In the wake of COP26, headlining natural disasters and frequent public protests, many businesses are announcing their intentions to become sustainable, abandon fossil fuels, shift to renewable energy, give up plastics, invest in gas sector, limit employees' transportation... Shortly: to go carbon neutral or net zero. One of the biggest stakes for global community in the next few years. The objective? To offset their ecological impact, in order to limit world temperature's rise and tackle climate change.
But without sophisticated tracking and reporting in place - in other words, without a carbon tracker - these announcements hold little weight.
When it comes to carbon footprints, the old business adage holds true: what gets measured gets managed. If you don’t have a clear picture of the size of your carbon footprint, and don’t know which activities are responsible for which portion of emissions, any claims for sustainability are about as helpful as declaring that your diet starts tomorrow.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into carbon technologies, explaining the difference between tracking and reporting, breaking down how emissions are calculated, and analyzing why measurement and reporting are essential for achieving corporate emissions targets and staying on track with CSR and ESG commitments.
Carbon tracking is a comprehensive way to measure and track carbon emissions from direct and indirect sources. It allows businesses to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions that result from every one of their business activities, and get a clear picture of their footprint and the best opportunities for making reductions.
Carbon tracking is the key to success, if you want to appear to the global community like a sustainable company or industry.
Carbon reporting comes after tracking, and it simply means publishing the data you’ve collected. This helps to set benchmarks for reporting, and creates transparency both internally and externally, and allows for clearer inter-company comparisons.
Ideally, reporting isn’t a one-off activity: it’s a quarterly, bi-annual or annual document produced in a standard format, that then allows your company and other people interested in its climate impact to map your progress and see whether you’re delivering on your promises.
The best emissions reports will not only deal with measurement. They will disclose not just total gas emissions, but also breakdowns of which activities and which areas of the business are responsible for which percentage of emissions. They’ll provide analysis and report on the improvement direction (and offer explanations if it’s going in the wrong directions). They’ll set new goals, or readjust existing ones, based on new insights. They’ll highlight new areas of opportunity for the future, and also look at opportunities for offsetting essential emissions.
If all of this sounds like a complicated undertaking – it is. (Sorry.) But the good news is, measurement and reporting can largely be a done-for-you service. As a company looking to measure and limit its emissions, it doesn’t have to be complicated from your end – that’s our job!
Third party software and technologies like Greenly's carbon tracker will help you analyze your Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions on a daily basis, and create a custom plan for emissions reduction. And, as you’re working on that, Greenly can also help you find verified carbon offsets for investment.
We’re used to corporations and country governments making lofty promises when it comes to reducing emissions. But an emissions target — without the right structures and measurements in place to measure progress and bring it to fruition — is just an empty promise (and could lead to greenwashing).
Carbon accounting turns carbon emissions data into numeric equivalents, making your emissions quantifiable. Putting your footprint into objective metrics gives you a clear picture of where you’re at, and helps you set realistic targets and define the steps needed to achieve them.
For example, when Amazon committed to achieving zero emissions by 2040, this was supported by a commitment to regular reporting, as well as implementing decarbonization strategies and investing in credible offset schemes.
When companies report publicly on their data and progress year on year, this creates an accountability framework.
Pressure from investors, stakeholders, employees and consumers acts as an effective incentive for corporations to deliver on their climate pledges.
And if reports reveal that a company is struggling or has failed to achieve its targets, the benefit of collecting and disclosing climate-related data is that, usually, the data can uncover where the project went wrong, and how to improve it in the future.
Though it isn't mandatory for many companies yet, many governments - and investors - are already requiring that certain large corporations track and report on carbon emissions. The European Union, for example, requires large companies (including financial institutions like banks, insurance and listed companies) to publish regular reports on the social and environmental impacts of their activities
With many other countries and organizations soon following suit (including the SEC’s newly proposed climate disclosure rule) - as well as consumers - it’s smart to stay ahead of the curve, anticipate legal constraints and start tracking greenhouse gas emissions across some or all areas of your business.
These days, we’re skeptical of bold promises, but won over by data. If your company plans to make environmental commitments, the only way to ensure consumers, stakeholders and employees are actually invested in and supportive of your efforts is to disclose your environmental impact data in regular reports.
Consistently reporting on your way towards your net zero targets, as well as admitting and analyzing your failures when they happen, has a great importance. It is an extremely effective way to build a culture of trust, and demonstrate transparency internally and externally.
A climate declaration is one thing, but regular reporting on your climate change progress can be an enormous asset for your brand image. When the world is exhausted by offset scams, greenwashing scandals and vague, empty statements, transparency over exactly how much carbon your company emits is a way to answer the demand for confidence. This can help your business win over new customers, and secure the loyalty of existing ones.
In other words: your brand becomes more competitive on its market, by contributing to limit global warming.
If you’re B2B, it also opens new opportunities for companies looking specifically for quality and sustainable providers, and if you’re publicly listed or looking for funding, ESG investing has never been more popular.
When you conduct a carbon assessment, you’ll often find that your most polluting expenses come from Scope 3 — your supply chain.
Switching to carbon-light providers can make an enormous difference to your company’s carbon footprint, even though these emissions are considered indirect, rather than direct.
It’s estimated that about 90% of a company’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its supply chain. If you want to shift to sustainability model, don’t ignore Scope 3! (And, as an added benefit, switching to more carbon-friendly suppliers — such as renewable energy providers — often has the effect of being more financially friendly, too.)
And carbon assessments don’t just reveal opportunities for emissions savings. Inevitably, when you calculate your carbon footprint, you produce a full audit of all your business activities, logistics, and expenses.
This is the kind of audit that might not happen when you’re simply operating in business-as-usual mode, but it can reveal incredible opportunities for your business (that aren’t necessarily carbon-related). When you analyze every inch of your business activities, you’re bound to uncover ways to optimize your business' production and processes, reduce turnover, cut down on waste, improve efficiency, and build better products.
Shortly: to get a better financial performance.
The best way to start reducing your company’s carbon emissions is — wait for it — to track your carbon footprint. Shocking, we know, but it’s true. Conducting a rigorous carbon footprint assessment will show you, very quickly, the highest-leverage areas of your business for making emissions changes. These are the places where large amounts of emissions can be cut, with little investment and minimal disruption to business as usual.
Getting proper carbon accounting systems set up for the long-term is equally essential, because as your business changes and grows, so will its emissions breakdown. Getting up-to-date information on which activities and areas are causing the most carbon emissions is the best way to keep your carbon footprint in check.
But if you haven’t started carbon accounting or tracking yet, and you’re looking for some quick wins to reduce your footprint today, here’s a short list of some of our top recommendations.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that most of our recommendations for reducing company emissions look very similar to reducing emissions in your personal life. Climate science is complicated, but cutting down on your carbon footprint? Pretty simple, really.
Just like you do at home, be conscious of the energy you use within your company. Energy transition can be undertaken at companies' scale. Look for quick wins — for example, do office lights need to be left on at night? Can computers and equipment be unplugged when they’re not in use? Can you replace existing light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, or turn off heating/cooling when no one’s there?
Even better, switch to an energy provider that shifts from fossil fuels to renewable energy (at least to some degree). If you’re building a new office or facility, opt for low-carbon construction with efficiency measures built in, such as triple-glazed windows, modern insulation, rooftop solar panels, and sustainable building materials.
This one’s an easy one made even more popular by the pandemic. These days, virtual events can replace conferences, video meetings can replace in-person get-togethers, and working from home can cut down on commute- and office-related emissions.
If 100% remote work isn’t for your company, there are other ways you can minimize the impact of staff business travel, such as offering compensation for public transport, organizing car pooling opportunities, and installing electric vehicle charging stations on your premises.
Just like the close-to-home holidays inspired by the pandemic, one of the best things you can do for sustainability is to keep it local.
Whether you’re sourcing new materials or hunting for consultants, searching for local options first can help drastically cut down on unnecessary transport-related emissions, and can also help you forge strong partnerships and strengthen local communities.
Consumption (particularly unnecessary consumption) is an enormous contributor to the global carbon footprint. Buying things we don’t need is a double problem, because it means carbon emissions and natural resources are used up, and it means those things are often thrown away (and end up in landfill).
So be conscious about your company’s consumption, only buy products when you actually need them, and wherever possible, buy second-hand, or buy products made from recycled and sustainable materials.
The waste your company produces can make up a significant portion of its carbon footprint, without bringing any of the benefits. It is, quite literally, money — and carbon — down the drain (or, more accurately into landfill). Just like with their carbon emissions, companies need to be thinking about reducing their waste materials to the absolute bare minimum.
They can do this by first reusing as many materials as possible. (It’s easy to think you’re already doing this, but often a re-assessment of your company’s waste can lead to some innovative and cost-saving reuse solutions.) Even if your company can’t reuse the materials, perhaps there’s another company or organization that can.
After that, recycling is the next best step. Look for ways to recycle as many of your company’s individual waste materials as possible.
If you’re looking for the ultimate carbon tracking and reporting companion for your company's sustainability commitments, talk to Greenly. We help companies of all sizes and in all industries get a handle on their carbon accounting so that they can quantify and reduce the size of their carbon footprint, and leave a positive effect on the environment.
Greenly offers two solutions to eco-conscious companies: our software as a service platform, which allows you to track your carbon spending; and our API, which is directly integrated with your systems for more personalized and secure carbon accounting support.
Maybe you're not in a traditionally 'dirty' industry like the aviation or (gasp!) the oil and gas industry, but no matter what your company does, your business activities inevitably generate carbon emissions, which in turn contribute to climate change. Carbon accounting is a complicated endeavor, but technologies like Greenly's software makes it easier than ever for companies to track their environmental impact, set emissions targets, and hold themselves publicly accountable on the journey to sustainability.
Already, some 23% of companies in the Fortune Global 500 have made a commitment to reach zero emission by 2050 — and you can do the same. Come on: join the global community that tries to prevent world temprature's rise. If you’re committed to reducing your company’s carbon footprint and doing your part to solve the climate crisis, talk to the team at Greenly. We’ve helped hundreds of companies to offset their ecological impact, all in the name of a brighter future.