The Carbon Column – Understanding the challenge

In this article I look a few key elements to understand and implement before calculating carbon

Net Hero Podcast

I wrote an article about carbon accounting as a straightforward process to calculate scope 1 and 2 emissions, which it is. Using data from invoices and multiplying it by an emission factor. Simple.

Businesses assume carbon accounting for everything will be as simple, which it is not. Many businesses address their scope 1 and 2 because it’s easy, but this does not give a full footprint of the supply chain.

Scope 1 and 2 only covers a fraction of the total footprint of a business. When businesses assume it is going to be easy, they go in with the wrong mindset. They often struggle to get to grips with the size of the challenge ahead.

To overcome some of the challenges, here is what I believe businesses need:

Buy-in

Senior executives often delegate the sustainability or carbon accounting to a department or function of the business. This can be isolating, and the team may only see sustainability from their perspective.

When establishing a sustainability strategy, a business should ensure multiple departments are involved in measuring carbon, setting targets, implementing actions, creating policies, and reporting on the progress.

It also requires buy-in across all levels within the business. From the bottom, all the way to the top. The CEO should have the ultimate responsibility. Without senior management buy-in, sustainability never becomes a business priority.

Understanding the supply chain

The supply chain emissions (scope 3) can account for more than 70% of emissions. It is crucial to understand how the supply chain operates. From gathering of raw material, to the end of life of the product.

Understanding every step of will give the best chance of gaining a full picture of the business’ carbon footprint. Spending some time speaking with different departments and different suppliers can help paint a picture. This is often more of a challenge with larger businesses.

Understanding the data

Calculating carbon is all about the data. Asking questions is important. What data do we need? What data do we have? Where do we get the data? How can we get the data?

These questions are things to ask and answer at the start. These can be answered whilst spending time learning about your carbon footprint. It follows on from understanding the supply chain, as this aspect is crucial for gaining access to the data. There will often be times when the business is reliant on the suppliers and partners, so engaging the suppliers as early in the process as possible will help achieve the best outcome.

There are many other things businesses can address when creating a sustainability strategy or calculating their business’ carbon footprint. These are only a couple of things to consider.

Please get in touch on LinkedIn or email me if you have any other thoughts or need any help with becoming more sustainable.