Who Buys Carbon Offsets?

Learn who is buying carbon offsets and the reasoning behind doing so.

by Greenwashed

Who Buys Carbon Offsets?
Photo by niko photos / Unsplash


Everyone buys carbon offsets, from individuals to the largest companies in the world.

The prioritization of climate change has inspired hundreds of businesses to take carbon-neutral pledges or reduce internal emissions. Individuals have also kick-started volume in the market as more people decide to offset their personal carbon footprints.


While they don’t make up the majority of volume in the market, individuals play an essential role as carbon offset buyers.

Everyone in the world emits pollutants in one way or another every day. We drive cars, use electricity, and fly on planes. By offsetting their emissions, individual buyers pioneer an ethical movement that influences how people think and act about sustainability in the modern world.


The largest purchasers of carbon offsets are institutions, which also make up most of the emissions. 

Some of carbon offsets' most significant institutional buyers include prominent corporations, universities, governments, and nonprofits.

For example, Google recently spent almost $1 billion on carbon offsets. Microsoft has also purchased offsets to compensate for emissions from its cloud computing services. The University of California system has offset emissions from its campuses and research facilities. The government of the United Kingdom has used offsets to help meet self-imposed climate targets.

Why Do Institutions Buy Offsets?

Carbon offsets are a popular way for institutions to reduce their emissions because they are used to finance projects that would not otherwise get funding.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has used them to fund projects that reduce emissions in developing countries, and the Clinton Foundation has used them to support clean energy projects in Africa.

In addition to meeting sustainability goals and philanthropy, many large institutions are motivated by self-interest to use carbon offsets.

Large institutions benefit from how interconnected the world is in the 21st century, but it also means they are more at risk if something affects many parts of the world. Since large institutions have such widespread influence, they’re facing a huge challenge not to have their operations affected by the climate crisis.

For example, Starbucks is responsible for many emissions in its supply chain, but its business model is relatively climate-neutral. So, even though they aren’t contributing to climate change like an oil company, Starbucks finds itself with an equal level of business-threatening risk due to the climate crisis. As a result of warming temperatures, coffee bean and tea leaf production faces a significant drop, with the UN predicting up to a 50% reduction by 2050. These reasons entice Starbucks to aid in the climate crisis battle before it is too late. Their recent long-term climate pledge includes supporting carbon offset projects.

Many large institutions are in the same position as Starbucks. Climate change risk factors motivate some of the world’s largest companies, governments, nonprofits, and universities to support voluntary carbon markets.

Compliance Industries

It’s important to note that not all companies use the carbon offset market to reduce emissions. The compliance markets regulate some companies, which are a slightly different form of environmental accounting.


Carbon offsets satisfy the needs of a diverse group. Buyers range from large institutions like Google to your close friends and family. We all impose costs on the planet, and buying carbon offsets is how groups and individuals take responsibility.

If you’re interested in joining that list, offset your emissions here.