• Improving Lives
  • Chaucer
  • Sustainability
  • B Corp
  • CSR

22 Jul, 2021

Calculating your true carbon footprint

Balancing people and planet with profit is at the top of the B Corp agenda. In the B Corp questionnaire, impact on the planet is measured in the environment section.

For us this section has been an unexpected challenge - we miss out on scoring as we currently don’t have a central office base. In order to improve our score, we have focused on calculating our carbon emissions and setting targets to reduce them with the aim of being carbon neutral by 2025.

‘A carbon neutral footprint is one where the sum of the greenhouse gas emissions produced is offset by natural carbon sinks and/or carbon credits.’ Carbon Trust

In this article we share some of the key elements we have learnt along the way to understand our emissions which we hope might help other businesses who are looking to get started on the journey themselves.

Making a start on calculating carbon emissions

A carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all the activities across an organisation, or for a specific product or service. To measure this, Scientists have divided a company’s direct and indirect emissions across 3 categories, or ‘scopes’ (GHG Protocol).

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. This is usually the gas we use in our office buildings or the vehicles used for transport.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy consumed by the reporting company, such as electricity or heat we would use to power up the building we work in.
  • Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain. For a company, these sources can be extensive and should be accounted for across an entire supply chain. Given its broad range, scope 3 emissions are often much higher than scope 1 and 2 emissions together. ​​​​​​​

According to GHG Protocol, companies are required to account for and report on all scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, however scope 3 emissions are not mandatory but we would argue that without them you cannot get a full picture of your environmental impact.

This view is supported by organisations like GHG Protocol and the Carbon Trust who suggest that it is better to report across all three scopes as it enables companies to understand their full emissions impact and focus efforts where they can have the greatest influence to implement change.

As a service company we found our scope 1 and 2 emissions were low, so without looking at scope 3 our calculations would have been meaningless.

We worked with a partner the BIMA Sustainability Council and used their carbon calculator from the net carbon negative website which asks for information such as data from energy bills and goods and services spend which it uses to calculate the emissions. We also undertook a staff survey to understand commuting and travel patterns which were part of the calculations for scope 3.

We started by analysing our emissions across 2019 which we will use as our baseline year as this was a ‘normal’ year for Chaucer with an office.

Moving on to 2020, we have been homeworking since March 2020, and have not had an office since July 2020, so we weren’t able to compare like for like. We had to try and understand how to calculate emissions produced by working from home and add these into our calculations. Again, we found these sources useful (https://bulb.co.uk/blog/how-to-measure-the-carbon-impact-of-working-from-home), and the original white paper published by Eco Act: https://info.eco-act.com/en/homeworking-emissions-whitepaper-2020

We were surprised at how after factoring in the home-working emissions and other increases in goods and services in 2020, we did not significantly reduce our carbon impact between these years, although it was definitely lower.

We are now working with the UN on a Climate Accelerator Programme to take our learning to the next level to set science-based targets. These targets are science based because they are in line with what climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement:

‘Through the 2015 Paris Agreement, world governments committed to curbing global temperature rise to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that global warming must not exceed 1.5°C to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change’. science based targets.org

Once you have an understanding of your emissions you can start to look for ways to reduce and offset them. Although this doesn’t count towards science-based targets, it’s still useful for reduction. If you are interested in offsetting your emissions, make sure to do your research as there are many options out there. Our current partner is Gone West who invest in getting disadvantaged youth into forestry careers as well as tree planting to balance emissions. We decided to partner with them because this way we support forestry by planting trees, and we also focus on another important topic for us: social mobility.

To reduce your emissions, you will have to analyse your scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and identify areas for reduction. For example, you could switch to fully renewable energy for your office to reduce your scope 2 emissions. However, the area where you will have most opportunities for reduction are your scope 3 emissions, covering a broad range of categories including goods and services. Can you switch to more sustainable suppliers? Encourage less travel amongst your employees? Or do you maybe even have an opportunity to completely move away from an office? These are all areas that will have a significant impact on your scope 3 emissions.

Also important is to engage your teams on this journey and get them involved where you can. You can set up various awareness programmes throughout the year to make your employees understand the impact they are having on the planet but also on the footprint of your company. Resources such as sustainable supplier directories can be helpful. You can also encourage them to make changes in their own lives. One way of doing this is to recommend the tree app where you can plant a tree a day for free while reviewing some short sustainable adverts. Some of our colleagues have become carbon neutral themselves using this app which has been completely free. Another option is to encourage your teams to use the Ecosia browser which plants trees every time customers use their search engine!

In summary for anyone looking to get started, we would recommend that you make use of the tools available like the calculators we mentioned above. And once you have a better idea of your emissions and begin to identify ways to reduce them, the next step is to set science-based targets. Because so many companies are starting to consider measuring their carbon emissions, collaborating with others is a great way to verify your work, deepen your knowledge and grow your network!

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