healthy “blue economy” is one that manages marine resources in an environmentally and socially sustainable way. 

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) 

The technological process that allows the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from emissions to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. This three-step process involves capturing carbon dioxide through industrial mechanisms, transporting it, and storing it for centuries.

Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) 

The technological process that allows the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from emissions, its transformation into valuable products, such as bioenergies or biomaterials, and the use of these products.

Carbon Credit 

A carbon credit is a tradeable certificate that represents a specific amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and permits the owner of the credit to emit that given amount of carbon dioxide. 

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) 

Anthropogenic approaches that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and durably storing it either in geological, terrestrial, or ocean reservoirs, or in products.

Carbon Footprint 

The sum of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and greenhouse gas removals in a system expressed as carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents. 

Carbon Neutrality 

A state of net-zero carbon emissions, such as by removing as much carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as is emitted. Can be used at the product, brand, corporate, and process levels. 

Carbon Offset 

The quantified compensation of a specific value of carbon emissions through avoided emissions or carbon capture. 

Carbon Sequestration 

The process of removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Two major natural forms of carbon sequestration are biologic (i.e. through vegetation) and geologic (i.e. through geologic pressures that produce coal and oil). 

Carbon Sinks 

Any sort of reservoir that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. Wetlands are prominent natural carbon sinks. 


An attestation or guideline that displays an entity’s commitment to a certain characteristic. Certification in the context of sustainability can cover zero deforestation claims, sustainable productions, and carbon neutrality and require various levels of verification. 

Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) 

Tradable reduction credits issued by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), allowing industrialized nations to apply these toward their emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The CDM will no longer register, renew or issue CERs for post-2020 emission reduction activities.

Circularity / Circular Economy 

A systems approach designed to address global environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. It is based on three design-driven principles, which are to eradicate waste and pollution, promote the continuous circulation of products and materials at their maximum value and contribute to the regeneration of nature.

This transition involves a shift to renewable energy and materials, aiming to decopule economic activity from the depletion of finite resources. The circular economy represents a holistic transformation that fosters resilience, business and economic value and both environmental and societal benefits.

Clean Air Act 

A US law defining the responsibilities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for protecting and improving US air quality and the ozone layer.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) 

A carbon-offset scheme run by the United Nations that allows countries to fund greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction initiatives in other countries and claim the emissions reduction to meet their own international compliance targets.

Clean Technologies 

Any set of technologies that reduce environmental harm compared to their conventional product/tech, such as through energy-efficient processes. 

Clean Water Act 

A US law regulating the discharge of pollutants into American waters and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

Climate Action Reserve (CAR) 

A US-based voluntary offsets program launched that establishes standards for quantifying and verifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction projects, provides oversight to independent third-party verification bodies, and issues and tracks carbon credits, called Climate Reserve Tonnes (CRTs).

Climate Change 

Phenomenon of an increase in temperature, observed since the 1950s, due to an imbalance between the energy provided by solar radiation and the energy returned by the Earth’s system. 

Climate Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards 

Hosted by the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), this set of standards evaluates projects through a lens of sustainability, with a focus on addressing climate change, supporting local communities and conserving ecosystem biodiversity.

Climate Finance 

Funding at the local, national or transnational levels, sourced from public, private and alternative channels, with the goal of supporting initiatives for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Climate Physical Risks 

Risks that arise from the physical impacts of Climate Change. Climate physical risks are categorized as acute or chronic. 
-Acute risks occur in a single event, such as severe storms, tornados, etc.
-Chronic risks included long-term, ongoing impacts, such as rising temperatures and invasive species expansion.

Closed Loop 

Reclaimed materials that are returned to the original process from which they were generated.

In a regulatory context, this definition can be dependent on the jurisdiction. Depending on the material and the context, the definition can entail continuous cycling of the material or returning the material to nature without harm.

Collective Action 

When multiple water users in a watershed set up a partnership to solve shared water challenges in the watershed through water stewardship activities (e.g., land protection, preservation and restoration, agricultural water demand reduction, stormwater management, etc.) 


A biological process involving the anaerobic or aerobic decompositioin of biodegradable waste, resulting in a product used on land or for creating growing media or substrates.

Not all theoretically compostable items are able to be made into compost under various conditions and regulations.


The act of protecting resources or land, so that its value (intrinsic or extrinsic) is not exhausted. 

Controlled burning 

Also called prescribed burns. Refers to the intentional land management practice in fire-adapted ecosystems where humans set a controlled fire upon the environment in order to steward the land according to natural principles. Controlled or cultural burns have been traditionally practiced by Indigenous groups in fire-adapted ecosystems for thousands of years. 

Corporate Climate Targets 

Goals set by a corporation to minimize the impact on the climate. Targets may include a variety of climate forcers across different corporate activities (i.e., operations, value chain, or products) and may use various methods including emissions abatement, compensation, or neutralization. 

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) 

A 2021 proposal adopted by the European Commission that would amend the existing Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). The CRSD proposal takes several steps including extending sustainability reporting requirements under the NFRD to all large companies in the European Union, requiring assurance of reported information, expanding sustainability reporting requirements and mandating reported information to be digitally “tagged.” The first draft standards of the CSRD will be developed by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) and are expected to be adopted by October 2022.

Cross-Sector Pathway 

A Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) modeling pathway to “net-zero” which calculates the removal of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (other than carbon dioxide) in the energy supply, transport, industry and buildings sectors. 


The reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with electricity, industry, and transport. 


A reduction in both production and consumption, aimed at improving human wellbeing while also enhancing ecological conditions and equity on Earth.

Double Counting 

When two different parties claim the same carbon removal or reduction credit (e.g. an offset developer in country A sells a credit to company B, but country A has already claimed that credit). In carbon accounting, the term may also refer to the double-entry of the same greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  


Discarded electronic product materials and devices. Electronic waste often leaks harmful metals and chemicals. 

Emissions Leakage 

An increase in a given country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to a company’s movement from a country with a strict climate policy to one with a lenient climate policy. 

Emissions Reduction (ER) 

Reduction of the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere from a specified activity or over a specified area, and a specified period of time measured in a standardized unit of metric ton carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent.

End-of-Life (EOL) 

The stage in a product’s life cycle that starts when the consumer discards the used item and concludes when the product is either returned to nature (e.g. incineration) or incorporated into another product’s life cycle.

Enhanced Weathering 

The technological process of speeding natural weathering by spreading large quantities of finely ground rock material onto land or in the ocean; the accelerated weathering removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during its natural process. 

EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) 

EU-implemented “carbon market” that works on the principle of ‘cap-and-trade’ setting an absolute limit (“cap”) on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases (GHGs) that can be emitted each year by the entities covered by the system. This cap is reduced over time so that total emissions decline over time. Companies can either invest in new technologies that produce less gas and sell surplus licenses for an additional profit, or they can purchase additional certificates to increase their ceiling (“trade”).


The process by which a water body becomes excessively nutrient-dense, causing a nutrient imbalance with ecological consequences such as excessive algal growth. Eutrophication is common near agricultural sites due to the nutrient runoff (phosphorous and nitrogen) from agricultural fertilizers. 

Extreme Weather Events 

Occurrences of unusually severe weather or climate conditions, often short-lived. For water, it materializes in either too much water (flooding), or too little water (drought). 


An international label and set of environmental, social and economic standards. The Fairtrade mark is a symbol that a specific producer or business (such as a coffee brand) has met stringent environmental, social and economic standards. 

Food desert 

Geographic areas where the population of people has a severe lack of access to fresh, affordable foods. 

Food forest 

Also called “forest gardens” or “edible forests.” The practice of mimicking or cultivating natural forest ecosystems for human food production. This concept has been applied to local parks. 

Forests, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) Emissions 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from forestry, land use change and agriculture. Nearly 25% of global GHGs come from agriculture, forestry, and other land use.

Reducing FLAG emissions, as well as enhancing land-related carbon sinks through activities such as reforestation, is an key climate change mitigation driver.

Fossil fuels 

Fuels formed from once-living things that have fossilized over millions of years under geologic pressures, usually stored deep in geologic zones; comprised of hydrocarbons that can be burned to produce heat or power. The major fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas. 

Genetically modified organism (GMO) 

An organism with genetic traits that have been intentionally selected by human intervention. While GMOs may refer to certain breeding methods such as crossbreeding, it most commonly refers to organisms that have been genetically engineered within the lab setting.

Global Emissions Budget

Also called the global carbon budget, refers to the total emissions limit to curb global temperature rise by a specified amount and probability. Emissions budgets can be determined for carbon dioxide (CO2) only or all greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Global Warming potential

The capacity of a greenhouse gas to impact radiative forcing, expressed as a reference substance and specified time horizon. It pertains to the potential to induce changes in the global average surgace-air temperature, leading to subsequent changes in various climate factors and their associated effects, such as storm frequency and intensity, rainfall patterns and flooding frequency.


Lightly used water from sinks, showers, laundry machines, etc. It has not come into contact with feces but may contain other contaminants such as detergent.