Don’t Let Carbon Confusion Stand in Your Way
You need to measure, monitor and manage your company’s carbon footprint.
Your organization may be under pressure to stay competitive in a sustainable supply chain. You may need to differentiate your brand by showcasing your environmental stewardship. You might want to reduce the risk associated with climate change or prepare for pending mandates and proposed cap-and-trade programs.
If you’re familiar with the ISO 9000 quality management standards, you might want to know that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed an international standard for carbon management: the ISO 14064 series. ISO 14064-1 Part 1 Specification with Guidance at the Organizational Level for Quantification and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals provides principles and requirements for quantifying and reporting an organization’s carbon footprint. This standard breaks the process down into five steps.
Step 1: Setting Organizational Parameters and Boundaries
Your organization may include one or more facilities, and each facility may include GHG sources (something that emits greenhouse gasses), GHG sinks (something that removes GHGs from the atmosphere) or GHG reservoirs (places where you can capture and store GHGs). You will need to consolidate facilities based on either financial and/or operational control, or your portion of a shared facility.
You will also need to determine the GHG emissions from your operations:
- physical facilities or processes you own or control
- energy consumed (but not generated) by your organization
- business travel
- transportation of goods
- outsourced activities or franchises
- waste generated
- use and end-life phases of products and services
- production of purchased raw or primary materials
Step 2: Measuring GHG Activity
Establish a base year-using historical data or your first inventory year-so you can monitor improvement over time.
Although GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous Oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), the total inventory will be measured in tonnes and converted to carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. This is the reason why GHG inventories are also called carbon footprints.
You will need to measure the amount of energy, fuels or electricity consumed, materials produced, service provided or land affected. Then you weigh this against your reductions activities, such as energy demand and use management, efficiency upgrades, technology or process improvements, GHG capture and storage, management of transportation and travel demands, fuel switching and renewable energy use.
Step 3: Choosing Methodologies
Quantification methodologies help minimize uncertainty and provide accurate, consistent and reproducible results-a must-have if you plan to track your progress over time.
There are three main types of methodologies: calculation, measurement and combination.
Calculation includes GHG activity data multiplied by GHG emission or removal factors, use of models, facility-specific correlations and mass-balance approach. Measurement is the gathering of hard data-either continuously or periodically-and the combination methodology includes both calculation and measurement.
You will want to complete an uncertainty assessment and establish a quality assurance procedure for information management.
Step 4: Reporting
Share your results with stakeholders by publishing your carbon inventory report on a respected, third-party registry.
Make sure you know your objectives, who will read the report and how often you plan to update. This will make it more usable and valuable for your stakeholders.
If you choose a registry that conforms to ISO 14064, your report must include:
- The reporting period
- Organizational boundaries and parameters
- Emissions in tonnes of CO2e
- Removals in tonnes of CO2e
- Disclosure of any GHG sources or sinks you did not include, and why
- The base year inventory
- A description of the methodologies used
- The results of your uncertainty assessment
- Statement of Verification (this will be explained in Step 5: Verification)
Optional information you may wish to include if it will provide value to your stakeholders, includes:
- Your policies, strategies or programs
- Your emission reduction activities and results
- Purchased or developed GHG offsets
- Emission details for each facility
- Assessment of performance against relevant benchmarks
Step 5: Verification
Get verification to protect against any accusations of ‘greenwashing.’ The principles and process are similar to a financial audit. The goal is an independent, objective review of the data and many registries and programs require third-party verification.
The verifier should be a qualified expert who understands GHG management issues and is familiar with ISO 14064, and specifically ISO 14064-3 Part 3 Specification with Guidance for the Validation and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Assertions. Before getting started, it’s important that all parties agree to the scope, objectives, criteria and level of assurance required.
Once you have established your organization’s initial carbon footprint, you can begin working on strategies to reduce it-with the eventual goal of carbon neutrality. Are you ready to start?
As the Director of the Ottawa Office at the Canadian Standards Association, Michel Girard, PhD, is responsible for the climate change portfolio. CSA Climate Change acted as World Secretariat for the development of the ISO 14064 series of Standards for carbon management and delivers solutions to help adapt infrastructure to a changing climate.
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