Such schemes should only be considered when carbon emissions have already been reduced as much as possible through other policies.
This advice from industry experts comes as BP launches possibly the most prominent carbon neutral scheme yet.
Carbon neutral schemes work by measuring the emissions output of a fleet and then offsetting them by planting a corresponding number of trees.
But Elliott Woodhead, director of consultancy at fuel management firm Arval, said: ‘Some environmentalists believe offsetting to be a double-edged sword.
‘It can be seen as a ‘get out of jail free’ card that excuses doing nothing. Companies should also be trying to reduce environmental impact through better vehicle choice, improved driver performance, fewer journeys and monitoring fuel consumption.’
Stewart Whyte, managing director of management consultancy Fleet Audits, agreed. He said: ‘Carbon neutral schemes from any of the specialist suppliers are excellent, but must not be used before there is full understanding of the fleet position.
‘There’s no point in trying to ease the corporate conscience with a contribution towards alternative energy or regeneration projects while leaving the allocation list untouched, and or making no attempt to reduce employees’ mileage patterns.’
The BP scheme is aimed at drivers rather than companies, and Woodhead said it was more suited to the public than business drivers. He said: ‘In a fleet environment, it is more common for the company to cover offset costs as it is work-related driving.
‘One suggestion may be to split 50/50, with drivers paying an amount to offset private mileage. This would have to be voluntary and could be quite administration-intensive.’