In a recent study from Lloyds Bank and YouGov, 80% of businesses surveyed said they recognize the importance of being more sustainable. Worsening climate change, increasing environmental regulations, and strong customer demand for sustainable products and services are all big reasons why companies need to understand and take action and reduce their carbon footprint.
But, at the same time, climate action and carbon footprint reduction may feel time-consuming, complicated, or expensive. So what's an accessible strategy your organization can use to understand its climate impact and carbon footprint, and implement a plan to reduce it?
In the last 100 years, the amount of atmospheric pollution produced by the global economcy has grown dramatically. These greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are most commonly referred to as carbon, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon isn't the only type of GHG emission, but we often convert other emissions like methane and nitrous oxide into carbon equivalents (CO2e) so we're measuring everything with the same common unit.
Business, agricultural, and transportation-driven carbon footprint growth is the leading cause of climate change and global warming.
Global Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide Since the Industrial Revolution (1760-2022)
Last Updated: 2022
Source: EPA Climate Change Indicators, last certified in 2022.
When organizations and businesses operate, they generate carbon and other GHG emissions. This includes:
And other carbon footprint sources. Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the international standards organization for carbon footprint measurement, identifies 18 types of corporate emissions, divided into three categories - Scope 1, 2 & 3:
So when we talk about a business or company's carbon footprint, that means the sum of all the activity that produces carbon emissions, converted into carbon. The same way a business might inventory its products, you can also count up and 'inventory' your carbon.
Carbon footprint reduction targets are one the best ways to focus and communicate your organization's attention on climate change and ESG performance - both internally to your employees and externally to customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Carbon targets are clear, quantifiable goals and market signals that align your brand, business model, and sustainability strategy.
Typically, you want to start by measuring a baseline year carbon footprint. This will usually be your most recently completed financial accounting year. If you don't feel comfortable counting carbon yourself and need an efficient or automated way to do this, our award-winning sustainability software can import your excel sheets, utility bills, and other data and instantly convert it into a carbon footprint.
Next, we'll design a plan to reduce our carbon footprint.
Like any other strategic initiative, focus on carbon footprint reduction steps that are (1) high impact and (2) low cost and effort. And always remember the classic sustainability advice: "Reduce, re-use, and recycle."
The "highest impact" steps will depend some on your industry and business model, but always be thinking about how your organization can use less resources, as well as re-use existing resources. Here, there are many best practices to follow:
Above all, focus on what matters the most for your company's environmental and carbon footprint. If you only focus on small, easy wins, your risk of being criticized for greenwashing or fined for ESG non-compliance (depending on your local environmental laws and regulations) are much higher.
At a time in history where we need both governments and businesses to contribute to fighting climate change, reducing your organization's carbon footprint is an essential step to help secure a more sustainable, livable future for everyone. And, as always, if your organization is working towards decarbonizing and needs help with strategy, carbon accounting, sustainability measurement, forecasting, or anything else, please get in touch and we'll see if there are ways we can support you.