What are the benefits of monitoring carbon footprint?

My firm is a successful supplier to the public sector. We’ve managed to stay profitable through the downturn, but during tenders recently we’ve come under increasing pressure to demonstrate our green credentials. Frankly, I haven’t a clue what our carbon footprint is. How do I monitor our impact without harming productivity or our bottom line? Can I make the process a cost saving for the business?


A. Alan Waller writes:

Requests for carbon footprint information from suppliers are becoming increasingly common. Responding to such a request may appear a daunting and expensive task to a small business, with this type of work often outsourced to external consultants. However, the information and means to calculate a carbon footprint are readily available, as are the means to identify cost reduction opportunities that come with reducing your carbon footprint.

At its simplest, a carbon footprint represents the CO2 emissions associated with the activities in running a business, manufacturing a product or providing a service. These include the burning of fuels, emissions arising from the generation of electricity consumed and activities such as business travel. All of this information is normally available in your financial records in the form of bills, invoices and tickets. With this information, a carbon footprint can be calculated using publicly available carbon conversion factors.

Clarity in the request for information made by a tendering body and clear understanding by you as the supplier is essential. For example, does the request refer to the overall carbon footprint of the supplier or for specific goods and services?  Buyers will also be interested to see evidence of the proactive management of your carbon emissions and some demonstration that your emissions are being reduced as this will affect their long term supply chain carbon footprint.

There are two main approaches to measuring a carbon footprint; undertaking a snapshot of emissions for a period of time or maintaining an ongoing assessment. A snapshot assessment will satisfy an immediate requirement for an emissions footprint and may be suitable where you do not anticipate changes to business processes. For most businesses, the snapshot assessment will quickly become out of date, with its defined parameters limiting relevance to future requests for information. Ongoing assessments using carbon management software solutions enable you to take control of reporting carbon emissions by uploading data on a regular basis and monitoring performance over time.

There are significant cost and reputational benefits to measuring and reporting your carbon emissions. These are realised by identifying energy consumption and cost reduction initiatives and through securing business where sustainability and carbon emissions reporting features so prominently in procurement decision making. In this sense, this is a reporting requirement with a silver lining.

Alan Waller is a carbon consultant at Greenstone Carbon Management, a specialist carbon solutions company based in London, which helps firms measure, manage and mitigate their carbon emissions to realise business and financial benefits. www.greenstonecarbon.com

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