Tag Archives: sustainability

Understanding and Protecting Our Coral Ecosystems

Climate change is one of the greatest global threats to coral reef ecosystems — corals die as temperatures rise and cause mass bleaching and outbreaks of infectious disease.

Already, almost 30% of the world’s reefs have been destroyed. The time to act is NOW. Check out this gorgeous infographic shared by Fix about corals and coral bleaching!


Source: Fix.com Blog

Our first Going Green Workshop was a success — more to follow in the future!

Last night, Carbon Analytics hosted our first Going Green workshop to share our product and hear feedback from a diverse range of professionals and organisations, including Cleanweb, Six Degree People, and UK Trade and Investment.

Jack Townsend, from Cleanweb, thought that this is a “really exciting space to get into” — in addition to being a tool for SME sustainability, the Carbon Analytics tool could be used to promote behavior change in management by providing facts and figures.

Irena Antohi, from Six Degree People, and Nicola Parry, from UKTI, proposed that this tool could also be used by borough councils or other government bodies, not only by businesses.

We really enjoyed talking to these very enthusiastic participants, and we’ll be hosting more in the future. If you’d like to know when the next one is, let us know!

Carbon Credits 101: What they are, why they’re controversial, and implications for COP 21

Climate change is now a common topic of conversation, and global society is realising that we need to incorporate climate and broader environmental issues into our social and economic systems.

One of the tools that has been used over the past couple of decades is that of carbon credits.

Understanding carbon credits is important because it is part of a global attempt to mitigate climate change by tieing the cause of the climate change — an economic system dependent on consumption — to reducing emissions. At the same time, the concept and use of carbon credits has come under a lot of scrutiny. The next climate conference–COP21 in Paris–is expected to drastically change the way this and other tools work.

Here’s your chance to finally understand all this business about carbon credits you may have heard floating around occasionally but never got around to getting to grips with!

Where did carbon credits come from?

Carbon credits were introduced under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the internationally-recognised Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol recognised that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions that cause climate change, and thus placed a greater responsibility on them to address this problem. [4]

Under the mechanism, a country with an emission-reduction or -limitation commitment with the Protocol can implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries to compensate for an emission made elsewhere. These projects would earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits (also called offsets).

What is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit is a financial investment that represents 1 tonne of CO2, or other greenhouse gases whose effects are equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2 (CO2e), that has been removed or reduced from the atmosphere under an emissions reduction project.

Carbon credits are associated with removing existing CO2/CO2e emissions (for example by planting trees) or by reducing future CO2/CO2e emissions by implementing renewable energy or energy efficiency projects that displace fossil-fuel powered generation production or industrial processes (e.g. by constructing a wind farm).  Each activity has a different “methodology” that accounts how much carbon is avoided.

How do carbon credits work?

There are several actors involved in creating a carbon offset project: there is a verification body that validates how many tonnes of CO2 a project avoids, the the registration body that operates the registry where a buyer can look up your projects, and the company that ultimately buys your credits. In general, to get carbon credits a business needs to calculate its carbon savings against a very specific methodology and get an official body to validate the project.

There is some strategy to the way businesses choose their methodologies, or how they assemble carbon-saving activities into verifiable carbon offset projects. A very “green” manufacturer may seem to be constantly coming up with new “projects” every time they make a batch of green goods that saves X amount of carbon.

What are the regulated markets and the voluntary markets?

In addition to the regulated markets under the Clean Development Mechanism and some regional compliance markets in the USA and Australia, there are voluntary markets and compliance schemes. One of the biggest is Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

The voluntary markets allow individuals, companies, or non-profits to purchase carbon credits on a voluntary basis to satisfy personal or CSR objectives. As a company or non-profit getting carbon credits for the first time, it is generally easier to get credits on the voluntary market. This voluntary market operates similarly to eBay. [5] Unlike the regulated market, carbon credits on the voluntary market are not actively traded. [5]

As of January, the World Bank valued emissions trading at  $30 billion [6]. When including the voluntary market, carbon trading is worth more –about $176 billion in 2012 [6].

What are some of the problems with carbon credits?

The system of carbon credits has historically been criticised for being “essentially a 
permission slip with a cash value that allows a country or company to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases” [6] and for promoting, rather than preventing, carbon-intensive industrial activities. The argument is that this allows rich countries to feel better about harmful behaviour, rather than encouraging governments to correct that behaviour [6]. Beneficiaries of the CDM included industrial gas producers (nitrous oxide, refrigeration gases) and dam construction projects. [2]

Carbon credits are also vulnerable to fraud, and are susceptible to not delivering on the promises of low emissions in the future [6,9]. This is largely due to the fact that carbon credits are fundamentally based on carbon, which is not really tangible/palpable.

In August 2015, a study from the Stockholm Environment Institute found that the majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions and that these credits may have actually increased emissions. [7,8]

For these reasons, credits have fallen in price over the past few years. [1] The European Union’s market, which used to be the main outlet for the Clean Development Mechanism, was restricted and then shut down. [2]

What does the COP21 — the climate talks in Paris — mean for carbon credits?

Over the years, the Clean Development Mechanism has been discussed and various amendments and solutions have been proposed. However, little progress has been achieved because positions on the issue are so radically discordant: while wealthy nations that are high emitters endorsed the continuation of market-based mechanisms, developing countries adopted divergent and contrasting stands. [1]

Some groups have suggested the creation of a “New Market Mechanism” (NMM), involving the implementation of sectorial and cross-sectorial measures, thus scaling up market-based mechanisms beyond project level activities. The USA and Japan have supported the “Framework for Various Approaches” (FVA), which aims at ensuring flexibility for Parties to create a set of components and rules that will ensure an individual crediting systems that helps fulfil internationally agreed targets. [1] Other groups have attempted to draw attention to a non-market GHG reduction solution in correlation with REDD. [1] None of these proposals have yet been able to gather broad consensus. [1]

The COP21 is expected to test business and government commitments to tackling climate change, and is seen as the last chance to come up with a deal to avert 2 degree warming that scientists say is the tipping point to irreversible fallout.

References

[1] “COP21 and the Clean Development Mechanism: Deciding the Future of International Carbon Credits.” Climate Policy Observer, 29 July 2015.

[2] Aline Robert (tr. Samuel White). “COP21 Will End a Decade of Failed Climate Finance.” EurActiv, 18 November 2015.

[3] Lauren Hepler, “COP21 and Decoding the Economics of Climate Change.” GreenBiz, 6 August 2015.

[4] “Kyoto Protocol.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), n.d.

[5] Chris Lang. “Why You Should Not Buy Voluntary Carbon Credits as an Investment: A Carbon Trader Explains.” REDD Monitor. 22 April 2013.

[6] McKenzie, “The Hack That Warmed The World.” Foreign Policy, 30 January 2015.

[7] McGrath, M. “Carbon Credits Undercut Climate Change Actions Says Report.” BBC News, 25 August 2015.

[8] Arthur Nelsen, “Kyoto Protocol’s Carbon Credit Scheme ‘Increased Emissions by 600m Tonnes.” Guardian, 24 August 2015.

[9] Ryan Jacobs. “The Forest Mafia: How Scammers Steal Millions Through Carbon Markets.” Atlantic, 11 October 2013.

BCorpUK is launching today!

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Wait, hold on. Before we get carried away, we should probably explain what BCorp is and why it matters.

Whether or not you’ve seen that documentary, “The Corporation”, you probably know of one of the most heavily criticised aspect of corporations. That is fact that, by law, the only role of a corporation is to grow and to make money for its shareholders — and that everything else takes second priority to that. It’s a major reason why social and environmental injustices we experience today take place — they just aren’t important to corporations.

That’s where B Corp comes along. The nonprofit B Lab was founded with the lofty objective of “redefining the global fight to lead success in business”. How? By providing a certification service. Businesses who wanted to become B Corps would go through an auditing process which would analyse whether or not they were socially and environmentally responsible, whether they were accountable, and whether they were transparent. For businesses, it’s become something akin to what LEED certification is to green buildings and Fair Trade is to coffee, in the sense that it has become an easily recognisable label that consumers now look out for. And by choosing to work with B Corps, consumers or other businesses know that these “certified B Corps” have certain values, and know exactly what it takes to be certified–in other words, they provide proof. Other than attracting consumers, B Corps also have greater savings and attract investors.

And data show that B Corps continue to behave in ways that are socially responsible after they get certified — in other words, they don’t just get the certification to tick a box. Almost half use on-site renewable energy, almost 20% are more likely to use suppliers from low-income communities, and over half will cover at least some health insurance for employees. B Corps are also two and a half times more likely to give employees at least 20 hours paid time off a year to volunteer in their community. The list goes on.

Until now, B Corps have largely been recognised as being American, although there are over 1,500 Certified B Corps from over 33 countries. But today, B Corps is launching in the UK. This is very exciting! It shows that it is becoming increasingly important for a business to stand for more than making money, at a time when many social institutions are being dismantled in the UK in favour of businesses.

So far, there are a variety of businesses that have certified themselves as B Corps in the UK just in time for the launch, including consulting firms, law firms, and charities. As certified B Corps ourselves, we’re thrilled to see the growth of this community in the UK and look forward to welcoming many more!

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Criticisms & Counterpoints – Why manage carbon?

A question we often hear from advocates and critics alike is why small businesses should bother investing in sustainability, and specifically managing carbon?

The question is understandable – there is less negative pressure on small companies to take responsibility for their environmental impacts, and it is negative feedback that the general population has come to associate as the driver for CSR programmes. We know that individually big companies represent the most sizeable chunk of carbon emissions and other impacts, and so its easy to focus efforts there. Legislation is aimed toward companies with a minimum turnover, and non-profits like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth similarly focus campaigns on companies with household names.

That said, the face of sustainability is changing. CSR is no longer a pure risk-management strategy. Companies like Patagonia show stewardship much more out of mission alignment and for maintaining positive brand and reputation than they do for avoiding being targeted by a Greenpeace campaign.  Responsible companies gain another dimension on which to market their products and services, are able to tap into a market of environmentally-aware buyers, and enjoy popular public support. In the fight against global warming and climate change, it’s fun root for the underdogs, which at  lease at this point, are the progressive companies that are doing everything within their realm of control to push the economy towards more sustainable practices.

Given the advantages of managing environmental performance, namely:

  • Positive brand and reputation,
  • Ability to appeal to a selective audience of environmentally-aware buyers (where there is arguably less competition),
  • Efficiency associated with environmentally-friendly practices (e.g. lower energy bills, a more robust supply chain, etc.),

Small business, particularly young small businesses, can start out with their best foot forward and bake environmental performance management in from the get-go rather than waiting until it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with reactively.

Having briefly laid out some of the motivations for why these companies should, I would like to dig into common criticisms then ask, why not?

Criticism #1: It’s too expensive

This was true when the only way to measure a carbon footprint was to hire an expensive consultancy that harbours technical expertise. But beyond shameless endorsement for our own product, there are several solutions on the market that allow companies to understand their performance on the cheap (and of course we love it when companies do choose to manage their environmental performance with us!). We’ve intentionally kept the price down for small businesses, and if proactively managing environmental impacts can drive even £120 of additional sales the investment is paid off. In the worst case, consider it a down-payment towards future risk management.

Criticism #2: There’s nothing I can do!

I think this tends to derive from the common conception that (a) your environmental impact is limited to business travel and direct energy consumption (e.g. lightbulbs), and (b) you are only doing something when you directly reduce these activities.  In truth, the act of measuring itself is already doing a great deal, especially when your company shares that with the world. It shows leadership and sends a strong signal to other companies that carbon management is important.

Check out this TED Talk about how it takes two people to start a movement.  Being a fast follower has profound effect on making something acceptable to the masses.  Even if you are constrained in what suppliers you can choose, and what energy reductions are within your control, some of the companies who see your example are bound to have an efficiency that’s easier to root out or more influence over their supply chain.  Your suppliers, for example, seeing your company’s conviction may up their own game to stay in your favour.

Criticism #3: I don’t have the time

Think of environmental reporting like financial reporting. Sure, you can’t feel the effects on your business as much as making a sale, but having transparency into your company’s performance provides clarity on how your previous strategies are panning out and what you should do next. Once carbon-management is baked into your company it becomes another almost sub-conscious behaviour. When you are looking for new suppliers you will naturally pay more attention to their environmental credentials.  These low-effort acknowledgements have the potential to pay huge dividends.  Given two equal suppliers, wouldn’t you choose the one that takes the extra effort to take care of their community and their environment?

The benefits are like knowing another language

Don’t you wish you had invested the time as a child to learn more languages?  If you’ve waited until now to start learning you likely have more conflicting priorities, but can see how speaking another language would nonetheless offer new opportunities not currently available to you, even if difficult to quantify.  Managing carbon and languages alike can be intimidating at first, but ultimately open opportunities for discourse and can solidify new business relationships. And whereas a new language may take a year to speak fluently, you can become fluent in environmental performance in the span of a few weeks.

Give it a try and make a first-hand judgment!

There are tons of opinions out there on the merits of sustainable business.  We recently introduced a 30-day free trial of our product so that businesses can see for themselves that this really can be easy.  If you’re curious to see for yourself what carbon management looks like you can create your account here.  If you use Xero you can be up and running in less than ten minutes (allow yourself a few more minutes if you need to run/upload a report from a different bookkeeping system).  If you think we’ve exaggerated we’d love your feedback to learn how we can make things even easier. Hit us up in the comments or send us an email at info[at]co2analytics.com.

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A big juicy bite out of Apple’s environmental impact…

Regardless of how you may feel about Apple’s innovative products, trendy stores or skyrocketing stock price; there is one reason we at Carbon Analytics simply have to applaud them.  Apple recently announced that they will be building two new 20 megawatt solar farms in China (in addition to the ones they already have in the US) as well as purchasing and managing 36,000 acres of woodland in Maine and North Carolina.

Apple is so committed to increasing their use of renewable energy that they are literally building the infrastructure to make it happen.  They are also buying an entire forest the size of San Francisco in a concerted effort to deliver truly sustainable packaging.

We think this kind of initiative is so critical in the fight against climate change because it not only has a material impact on Apple’s own environmental footprint, but it also sets a brilliant example for others.  Sure not everyone can buy a forest or create their own energy, but by showing that Apple can address sustainability in their trademark innovative fashion, they are subtly motivating the millions of businesses who aspire to be just like the admired fruit.  And since we root for the little guy, we are happy to see the big fellas doing the right thing and leading by example.

Don’t take our word for it.  Have a look for yourself and let us know what you think!

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/apple-buys-forest-size-san-francisco-36000-acres-conservation-will-build-2-new-solar-farms-china.html?utm_content=buffera3279&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer 

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Making Your Business Case for Going Green

In the world of sustainability, you’ll often need to quantify the benefits of going green to justify the investment of money, people and time.  Because every company is unique, there is no standard formula to making the business case for sustainability.  But fear not, here are three buckets that can help you to think through the benefits of going green as they relate to your business, to help you garner more support for your efforts.

Cost reduction / Efficiency:  This is often the easiest and most direct benefit that you can quantify.  Are you looking to purchase more efficient equipment? A better boiler?  Insulation for your office?  While these can incur a high upfront cost, they translate into direct savings over time by reducing energy bills, water bills, etc. Start by understanding how much money your investment will save you per month, and determine how long it will take your company to break even.

Risk reduction: Going green isn’t just about reducing your energy bills. Are you in an industry that is subject to regulation and legislation?  Decreasing your exposure to potential fines and taxes is another way to quantify the benefits of reducing your carbon footprint and being more sustainable.  How much extra cost could you incur from being out of compliance?  How likely is that scenario?  A 50% chance of being fined $100k translates into $50k of risk that your business can avoid. If becoming compliant costs $1k that becomes a pretty straightforward business case.

Branding and reputation: This is the hardest area to quantify, but many companies see real benefits from improved branding and reputation among their target customers. What are the expectations of customers in your industry?  How much more do they spend on sustainable brands? You can quantify the benefits in terms of an additional premium that can charge per product, or in terms of the number of new customers you expect to be able to reach with your sustainable message.  Here is one example survey that shows how important ‘green’ is to different consumers.

Enjoy making your case!