Organisations are increasingly feeling the pressure to report environmental impact in clear and measurable terms. Regulation means many large organisations are obliged to comply with reporting standards, whether self imposed internal obligations, external voluntary entities or from the government. Meamnwhile, many organisations and industries are seeking to be seen as 'carbon transparent' whereby they commit and report to specific environmental goals.
Last year it was reported by industry body, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which includes members such as Coca Cola, Nestle, Kraft and Pepsico, that it had committed a 'Five-fold Environmental Ambition' to reduce its carbon emissions by 2020. This commitment incorporates: reducing the impacts of waste and packaging on the environment - including influencing the supply chain to do the same; decreasing water usage; and improving transportation practices.
By moving towards this idea of carbon transparency, organisations recognise they must first measure their output to be able to report on and commit environmental and sustainbility goals. This can be difficult for several reasons.
Calculating and managing a carbon footprint requires the collation of complex and disparate data, often from various sources such as factories or manufacturing sites and can range from electronic to paper to meters depending on the age and sophistication of the facility. It also requires assessing data from internal operations. For example, an IT company must determine its emissions output based on local or offshore servers and storage, PCs and other telecommunications infrastructure. Additionally, estimating this data can tie up internal resources for employees who undertake this task.
Organisations also struggle to know where to start when it comes to calculating their carbon footprint. Many find that capturing data for the first time leads to complex reams of statistics being produced without much practical application. As a result, some organisations are considering turning to environmental outsourcing providers to accurately measure, manage and help with the reporting of emissions. This data, and the process of acting on the insights gleaned from data and making critical business decisions based on this data, is what we like to call 'environmental business intelligence'.
Before appointing an environmental management provider, it's important to decipher what they intend to audit, who needs to know this data and which parts of the business will be audited. This includes emissions from all the activities across the organisation, including buildings or sites, such as factories or manufacturing facilities and the supply chain; or product - which includes the emissions over the whole life of a product or service that your business provides. Further, the company's IT infrastructure needs to be considered when defining how to mine this data. Critical decisions on integration and requirements for data capture can impact the cost of the data collection. Defining the method of data collection and reporting structure is a critical decisions in the data mapping process that truly drives costs savings.
Organisations we work with in the UK are at different spectrums of the environmental assessment scale. Some are at the start of their journey: they seek to obtain their current emissions as a benchmark to reduce their output and therefore to save on costs.
For some businesses their reporting is at a more mature stage. Many are looking to utilise the expertise of an environmental management provider to produce reports for external parties such as shareholders, consumers and their supply chain. Other organisations approach environmental management as a means to identify cost-savings, and ultimately turn environmental reporting into business advantage. Providers offer various data management technology platforms that can find and manage data; and can scale to the organisation (for example, being web-based, so that the data is accessible and can be updated).
Some companies even choose to make the most of this data, reporting on emissions data to raise their profile with a wider audience. One example of this is the Carbon Disclosure Project, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, which holds an international database of over 3,000 organisations from about 60 countries in the world and makes this information available to institutional investors, corporations, policymakers, public sector organisations, government bodies, academics and the public.
Organisations can utilise the environmental management provider to help communicate data in a clear way to external audiences. This approach will also allow external stakeholders to see that this published environmental impact has been audited and verified by a third party.
Finally, before meeting with an energy management provider, undertake a thorough internal audit, including electricity bills, existing data, travel emissions, telecommunications devices, as it's likely there is already a lot of information already recorded. Establishing this internal baseline will give you greater control and ensure your relationship with your provider is based on a strong footing that works best for your business.
Dailey Tipton is theGlobal Leader, Sales and Marketing of FirstCarbon Solutions