For many of us, it is growing harder and harder to ignore our changing climate. Whether it’s fires, flooding, or historic heat waves, very few are exempt from its direct impacts. In many ways, despite significant progress towards global climate action and awareness over the past 20 years, the call to meaningfully act feels louder and more imperative than ever before.
As a sustainability professional, the most consistent and recurring sentiment I am asked is “what can we do to be a more responsible climate citizens” and “where should we start”?
An answer to both begins with a challenge to get “carbon curious” across your enterprise. If a team and its stakeholders are interested in reducing their emissions, a critical first step is identifying where they are occurring. Then ideally, benchmarking and measurement to track progress towards the goals. This process of emissions “discovery” is essential to helping build a meaningful reduction strategy. In this way, your team’s climate action plan should begin with a carbon footprint assessment.
Where Does Your Footprint Lead?
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard helps us classify and consider emissions in three distinct “scopes”. These cover areas both under your direct control such as onsite energy, as well as emissions within your supply-chain. They are also significantly more difficult to influence or account for. While some metrics of a carbon footprint are very much rooted in your historical data such as:
- How much kWh of energy was sourced
- Your organization’s business and discretionary flight miles
Other emissions, such as those found under scope 3, are significantly less clear-cut and will likely require assumptions and modeling.
Climate Leadership & Literacy
In today’s reality of radical transparency, carbon accounting and organizational accountability can cut both ways. While never before have we enjoyed more immediate and visible platforms to share our:
- Success stories
By the same token, we are also being held to significantly greater levels of scrutiny and responsibility.
I remember being onsite last year at a major multi-venue convention to support our clients’ sustainability efforts. We were very proud of our green initiatives. During the event we received a brusque attendee email challenging- “Do you have any idea what the carbon footprint of this thing is???”
Their question was a valid one, and in this case, we were able to respond to this inquiry that included:
- Five years of historical data
- An overview of reduction and mitigation measures
This helped validate the authenticity and credibility of our climate commitments and was useful to respond to the attendee.
At their core, environmental problems are also education problems. For many teams and business units, emissions accounting is perhaps the most difficult ESG topic to communicate and conceptualize. Advancing your organization’s carbon literacy will pay enormous dividends towards energizing stakeholder outreach, elevating reporting rigor, and enriching its participation across the United Nation’s Decade of Action. The catalyst to managing climate impacts and helping protect our planet begins with getting curious!