The Carbon Disclosure Project (and why businesses should
start taking note)
FOR the last few weeks, the media has said a great deal
about the carbon disclosure project (CDP), a global initiative encouraging big
businesses to report their carbon footprint and water usage and the steps that
they are taking to reduce it.
It was introduced to South Africa in 2007 and has recently
also been extended to cities.
This year, CDP has requested climate change information from
the 100 largest South African companies by market capitalisation, based on the
JSE All Share Index [JSE:J203].
Leading technology companies like Apple, Google, Facebook,
Amazon, and Microsoft use massive amounts of energy, electricity and power.
Greenpeace estimates that some individual data centres
consume as much electricity as 180 000 households per annum. In terms of
emissions, the IT industry is estimated to contribute 2% to 3% to global
emissions, which continues to increase as more mobile devices get online.
Facebook recently disclosed its carbon footprint, and many
other companies have been working to become more efficient and reduce
emissions, which not only cuts down on environmental costs but also reduces
Despite the benefits, there is no obligation yet for
businesses to report their emissions – a pity, since there can be no doubt that
in geographies where legislation has been passed to support emissions
reduction, business uptake is far more significant.
However, internationally and locally the government has
indicated that it will introduce carbon taxation in the 2013/14 budget. The exact
meaning of this is unknown - but it is clear that at least some businesses will
be required by law to report and disclose their footprints in the short term.
Regardless of whether this will be obligatory or not, there
there are a number of business benefits to calculating your carbon emissions.
The main benefits would include identifying emissions sources – which can then
reveal reduction opportunities.
Reducing emissions often lead to reduced costs, which is
important in the tough economic times we find ourselves in. It is also
important to understand your carbon profile and hence your risk exposure when
emissions taxation and/or emissions caps are introduced.
Improved staff morale and marketing and public relations
benefits are of course another advantage.
How to calculate your firm's carbon footprint
It is relatively easy to determine your carbon emissions.
First and foremost, companies should measure their emissions by using a
recognised standard, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
This can be achieved by using tools such as The Carbon
Report or through a consulting
The process involves identifying emissions sources,
gathering non-financial data that supports these sources, and then quantifying
the emissions. This is in fact not an onerous task, and it is an important step
in embracing a sustainable future.
Once companies have gained further insight into the state of
their carbon emissions, they can examine the possibilities of emissions
reduction or offsetting.
always target emissions reduction opportunities prior to offsetting any
emissions. This not only lowers costs but demonstrates the sustainable journey
and a commitment to emissions reduction.
However, you will never be able to eliminate all emissions -
at least with current technologies - and these can be offset through a
reputable offset provider.
Offsets should be certified or verified through one of the
globally recognised standards like the Voluntary Carbon Standard, Plan Vivo or
the CDM Gold Standard.
For sustainableIT's offset, we chose a reforestation project
in Mozambique called the Sofala Community Carbon Project which was chosen as
the source of the offset purchased.
This project achieves a CCBA triple Gold status, which
effectively means it demonstrates exceptional benefits in areas of climate,
community and biodiversity.
It's important to note that even a small company can make a
positive change. Encourage teleworking among staff and employ technology to
power manage office equipment, desktops and server infrastructure. Energy
consumption can be kept to a minimum through natural lighting.
Although reducing the carbon footprint may not be high on
the priority list for many companies at present, it may soon be. It's best to
start investigating ways to cut down on carbon emissions before legislation
forces companies to do so.
*Tim James is the owner of sustainableIT and the distributor
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