UPDATED 10 July 2023


Gold Standard response to inaccuracies in ZDF report on Aldi

ZDF, a German public-service television broadcaster has published a recent report on Aldi and their carbon offsetting programme, which involves claims and insinuations about a Gold Standard certified project that are inaccurate and misleading. We share below our response to the publication and request for amendment.

I am writing to you from the Gold Standard Foundation to alert you to inaccuracies and misleading commentary in your recent report on Aldi and their carbon offsetting programme, which involves claims and insinuations about a Gold Standard certified project.

We should have been consulted during the production of this story, at least for fact checking purposes. Instead, this is our response, in particular to two inaccurate claims in the article.

Claim 1: The new cooking stoves would replace gas cookers, not open fires, which are less harmful to the climate than the distributed cooking stoves.

  • From 9:30 on: Kumasi, Ghana; The families involved would no longer use their gas cookers for cost reasons, as the project's cooking cookers are cheaper: "The opposite of climate protection."  
  • Interviewees report that they also have gas cookers at home, but no longer use them since they obtained the project's cooking stoves (from 11:00 and from 12:21). 
  • Simon Counsell comments: If the new stoves don't burn the more efficient charcoal, but in fact just displace the much better gas stoves, then that's not climate protection. It would actually make the problem of CO2 emissions worse. (11:57)
  • Formula that calculates emissions savings does not take into account gas stoves (13:23)  

Our response: This claim materially misrepresents the methodology this project applies to quantify impact. This methodology takes into account the baseline scenario to calculate its emission factors. This includes monitoring surveys to assess the changes in cooking practice/patterns. In particular, pre-project device usage (sometimes called “stacking”) is accounted for in emission reduction calculations. 

It is essential to understand that having a gas stove does not necessarily mean it is used. There can be several barriers, including behavioural patterns, cooking preferences, and cost, which can inform the full adoption of different cooking solutions. That is why carbon credit projects feature ongoing monitoring and independent verification, as this one does. Again, the methodology has provisions to address pre-project device use for emission reduction calculation. Your claim is based on a lack of full understanding of all the data and is, therefore, misleading. In addition, its key conclusion – that the methodology does not take into account the gas stoves – is false. We request that this is corrected. 

Claim 2: Calculations on CO2 savings could be manipulated

  • Simon Counsell: There are numerous ways to manipulate the calculations and in theory reduce emissions, but if you look more closely it quickly turns out to be largely illusory.

Our response: Gold Standard, and our broader assurance system, which includes certification provider SustainCERT, takes non-conformity very seriously. The claim that calculations ‘can be rigged’ or that emissions reductions are ‘largely illusory’ is unsubstantiated in your article. 
Since you appear not to have any specific evidence of manipulations, we ask that you remove such insinuations from the reporting.

If you, or Mr Counsell, do have the required evidence, this should properly be channeled via SustainCERT’s complaints and grievance process. This requires detailed descriptions of any alleged non-compliance: https://www.sustain-cert.com/home/complaints-appeals/

We ask that you amend your report with immediate effect and that, in the future, you give Gold Standard the courtesy of responding to allegations before you publish them.

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