Decoding the Recent VCMI Guidance for Credible Carbon Claims

December 10, 2023



We recently published a blog breaking down the Voluntary Carbon Markets Initiative and what impact this has on businesses. In November, the VCMI published new guidance that introduces a new set of measures aimed at addressing credibility in the voluntary carbon market. These initiatives are designed to enhance transparency, consistency, and integrity in the use of carbon credits, providing companies with a clearer framework for making claims about their carbon offset efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at these new measures and how they will affect carbon credit buyers.

VCMI Claims rebranded as “Carbon Integrity Claims,” with specific logos and branding guidelines for companies to use

The Carbon Integrity Claims, categorized into Silver, Gold, or Platinum tiers, signify the extent to which companies are going beyond science-aligned emissions reductions through the use of high-quality offsets. The tiers have specific thresholds, with Platinum being the most aspirational, requiring the purchase and retirement of high-quality carbon credits equal to or greater than 100% of the remaining emissions. The lowered thresholds provide more companies with the opportunity to make claims and participate in the voluntary carbon markets.

Additionally, the minimum volume of carbon credits required to make a Silver and Gold claim has been reduced. CORSIA-eligible credits remain a viable choice, especially if the specific activity type/methodology has not been assessed by the International Carbon Voluntary Market (ICVCM), and until January 1, 2026, companies have the flexibility to use pre-existing contractually committed carbon credits, regardless of CORSIA eligibility or Core Carbon Principles approval. The key condition is that companies must publicly disclose how these credits underwent a due diligence process aligned with ICVCM CCP. It's worth noting that these credits must be acquired through pre-existing contracts to qualify for this option.

Companies can now start making VCMI Claims since the Monitoring, Reporting, Assurance (MRA) Framework has been released

The MRA Framework is a comprehensive set of metrics, requirements, and standards that companies can use to substantiate their Carbon Integrity Claims. The framework will provide details on what, how, when, and where companies need to submit information to make a claim as well as guidance on accepted assurance standards and competencies to be used. To complement this, a digital VCMI Claims Reporting Platform has been launched where companies can submit evidence to prove that they have met VCMI’s requirements.

Requirements for companies to make VCMI Claims have been made more flexible and accessible for businesses while maintaining the ambition to decarbonize

Under the updated guidelines from the VCMI, companies are no longer obligated to exclusively establish near-term science-based targets aligned with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Instead, "equivalent" science-aligned targets are deemed sufficient, with the specific definition of equivalence set to be determined by VCMI in 2024.

As part of the four-step process to make a VCMI claim, companies are required to showcase progress toward their decarbonization targets. The recent VCMI update has streamlined the public disclosure requirements, requiring companies to report at least one metric for each category rather than all listed points.

Furthermore, companies must conduct a self-assessment of progress, reporting GHG emissions reductions as a percentage of total GHG emissions in the base year and providing an explanation for the progress made or not made toward near-term emissions reduction targets.

VCMI recognizes the ongoing need for additional efforts to ascertain whether companies are on track to meet their near-term targets, particularly in the disaggregation of these targets among Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

Scope 3 Flexibility Claim helps companies bridge the gap between their actual emissions and their Scope 3 targets

VCMI has introduced a beta version of the Scope 3 Flexibility Claim which is a practical step aimed at helping companies take responsibility for their Scope 3 emissions through high-quality carbon credits. Now, organizations are no longer bound to only near-term science-based targets; "equivalent" science-aligned targets are now acceptable.

This claim is expected to be finalized by the third quarter of 2024 and addresses the challenge of bridging the gap to Scope 3 emissions using credits. However, the carbon credits “must represent real, verified GHG reductions and removals and apply robust environmental and social safeguards.” VCMI guidance maintains that they must be used by companies in addition to – not instead of – decarbonization as part of their net zero transitions, and associated claims must be credible.

Market recovery and trust building

The recent VCMI guidance, and other initiatives like it, are seen as essential for restoring trust and confidence in carbon markets. It provides businesses with a ready-to-use framework, enhancing their ability to engage in credible and impactful carbon offset activities while navigating the evolving landscape of environmental responsibility.

It also represents a significant milestone for businesses navigating the complexities of carbon markets. Businesses now have a well-defined pathway to making high-integrity claims about their use of carbon credits, they have more flexibility and transparency in showcasing their commitment to science-aligned emissions reductions, and now have a practical solution for addressing Scope 3 emissions through high-quality carbon credits.

As companies embark on making VCMI Claims, the streamlined public disclosure requirements and more accessible guidelines ensure a balanced approach, allowing businesses to demonstrate progress while maintaining ambition in their decarbonization journey.

Partner with ACT for expert voluntary carbon markets guidance

Just as advancements in emissions accounting and reduction methods are always improving, global guidelines and best practices will, too. If your business is interested in accounting for and reporting its greenhouse gas emissions, or you want to learn more about high-quality carbon credits and how they can enable your business to contribute to beyond value chain mitigation and support meaningful sustainable impact, get in touch with us at

Our global team of market experts diligently tracks guidance changes made by all the leading frameworks to ensure the carbon credits you’re sourcing will support your goals. We also have the sourcing network, knowledge, and experience to help you navigate complex markets and can create and execute a procurement strategy tailored to achieve your unique sustainability goals.