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💫 6 things our clients discovered after they have done their carbon measurement

The April Spark

This is the monthly newsletter from Bemari where we talk about how to not get lost in sustainability.

6 things our clients discovered after they have done their carbon measurement

  1. Carbon measurement is both art and science. This means that it is not easy to compare carbon footprints of different organisations even if they all follow the same GHG Protocol. Whilst there are standards that guide the process, much like financial accounting, the end result may be much more unique to your organisation and approach to measurement you have chosen to follow: sources of emission factors, whether you track distances, weights or just make a guesstimate based on some averages. Which brings us to the next one…

  2. Data is the biggest challenge with carbon measurement of a product or an organisation. The type of data that is needed for the measurement is not something businesses are used to tracking - kilometers and weight of goods transported, whether energy you use is renewable or just covered by some green certificate, recycled content the paper for the office etc. This gets even more specific and challenging where products are involved - knowing where raw materials come from makes a big difference e.g. ethanol made from sugarcane from Brazil has 87% lower carbon impact than ethanol from beets from Switzerland. Accurate data is 90% of the carbon footprint and the work on getting this accuracy is what will take the most time before and after the actual measurement.

  3. The process of carbon measurement is more valuable than the actual carbon footprint, especially the first time it is done. By identifying relevant activities and aspects of the business that need to be included and the details of these activities, a greater understanding of what drives environmental impact can be obtained. A lot of business start with “we are services, we don’t have a significant footprint” only to find out that their digital use can easily be compared to their business travel.

  4. Using spend-based method gives a quick result but it won’t allow to measure progress year on year. Spend based measurement is particularly popular for purchases, where data is often limited to financial records. This approach takes into account industry emission factors per £1 of spend and the amount you spend on goods or services. So if you change your supplier to one with better environmental practices or swap from virgin to recycled material, spend emission factor will not show any reductions. This means that you will not have a way of neither demonstrating progress nor making a comparison to decide which option is better. There is no getting away from the need to collect specific consumption data (better yet - specific supplier data!) and re-measure your baseline.

  5. Lower carbon materials are not always the right solution. Plastic will show up as a lower carbon footprint than paper, especially if paper and plastic end up in landfill, paper will look like the villain (and it should never end up there!) This does not mean that plastic is always the right answer and is a better solution - carbon should not be the only decision making criteria (as “carbon tunnel vision” concept suggests) and context of the use of the materials/ activities needs to be considered.

  6. You do not need to measure carbon to start taking action. Applying the key principles in the obvious areas goes a long way: reducing consumption, switching to renewable energy, using pre-loved, refurbished products and recycled materials, reducing waste and inefficiencies. All these actions will help you decarbonise without a spreadsheet in sight.

For your toolkit

Greenwashing — a topic that everyone talks about and yet we keep seeing more and more faux-pas. Here is a quick self-test to help you spot and avoid greenwashing.

Many imperfect actions are better than just hope

This month we mark Earth Day on the 22nd April - here are 52 actions you can take as an individual to make a difference.

Do you have lessons learned from your sustainability efforts that someone would benefit from? Share via [email protected]

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