Carbon Footprint


Introducing The Issue 

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by an organisation’s actions. There are ever growing expectations that businesses will take urgent and significant actions to reduce their carbon footprints, and thus contribute to the transition to a global net zero economy.

Questions For Managers

Responsible 100 has developed a number of introductory questions to help you explore this important issue and your organisation's exposure to it. Please respond with as much relevant information as you can. These questions are available via this Google Form.


Questions For Employees

Responsible 100 has developed a number of questions specifically for employees. They are designed to enable people working in the organisation to share their thoughts, observations and opinions on this important issue. Please respond with as much relevant information as you can. These questions are available via this Google Form


Benchmark Performance Statements

  • EXCELLENT - Focusing activities to reduce carbon footprint is fundamental to the business’s strategy. A holistic approach is taken, which includes policies and tools to improve the environment in as many ways as possible.
  • GOOD - The business is aware of the benefits of decreasing GHG emissions and its carbon footprint, and is actively engaged in doing so.
  • OKAY - The business engages in GHG reduction and environmental good practices but on an ad hoc basis only and such practices are subordinate to cost and profit margin considerations; OR reducing GHG emissions and pursuing good environmental practices are issues that are not relevant to the business.
  • POOR - The business eschews GHG emissions reduction efforts and environmental good practices; it's carbon footprint is considerable yet it takes no steps to alleviate, mitigate or remediate this.

Responsible 100 creates and develops detailed benchmarks on each of the issues we explore. Each benchmark identifies and defines different levels of performance as either POOR, OKAY, GOOD or EXCELLENT. A general statement describes those four performance levels in summary. Under each statement, examples of the sorts of policies and practices businesses are observed pursuing are listed, usually broken down into categories, e.g. Policies & Procedures; Target Setting, Measurement & Reporting; or Leadership, Advocacy & Culture. Some such lists include 50 or more examples. The above reveals the current summary statements only. The complete benchmarks are shared with those organisations which, through offering answers to the above questions - and any other relevant details about what they do, how and why - help to shape and improve the benchmarks on an ongoing basis.


Exploring The Issue

Global warming and climate change are pressing issues that affect the entire world. If the world at large doesn’t begin to reduce emissions and their carbon footprint, the impacts will become irreversible. However, we have not yet passed the ‘point of no return’ and there is certainly hope that with the right actions we can begin to fix climate change.

Carbon emissions between 2010-2012 were the highest in human history, and scientists have known for decades that these excess emissions are triggering global warming. Additional emissions will continue to exacerbate the problem, so every country needs to do their part to help reduce these emissions.

This issue cannot be solved by any one country or company, so every company has the responsibility to do their part to help reduce the effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement set forth in 2015 describes how we must not exceed 465 parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It also holds member nations accountable and provides strategies for reducing their effects on the environment. Within each individual company, there's a lot that can be done to reduce emissions and get closer to being net zero.

Net zero is a step above being carbon neutral. While carbon neutral refers to not increasing your carbon emissions and reducing emissions with offsets, net zero emissions takes into account everything that carbon neutral does, as well as scope three emissions. Scope three emissions are those emissions that are caused by assets that your company does not own or control. Examples of scope three emissions include upstream activities such as leased assets or employee commuting, while examples of downstream activities include the use of sold products and company investments. These are harder to calculate and control, so achieving net zero emissions is much more difficult to do than carbon neutral.

However, net zero is ultimately what we need to achieve if we wish to stop or reverse climate change going forward.

In general, net zero means doing everything in your power to reduce carbon emissions, and using offsetting as a last resort. Given that scope three must be taken into account for achieving net zero emissions, it is harder to achieve and must be a deliberate action taken by the company. Companies looking to become net zero have to identify where their carbon emissions lie and how they can reduce them. This can include restructuring supply chains in order to use other companies that go out of their way to have lower carbon emissions.

There are multiple reasons for companies to be net zero. First, being net zero can actually help to reduce costs by increasing efficiency and reducing consumption. Being net zero can improve brand image, attract new customers, and satisfy existing stakeholders, as being sustainable and reducing carbon emissions is becoming a strong selling point to customers. Also, many new employees are focusing on sustainability as a part of their job search, preferring to work at more sustainable companies. Finally, being net zero is required to be considered for many government contracts as outlined in PPN 0621.

There are a lot of things your organisation can do to help reduce its carbon footprint. Some of these include reducing the emissions from where you have your money, including the emissions from your investments in your pension fund or your bank. Also, changing your spending habits to more sustainable practices such as buying locally or choosing more sustainable options in terms of food, energy, and travel.


Definitions 

The 1.5 Alive Pact was made during COP26, reaffirming the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement “to pursue efforts” to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.

Carbon Footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.

Carbon Neutral is a policy of not increasing carbon emissions and achieving reduction through offsets.

Climate Change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.

Climate Science is an umbrella term referring to scientific disciplines studying aspects of the Earth’s climate. A reflection on the methodology used to reach various conclusions about how the climate may evolve and what we should do about it.

Downstream Emissions are emissions released as a result of your product or service existing.

Global Warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.

In a greenhouse, sunlight enters, and heat is retained. The Greenhouse Effect describes a similar phenomenon on a planetary scale but, instead of the glass of a greenhouse, certain gases trap the sun's heat which results in increasingly raising global temperatures.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG protocol) establishes comprehensive global standardised frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions.

Greenhouse Gases are gases that absorb and emit radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect. Most common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The International Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
Net Zero is the balance between greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

PAS 2060 is the international standard carbon neutral certification that demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to decarbonisation, and the neutralisation of remaining impact through the support of environmental projects.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement among the leaders of over 180 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius

Scope 1 Emissions are direct emissions that come from operations owned or controlled by your company.

Scope 2 Emissions are indirect emissions coming from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating or cooling by your company.

Scope 3 Emissions are all other indirect emissions that occur in the value chain, including both upstream and downstream emissions.

Upstream Emissions are emissions that are contributing towards the creation of your product or service.


Links, News And Further Resources

ARTICLES

UK Rewriting Climate Plan But Keeping Emissions Goal The Same - 22 September 2022

This article goes over the UK updating their climate plans in order to cut emissions 68% by 2030. This is in line with the Paris Agreement and will be necessary to help stay under the 1.5 degrees Celsius increase compared to pre-industrial levels. This update comes during the severe energy crisis that has been increasing pressure to move to more green energy.

British Standards Certified TDCX’s Carbon Footprint Reporting - 22 September 2022

This article explores how over 300 companies have joined The Climate Pledge and are agreeing to go net-zero carbon by 2040. It also goes into how these companies are being held accountable through different sustainability reporting measures. Large companies such as Microsoft and Amazon joining this pledge is very promising for the future of our climate as it shows a strong push for more companies to join and focus on reducing carbon emissions.

Small Businesses Face Recurring Barriers To Carbon Reduction - 23 February 2022

The SME Climate Hub researched the most common barriers preventing SMEs from reducing their carbon emissions and provides potential solutions to businesses facing similar barriers.

How Can Companies Reduce Their Carbon Footprint - 19 October 2022

The University of Tennessee Knoxville does intensive research into supply chains and how these affect the carbon footprint of companies. This resource gives multiple ways companies can reduce their carbon footprint from the supply chain perspective, which is very helpful for reducing scope 3 emissions, which are necessary for being net zero.

RESOURCES

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol

GHG Protocol establishes comprehensive global standardised frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions. This resource provides information on international standards regarding net zero and tools that businesses can use to structure their environmental impact plans.

Inside Climate News

A Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonprofit news agency called Inside Climate News offers crucial reporting and analysis on climate change, energy, and the environment. Keep up to date on the latest news on climate change and climate activism around the world here. 

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