Climate change is recognised as a considerable threat to the stability of the global economy. Efforts are underway internationally, and in South Africa, to reduce the use of fossil fuels and to develop initiatives that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Individual companies are coming under increasing pressure from both shareholders and customers to play an active role in reducing the carbon footprint of their operations and products.
The first step taken by most organisations in responding to these pressures is to determine their carbon footprint. This step is essential in helping the organisation to understand their contribution to global warming, identify where their biggest emissions come from, and enable them to be innovative in exploring opportunities for reducing their emissions.
Potential benefits of footprinting and reducing carbon emissions include:
- Cost savings (saving fuel and electricity saves money!);
- Readiness to respond to mandatory emission reduction and reporting requirements;
- Potential participation in greenhouse gas trading markets;
- Reputational benefits associated with being an early and pro-active mover on emissions reductions and reporting; and
- Identifying marketing and branding opportunities, e.g. marketing products and services as “low carbon”.
Carbon footprint services
The Green House can assist in the quantification of the following carbon footprints:
- Organisation/company carbon footprints according to the WRI/WBCSD Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard and ISO 14064-1:2006 Requirements for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions
- Value chain carbon footprints according to the WRI/WBCSD Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard.
- Product carbon footprints according to the WRI/WBCSD Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard and PAS2050 Specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services
In many cases, calculation of a carbon footprint is straightforward. However, there are issues around data availability, complex processes, composite products, uncertainty and allocation of emissions where our technical expertise and experience in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), processes and supply chains can be invaluable.
What also sets us apart from other consultancies is that The Green House develops and uses South African-specific emission factors wherever possible in the calculation of carbon footprints, rather than relying on international data sets that are often not applicable to local conditions. These emission factors are constantly updated to reflect changes in data or methodologies, or as new emission factors are added to our database. We can also derive emission factors for specific applications.
The Green House can also assist with data collection and developing data management strategies, particularly for companies who are starting out on this journey.
Verification of calculated carbon footprints according to ISO 14064-3:2006 and ISO 14065:2007 can be arranged.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol defines greenhouse gas emissions according to 3 scopes
which have become common to many people’s understanding of carbon footprints:
- Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions from sources owned or controlled by the company;
- Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from generation of purchased electricity, steam or cooling consumed by the company, but not generated in-house (emissions occur at the power station or heat/cooling source);
- Scope 3: Other indirect GHG emissions that occur as “a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company” (upstream/downstream of business).
It is mandatory under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to include Scope 1 and 2 emissions in a site or company carbon footprint. Whilst reporting of the life cycle or Scope 3 emissions are becoming increasingly popular with increasing awareness that often the greatest scope for emissions reductions within a company lies outside their particular manufacturing facility. Both the value chain carbon footprint and product carbon footprint include all 3 scopes of emissions, but they have different focuses of assessment. The value chain has an organisation or company focus, whist the product carbon footprint has a product or activity focus.
Organisation carbon footprints:
A site or company carbon footprint quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions associated with activities directly or indirectly under the control of the company as a whole.
The Green House consultants are experienced in providing company carbon footprints, but believe that providing the numbers is only the first step. The Green House works with clients to identify opportunities for improvement and can provide them with carbon footprint calculators tailored to their operations, so that they may undertake their own assessments in future years.
Value chain carbon footprints
Scope 3, or value chain, carbon footprints quantify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with activities directly or indirectly under the control of the company, as well as the upstream and downstream emissions arising as a consequence of these activities (where these occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company). Including the full value chain emissions considerably increases the cost and complexity of the carbon footprint study, but it is driven by the following considerations:
- Scope 3 emissions are generally much larger than Scope 1 and 2
- A companies’ full influence to reduce greenhouse extends upstream and downstream of its operations
- The greatest risks may be up or down the value chain
- To avoid greenwashing/burden shifting (e.g. as occurs when carbon neutral claims are made without considering Scope 3 emissions, or when claims about energy savings from the use phase of products are made whilst neglecting to report on the carbon intensity of manufacture).
Value chain carbon footprint share similar data requirements to product carbon footprints. Whilst both require extensive data, the Green House consultants draw on their proprietary life cycle database to provide the necessary background data.
A complete value chain carbon footprint is a significant undertaking. Our approach is not merely the ad-hoc quantification of specific categories of scope 3 emissions wherever this is relatively easy (e.g. employee commuting), but to identify the “hot-spots” through screening with our comprehensive life cycle database. This allows a prioritisation of scope 3 categories for incremental improvement of the value chain carbon footprint in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard.
Case studies Anglo American Scope 3 Assessment
Product carbon footprints
A product carbon footprint quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the life cycle of a particular product (including raw materials, manufacture, distribution & retail, consumer use, disposal/recycling). Similarly to a value chain carbon footprint, a product carbon footprint includes all sources of greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain (i.e. scopes 1, 2 and 3) but it has a particular product focus. In theory, for a particular manufacturing company, the sum of all their product carbon footprints would equal their value chain carbon footprint.
The Green House consultants have significant experience in conducting product carbon footprints (primarily within the context of life cycle assessments).
The benefits of conducting a product carbon footprint include:
- Understanding the carbon risks and opportunities of a particular product line;
- Benchmarking against competing products and identifying possible marketing claims: and
- Guiding product development. A product focus is often essential here, in that improvements and innovations to a particular product will often become “lost” in a value chain carbon footprint (i.e. the reductions in carbon emissions might be relatively small in the context of the company’s overall emissions, but might be significant for that product).