As a sustainability consultant for The Planet Mark™, I have delivered a wide variety of carbon footprints. Measuring and year-on-year monitoring of an organisation’s carbon emissions, is an integral part of The Planet Mark™ certification process and this year alone, we will be issuing close to 100 certifications covering everything from small businesses consisting of a three-person team working out of one room to carbon footprints for large businesses consisting of thousands of employees, numerous multi-story office locations, large fleet and extensive business travel. And, of course, everything in between.
No matter the size of your organisation, or the sector it operates in, these five easy steps will help you manage your carbon footprint:
1. Assign high-level and operational ownership
For any project to be successfully delivered someone has to be responsible for it. Lack of ownership is where the green agenda often fails before it’s even got started. Carbon footprinting should be supported by two main green champions – one should be a high-level executive (i.e. CEO, COO), who can inspire and demand company-wide commitment to the project, and the other should be someone at the operational level, who can project manage the data collection, liaise between various stakeholders and act as the main point of contact (i.e. someone from FM, accounting or CSR).
2. Decide what to measure
Determine your organisational and operational scope, i.e. which sites and which activities you want to include in your carbon footprint. Consider how important various activities are in your organisation and how you can use the information to make reductions and improvements. Most carbon footprint reports include electricity and natural gas consumption, fuel used by company owned vehicles, waste, water and business travel. You should also decide on your reporting period, which we recommend you should try and match with your financial reporting year.
3. Embed carbon accounting in your monthly routine
Data collection does not have to be difficult, so long as you create a structured plan to carry out throughout the year ahead. Best practices include:
For utilities data – take meter readings on the last day of each month and record on a spreadsheet the meter number, the date the reading was taken, the reading and the unit
For waste data – ask your waste company for a monthly report with the weight of general waste and recycling collected. Alternatively, record on a spreadsheet the size of central waste bins for general waste and for recycling and the dates they are being collected
For fleet fuel data – issue a fuel card to be used for each refill
For business travel data – ask your accounts department to categorise monthly travel based on mode of travel (air, rail, hired vehicle) and to calculate distance travelled for each claim.
4. Know what affects your carbon footprint
Keep track of any sustainability activities that took place during your reporting period and of any significant events that affects the organisation, such as new assets, such as buildings, major renovations, business growth, etc.
5. Communicate report and next steps
There are a number of ways to report your carbon footprint. Some companies do so as part of their annual report, but you can also do so via a separate corporate responsibility / sustainability report, or simply by publishing it on your website, for example. It is good practice to have your emissions data externally verified in order to ensure accuracy and confidence in your measuring and reporting.
Your carbon footprint report should also include reduction targets. These don’t need to be ambitious, but you should set targets that are going to stretch you beyond the business as usual and it’s a good idea to set new ones on a regular basis. We recommend a 5% reduction on an annual basis as this is in line with the UK Government's commitment ‘to reduce carbon by 80% by 2050 over a 1990 baseline as set out in the UK Climate Change Act 2008'.
The Planet Mark™ is holding free one-to-one carbon management advice clinics at edie Live on May 22-23. If you would like further guidance on carbon footprinting or to discuss your process in more detail with me please book a session.
The Planet Mark™ is a sustainability certification programme that helps you measure and reduce your carbon footprint. On average, Planet Mark-certified organisations are cutting their carbon footprint by 5% per employee per annum. Find out more.