Director of Client Engagement, Climate Earth
Climate Earth uses top-down hybrid life cycle assessment to produce corporate carbon footprints. Traditional approaches to carbon footprints start from the bottom and ask what data (within a specific framework) can be collected using the time and resources available – usually focusing on fuels that the company burns and the electricity that it uses, and perhaps on employee commuting. This data is ‘rolled up’ to produce a carbon footprint, but it is always acknowledged that some data is missing – particularly emissions associated with the supply chain, which are often ignored altogether. For a company that manufactures something you can touch (i.e. it produces products, rather than services), those supply chain emissions usually end up representing 70-90% of the company’s total footprint. Except for companies that provide services rather than products, employee commuting is never a meaningful portion of the corporate carbon footprint.
Top-down footprints, by contrast, start by examining financial data – which every company maintains! – to produce a complete but rough estimate of carbon emissions using industry-average economic data collected by the government. This allows the company to zero in on what we now see to be important drivers of emissions, and collect more accurate data on issues it now knows to be important. There’s no point in wasting effort searching out data on every nut and bolt if it’s not material - industry-average estimates for those items will suffice to help the company understand the whole picture of its emissions.
WRI/WBCSD Draft Scope 3 Accounting and Reporting Standard
The World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched a project to figure out a global standard for quantifying scope 3 emissions. Sixty companies worked through a road test to determine what this standard will look like: I was the key implementer of this program at Climate Earth. Our client, Webcor, was one of the road testing companies, and I worked with the company to develop the mechanisms needed to meet the standard.
Once the carbon inventory is complete, the findings then need to be translated into reports that companies can use both for reporting to external agencies and to take action toward reducing their carbon footprint. This represents a delicate balance: external reporting agencies usually want to know what processes a company has taken to institutionalize the data gathering, while a company’s executives want to understand how to use this information to generate savings, and perhaps even revenue. The report must be able to reassure external stakeholders and account for any improvements the company has made, but knowing which of your product lines is most carbon-intensive allows you to make future-focused decisions about both marketing and the development of future products.
I believe that it’s important for companies to determine potential carbon dioxide emission reductions based on a complete – rather than partial – picture of those emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are essentially a form of waste, so a reduction often ends up being a financial benefit rather than a cost: welcome news to a company in today’s economic climate.