Grab accused of greenwashing over its “carbon neutral” fee


(Photo: Jon Russell / Flickr)

The credibility of carbon credits is once again disputed. The Malaysian non-profit organization RimbaWatch pointing out Grab, a Southeast Asian ride-hailing service platform, buying carbon credits through the Katingan Mentaya Project (KMP) have exaggerated offset effects and are suspected of greenwashing. However, Grab has denied these allegations outright.

Since 2021, Grab has introduced its carbon-neutral service, allowing passengers to pay an additional 0.1 Singapore Dollars (approximately 0.07 USD) per ride to purchase carbon credits, offsetting the carbon emissions from their trips. According to its official website, the service has successfully offset 2,300 tons of greenhouse gas emissions of over 5 million rides in total.

RimbaWatch concerned that the amount of carbon emissions absorbed by the carbon credits purchased by Grab from passengers is lower than expected.

KMP is a tropical peatland forest protection and restoration project in Central Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. It is considered the largest forest-based avoided emissions project in the world, with an estimated ability to offset up to 447 million tons of carbon dioxide over 60 years. However, RimbaWatch suggests caution regarding the reliability of these estimates.

In 2021, an investigation by Greenpeace found that the carbon credits calculation for KMP was based on forests already legally protected, thus without reducing carbon emissions. Subsequently, Nikkei Asia, a Japanese business media, revealed that the forest's actual carbon emissions offset was much lower than the carbon credits.

In response to RimbaWatch's allegations, Grab stated that their carbon credit procurement adhered to the standards set by the verification body Verra. They also informed the Eco-Business, a Singaporean online media, that their carbon credit program had received ratings and verifications from multiple reputable carbon credit organizations and suppliers. For instance, Sylvera and BeZero rated the program with AA and A respectively. Additionally, Grab highlighted that the carbon credits from their program are accepted for trading in Bursa Malaysia’s Carbon Exchange and Singapore's Climate Impact X.

Controversies over corporate greenwashing have been ongoing recently. RimbaWatch has highlighted that oil giant Shell, UK-based low-cost airline easyJet, and consumer goods giant Nestlé have all opted out of using carbon offsetting. Additionally, Delta Air Lines was sued for greenwashing after misleadingly claiming carbon neutrality in their advertisements.

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