23 May 2022

A brief guide to Assigning, Monitoring and Watch processes for the BeZero Carbon Rating

Mani Gangadharan Venketachalam

President

7 min

BeZero Carbon Ratings assigns new ratings, and continuously monitors and reviews existing ratings. All ratings updates are made publicly available on our website, and simultaneously on our paid BeZero Carbon Markets platform. Mani Gangadharan Venketachalam, our President, provides a short explainer on the various processes our Ratings Committee follows when making decisions that affect a rating.

About the BeZero Carbon Rating

The BeZero Carbon Rating (BCR) of carbon credits represents BeZero Carbon’s current opinion on the likelihood that a given credit achieves a tonne of CO2e avoided or removed. 

The BCR follows a robust analytical framework involving a top-down assessment of sector, methodology and country level risks and a bottom-up analysis of six critical risk factors affecting the quality of credits issued by a project. This analysis is supported by extensive independent research/literature review and other documents available in the public domain (see here for our criteria and methodology).

A robust, independent, transparent process

BeZero’s rating process is designed to ensure that all ratings are based on the highest degree of analytical integrity and independence. The ratings are assigned through a rigorous, multi-layered process which ensures that no individual can drive or influence any rating. It is also pertinent to note that analytical team and rating committee members have no commercial interest in the assigned rating, further underscoring the integrity of the process.

A. Assigning New Ratings

BeZero’s analysis of each project is led by a sector specialist, supported by a multidisciplinary team of subject matter experts and scientists, as required. The lead analyst carries out an in-depth analysis of all project documents, independent research, monitoring reports, regulatory updates, and any other publicly available information relevant to understand the risks affecting the project’s ability to issue credits which achieve a tonne of CO2e avoided or removed. The lead analyst prepares a detailed report including their recommendations on individual risk factors, the overall rating and the detailed referenced rationale for each of these elements. This report is based on rating methodologies and criteria that are clearly laid out, published, and consistently applied.

This report is independently reviewed and interrogated by two members of the BeZero analytical team, who can ask questions, request additional information or research to be carried out. At this stage, the reviewers may or may not agree with the recommendations - the review process is not intended to align conclusions, but to ensure robustness of analysis. Once the reviewers are of the view that the report covers all information and analysis required for the rating committee to take a view, the rating report is placed on the agenda of the forthcoming rating committee meeting. 

The BeZero Rating Committee comprises BeZero's analytical leadership including its Chief Ratings and Research Officer, Head of Ratings, Chief Scientific Officer, Director of Earth Observation, Head of Tech Removals, sectoral experts and rating analysts. All analysts are free to attend and participate in the committee meetings and contribute to the proceedings. The open forum format further underscores the transparency integral to the rating process.

At the meeting, the lead analyst presents their analysis and their recommendations which are deliberated and further interrogated by the committee members and other participants. The rating committee may ask the lead analyst to conduct further research, analyse additional information and/or provide guidance to refine their view. This may require the analyst to come back to present the project at a forthcoming meeting. 

Once the committee is satisfied with the information and analysis, a unanimous vote of the voting members is required to assign the rating. The requirement of unanimous agreement provides an additional  level of analytical rigour to the process and further strengthens the credibility of the rating. The new rating assigned is published on the BeZero Carbon website and BeZero Carbon Market (BCM) Platform where a detailed rationale is also made available.

B. Monitoring Process

All BeZero Carbon Ratings (BCR) are valid at all times and are monitored on an ongoing basis. 

The assigned lead analyst is responsible for reviewing all new information pertaining to the project, sector and methodology. Such information includes, new research, new project documents including new monitoring reports, new/changes in regulations, changes in methodology and other information deemed relevant to the project or the rating. The analyst also monitors the continuing availability of information in the public domain, an essential criteria for a project to be eligible for a BeZero rating. The analyst takes note of these developments and assesses its implications (if any) on the rating.

Ratings Reaffirmation

The publication of a monitoring report is typically a trigger for a detailed review of the rating. At this point, the lead analyst will collate all the new information published since the last rating committee meeting, including those they have reviewed during their ongoing monitoring. They will reconfirm that the project continues to meet the eligibility criteria and that all information regarding the project remains available in public domain. 

A detailed review report is prepared and follows the same process of independent peer review before being presented at a forthcoming rating committee, along with the analyst’s recommendation on the rating. The rating committee discussions and deliberations are similar to the process followed for assigning a new rating. 

If the new information or changes to information is not considered to have a material impact on the rating, following unanimous approval of the Committee, the rating is reaffirmed. All reaffirmations, along with their rationale, are published on the BeZero Website and the BCM platform.

Rating Watch

If as part of the monitoring process, the lead analyst is of the opinion that the new information could potentially have a material impact on the rating, or that the publicly available information has been withdrawn/compromised, the lead analyst prepares a report with a recommendation to place the rating on “watch”. This note goes through independent peer review and then presented and discussed at the rating committee meeting (similar to the process involved in assigning a new rating or a rating review). If the rating committee unanimously believes that the new information (or the withdrawal or publicly available information) could affect the rating, the rating will be placed on ‘watch’. All ratings placed on ‘watch’ are published on the BeZero website and the BCM platform.

The committee could also disagree with the analyst recommendations and conclude that no action needs to be taken. 

Once a decision has been made to place a rating on ‘watch’, the analyst will collect and analyse all new information, conduct additional research as required and prepare a detailed report for rating committee consideration. This note will be independently peer reviewed before it is presented and discussed at the rating committee. The rating committee could unanimously decide to

  1. upgrade the rating to a level higher than at present

  2. downgrade the rating to a level lower than at present or

  3. reaffirm the rating at current levels.

Simultaneously, the rating will be ‘removed from watch’. The revised rating/reaffirmation along with ‘removal from watch’ is published on the BeZero website and the BCM platform.

BeZero’s ongoing monitoring and rating watch process is summarised in the diagram below.

C. Withdrawal of Ratings

BeZero Carbon Ratings are assigned only to projects meeting a predefined eligibility criteria. These include documented tests on  additionality, formal audit processes and continued public availability of all relevant information. BeZero Carbon Ratings may be withdrawn in case there is a material impairment in the project’s ability to meet any of the eligibility criteria including partial or complete withdrawal or unavailability of relevant information in public domain. BeZero may also withdraw its ratings in case BeZero Carbon becomes aware of any risks with respect to the ownership of the project and/or usage rights. All rating withdrawals are published on the BeZero website and the BCM platform.

BeZero’s ratings and monitoring processes are designed to provide the market with an analytically rigorous, independent and objective opinion on a carbon credits’ likelihood of delivering upon its promise of 1 tonne of CO2e removal or avoidance. BeZero will continue to refine its analytical approach and processes in light of market feedback and our internal reviews. 

All members of BeZero’s analytical team, including the committee members are commercially independent of the assigned ratings - i.e. their compensation, benefits or performance measures are not in any manner linked to the ratings assigned. Further, all BeZero staff, including all members of the ratings team, adhere to strict compliance procedures, including prohibition from holding and/or dealing in carbon credits, annual reporting etc. These standards are akin to standards practised by financial market rating agencies.

Notes

BeZero Rating Committee: The rating committee is an internal committee comprising sectoral experts and carbon scientists, vested with the responsibility of assigning, reviewing and updating all BeZero Carbon Ratings. BeZero has a common rating committee for all new ratings, reviews, and for placing and removing ratings from ‘watch’. This ensures consistency of analytical rigour and approach. 
Rating Assigned : The project has been rated for the first time and is assigned a ‘new rating’
Rating Watch: Rating watch indicates that BeZero is reviewing new/material information relating to the project or rating, which could have an impact on the rating. This is intended to alert the market of potential changes to the assigned rating. It is BeZero’s intention that all ‘ratings watch’ are resolved expeditiously. BeZero will update the rating and remove the rating from 'watch' upon conclusion of its review.
Rating Reaffirmed: An existing rating has been reviewed and reaffirmed at existing levels
Removed from rating watch: BeZero had previously placed the rating on watch, pending review of new/material information. The review has now concluded and BeZero has updated the rating. The watch is therefore 'removed'.