Don’t Take On The World In One Go – Break It Down

Combating climate change is a challenge for us all. While most companies know the issue is critical, some understandingly see it as overwhelming. For the Business Post recently, founder of Future Planet Donal Daly, discussed with reporter Sarah Taaffe-Maguire how businesses can reduce their impact on the environment, one step at a time.  

Most business leaders don’t want to be responsible for inflicting damage on an already fragile planet. They want to figure out pragmatic ways to combat climate change. While most business leaders understand the issue is important — failure to have carbon targets in place can also impact access to capital, the ability to attract new investors, retain customer loyalty and also affect attracting top talent — some see it as overwhelming. It can be difficult to know how to get started but once you break it down, it doesn’t have to be so daunting.   

Every business is made up of employees and business operations, offices, or factories; suppliers to the business; andcustomers. Every interaction between these stakeholders has an impact on the environment. This may be related to waste, detrimental effects on water, or just pollution in the broadest sense, like single-use plastics. The easiest to understand, and the simplest thing for businesses to measure, and begin to mitigate, is their generation of greenhouse gases (GHGs).   

Like carbon dioxide and methane, GHGs trap heat in the atmosphere. GHGs are the main reason for our climate crisis and the greatest cause of the adverse climate we are witnessing. The challenge for businesses is to meet the needs of employees, customers, and shareholders in a way that reduces or eliminates environmental damage.  

This is where Future Planet’s methodology of Live, Buy, Design comes in. The LIVE Better element is about engaging your employees to reduce emissions in the office and while working from home. This emission source is the easiest to measure and control. We launched a free personal carbon footprint app so people can assess their own CO2 emissions for this reason, meaning companies can include their team’s homeworking in their emissions calculations. 

To BUY Better from your suppliers involves engaging suppliers in low carbon procurement. Changing what you buy, how you buy and who you buy from, can have a significant environmental impact.  

Finally, DESIGN Better for your customers is about creating products with designed-in-circularity and designed-out-waste. Companies who adopt this approach grow market share as customers will seek out sustainable products to reduce their own carbon footprint. 

To ensure the Live, Buy, Design methodology works effectively, companies need to look at their emission scopes. These were introduced by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and are broken into three categories — Scope 1, 2 and 3. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources;  Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy; and Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain. 

For many businesses, the only practical path is to measure Scope 1 and 2 emissions and focus on how to LIVE Better. Scope 3 is extraordinarily complex as it encompasses the entire value chain for a company. 

Scope 1 emissions mainly cover fuel for heating at company facilities and fuel for vehicles, like vans and trucks. It also includes fluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air-conditioning. These emissions can be calculated from invoice details and applying the appropriate emission factors. For example, with an invoice for 10,000 kWh of natural gas, the corresponding emissions will be about 1.812t CO2e. If that same 10,000 kWh was delivered by anthracite coal, the emissions figure would be 3.563t CO2e. Natural gas is clearly better, but renewable energy would be better still. Turning to Scope 2, for most organisations, electricity will be the unique source of Scope 2 emissions and, as with Scope 1, emissions can be calculated by looking at the invoice details and applying the appropriate emission factors.   

Once the business has a handle on the Scope 1 and 2 emissions, they can plan to eliminate or reduce emissions to hit targets. I’d recommend starting with targets that are easy to achieve and are economically beneficial, creating positive momentum in the organisation. For larger businesses, having a platform like Future Planet to map out, and build, their sustainability journey, is often needed. This can remove barriers for business leaders who are trying to deliver sustainability projects but who struggle because of a lack of time or knowledge.  

It has just been announced that the first carbon budget — running from 2021 to 2025 — will see emissions reduce by 4.8% on average each year. The second budget, running from 2026 to 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3%. This requires transformational changes by businesses to focus on a single collaborative goal — building healthy companies, and a healthy planet, by reducing emissions.  


A version of this article first appeared in the Business Post on 7 November 2021. Link to article HERE.  

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