Why should I know my carbon footprint?
At a meeting this week I was asked “If I don’t have to report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, why would I be interested in knowing my carbon footprint?” A very valid question, especially as this person is a bit of a sceptic when it comes to global warming and the impact of carbon dioxide (CO2). Well we did discuss this over a few cups of coffee and in the end agreed that even if he was right and GHG emissions were not causing global warming, if it was the catalyst for us to further cut down on waste and reduce pollution, it couldn’t be all bad. But what about his original question? While most businesses in Australia do not have to report on their GHG emissions, and more importantly, those that do only have to report on what is generated as a direct result of their manufacturing processes (this is known as Scope 1 & 2, not Scope 3 which refers to their supply chain), why would they be interested in knowing their carbon footprint? I have discovered that many organisations who undertake a review of the environmental impact of their business operations come up with new ideas that can improve productivity and their bottom line. Often they are surprised that the environmental review comes up with ideas that they may not have considered before. For this client, we agreed to do a high level carbon footprint “snapshot”. What he discovered was that most of his carbon was generated by raw materials he bought in, not his actual manufacturing processes. He also discovered that the “carbon neutral” claims being made by his major competitor were at best, questionable. From this high level snapshot we were able to determine that: He could improve his bottom line and be more carbon friendly by changing his freight procedures. He could covertly challenge the “carbon neutral” claim of his major competitor by changing his marketing, and at the same time position himself as an environmental leader. If he was to complete a detailed carbon footprint analysis he could provide a client who did have to report their emissions with information that made their task easier – a competitive advantage. He was able to provide prospective clients with information relating to the carbon impact of various production options – those who wanted to make the environmentally responsible choice could do so. He could see where the carbon is generated in the supply chain and then choose suppliers who were making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, hence reducing his own. And with carbon having a cost associated with it in the future, better understand the cost implications on his business. It’s true that not all organisations are under immediate pressure to measure their carbon footprint, however I am discovering that those practising Corporate Social Responsibility are not just doing the right thing by our environment, but are also reaping commercial benefits.
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