At present, designing a carbon strategy is a central issue for many companies. Indeed, a large number of initiatives are emerging, such as the Climate Pledge (supported by Amazon) or the Climate Act (signed by more than 250 companies), to move towards carbon neutrality.
The reasons for companies to integrate carbon emissions into their strategy can, however, be diverse. Whether it is to gain or retain market share, to comply with current and future regulations, to find investors or to reduce financial and climate risks, all companies have an interest in including carbon emissions in their long-term strategy.
But how do you go about it? What are the steps needed to put in place a solid and coherent carbon strategy?
First of all, you need to know exactly what you are emitting. How can you effectively reduce something that you have not quantified? To do this, it is essential to carry out a carbon assessment. It is the first step in any carbon strategy.
Once you have an accurate picture of the carbon emissions produced by your company, you can identify your emission sources and put in place an action plan to reduce your emissions.
After implementing an action plan, it may be that some of our carbon emissions cannot (or not yet) be avoided, in which case it is possible to offset them. This means buying carbon credits from projects that develop carbon sinks.
The final step is to monitor carbon emissions over time in order to adjust, or not, the trajectory and thus achieve the previously set objectives.
Step 1: Carry out your carbon footprint
Each choice has an impact on a company's carbon emissions: the use of one type of flour rather than another, the choice of energy supplier, the location of its site (which may involve a greater distance between home and work for its employees or which is better served by public transport), etc. Various characteristics therefore influence the quantity of carbon emissions emitted by a company, and the role of a carbon footprint is then to account for them.
What is a carbon footprint?
The carbon footprint records the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by a company or organisation. This includes carbon dioxide, of course, but also other gases with a global warming potential such as methane (mainly emitted by ruminants) or nitrous oxide. However, in order to be able to compare all these gases, they are converted into a quantity of CO2 equivalent (written CO2e) according to their global warming potential. For example, methane has 25 times more impact on global warming than carbon dioxide, so 1kg of methane is equal to 25kg of CO2e.
How is a carbon audit organised?
A carbon assessment is governed by conventions such as the Bilan Carbone© method, the GHG Protocol or the ISO 14064 standard in order to provide a framework for its implementation.
It is therefore organised in 3 parts, called scope:
- Scope 1 consists of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the consumption of carbon-based fuels. This may be the diesel used in the vehicle fleet, the quantity of refrigerant or the consumption of heating oil.
- Scope 2 covers the equivalent carbon emissions emitted by the consumption of other energy sources. The purchase of electricity, heating or steam emits greenhouse gases indirectly because carbonaceous materials were consumed during their production. It is these carbonaceous materials that are indirectly accounted for because the simple consumption of electricity does not emit greenhouse gases.
- Scope 3 covers all greenhouse gas emissions that are not related to energy consumption. This can include: the purchase of raw materials, waste management, business trips and all upstream and downstream logistics.
Carbon emissions are therefore classified into 3 categories and it is necessary to take into account all sources: both upstream and downstream. This means that emissions from your suppliers and emissions from the use and end of life of your products are also included in your carbon footprint.
Once your carbon footprint has been finalised, you know how much greenhouse gas your business emits. It is time to reduce these emissions.
Step 2: Reduce your carbon emissions
In order to be in line with global agreements, notably the Paris Climate Agreement, it is necessary to reduce its carbon emissions as much as possible.
This requires setting targets that are commensurate with the climate challenge and then drawing up a clear and detailed action plan to achieve these targets.
This action plan will depend on your sector of activity and your emission items. Each action plan is therefore, in some ways, unique. However, there are some fairly common practices that you can implement in your organisation. We'll tell you about them right away!
Using electricity from renewable sources is a simple and effective way to reduce the amount of carbon emissions from your business.
In addition, the use of energy-intensive servers is becoming more and more widespread, which has an impact on your carbon footprint. There are, however, more environmentally friendly servers that try to reduce their carbon impact.
For many companies, the majority of their carbon emissions come from the products and services they buy. You can therefore push your suppliers to take action to reduce carbon emissions or, if they refuse, switch to a greener supplier.
This is becoming common practice in the industry. Microsoft, for example, has drafted a clause requiring all its suppliers to take action to combat global warming.
Employees generate a lot of carbon emissions, whether it's from commuting or business travel, and this is part of your carbon footprint.
It is possible to drastically reduce the carbon emissions of business travel by using new working practices such as video calls or collaborative working software. If it is not possible to substitute these trips then it is necessary to choose carefully the means of transport used to get to your meetings. The train is the most efficient way to travel long distances, it can easily replace the aeroplane, so choose it to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, implementing a teleworking policy can reduce emissions from your employees' commuting. Beware, however, that teleworking is not a miracle solution, it depends on many factors. Take the test to see if teleworking is beneficial to your organisation.
Your company's premises can also be a place of great carbon savings. Optimising heating, ventilation or lighting are relevant actions to include in your action plan.
Workplace catering can also be a place for carbon reductions. Offering more vegetarian meals and drastically reducing the consumption of beef can also improve the performance of your company restaurant.
Step 3: Offset irreducible emissions
Reducing carbon emissions will always be a priority for companies, but there will always be emissions that cannot be completely eliminated, or at least not immediately. This is why it is possible to encourage the development of impact projects in exchange for carbon credits. The idea of these credits? You fund part of a project that develops carbon sinks, in the form of donations, and in exchange they provide you with carbon credits that 'offset' the carbon emissions you were unable to eliminate.
Step 4: Monitoring your carbon emissions
Carrying out a carbon assessment and an action plan are the first steps in a long-term process. It is necessary to repeat the operation regularly to be able to follow its emissions and thus visualise its progress. A SaaS solution such as Traace allows you to quickly update your data and follow the evolution of your projects in order to build an ambitious CSR strategy and effectively reduce your carbon emissions.
In short, whether it is to satisfy employees, investors and consumers or out of ecological awareness, it is necessary to design a corporate carbon strategy.
Companies like Traace are here to help you do just that, so you can achieve your carbon reduction goals. Contact us for a demo of our SaaS tool.