Reaching net zero is no longer just corporate jargon: it's a priority that could ensure the survival of your organisation and its ability to get ahead of tightening regulation on carbon emissions. But knowing where to start is often the hardest part. So, start here.
The new corporate net zero standard from the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) emphasises that net zero is only credible when accompanied by a clear target and a strategic reduction plan. To make meaningful change in line with best practice, you must first know what you're trying to change. You need to look at where you are now in order to determine, realistically, where you want to end up. In the words of CDP: "You can't manage what you don't measure."
Footprinting is the way to measure and report on your business's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so that you can work towards reducing your emissions to net zero. Not only is footprinting the first step towards becoming a net zero company, it can also bring benefits in the form of cost-savings.
Consider this post your how-to guide to footprinting and to setting up your business for successful and strategic climate action towards net zero emissions.
At South Pole, we first guide you through a materiality matrix, which identifies and prioritises the most critical sustainability issues for your business and your stakeholders. By weighing up both internal and external pressures, our assessment unveils the factors that are the most material to your business and therefore, the more important to drive forwards first. These vary by company, sector, geography, supply chain, stakeholder mix and so on.
Your footprint represents your business' climate impact. When calculated properly, it captures the annual GHG emissions from your whole value chain. According to the GHG Protocol, which is one of the most widely used standards for GHG accounting, a business' emissions are divided into three different scopes.'
Scope 1: On-site emissions that result from sources directly owned or operated by you. For example, do you have a fleet of vehicles? Do they burn fossil fuels? Maybe you have buildings with boilers.
Scope 2: Emissions relating to energy you purchase to directly operate your enterprise. The most common example is your electricity consumption.
Scope 3: Indirect emissions in supply chains, contracted services, and product use that are not owned by your business but are associated with its operations. For example: business travel, waste management, commuting and third-party distribution.
The 3 scopes of GHG emissions according to the GHG protocol
Once you know where to look, it's time to start looking.
If you have a sustainability manager, designated green rep or even an office manager who owns your company's sustainability initiatives, it should be their responsibility to lead the charge.
Collecting emissions data will involve contacting the sustainability manager (or relevant person) of the organisations in your up- and downstream supply chain, approaching any manufacturing or operational sites that your company owns or operates from, and asking each team within your company to provide the necessary insights into their internal practices.
South Pole can help you employ a range of approaches to collect the relevant data, including distributing surveys and data collection sheets. Our experts can also review your footprint and provide specialist advice.
At present, many environmental standards require organisations to only report their scope 1 and 2 emissions. However, scope 3 usually makes up the lion's share of company emissions.
It is always worth consulting the climate news for your industry, as well as bodies like the SBTi and CDP to learn more about accounting for your GHG emissions and reaching net zero. South Pole's team of experts aligns their work with leading global frameworks and is on hand to provide guidance throughout the footprinting process. This gives you a strong foundation for progressing onto the next phase of your Climate Journey.
The second step of South Pole's Climate Journey is creating a roadmap with targets that are in line with science, which should inspire and direct reductions towards net zero. We already know that those that move early on addressing their climate impact can unlock the business opportunities in the future economy as this, by necessity, will be low-carbon.
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