As the NZ economy moves towards ‘net zero emissions’ and people become more aware of climate issues, understanding your carbon footprint will be essential. Your customers and suppliers could require this, and your employees and future generations will expect and appreciate it. And the sooner you start, the earlier you could benefit: for example, by cutting waste and fuel costs, by making better long-term decisions, and demonstrating leadership. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s now a vital business issue, presenting opportunities as well as risks.
Many businesses, regionally and nationally, are seeing benefits from measurement and carbon neutrality. These include SMEs through to major main-stream businesses such as The Warehouse, NZ’s largest retailer.
This depends on the size, complexity, and availability of data for your business. It also depends on the level of accuracy desired. For a very small, simple business it can be completed online in an hour or two. It will take longer for a larger business to collect all of its data, but a carbon analyst will help you understand the information you need to collect and how to go about it. Either way, if you are using an existing calculator – it should be a task that can fit inside a staff member’s existing role.
You’ll need a full year of invoices for all costs that cause emissions – items such as fuel, electricity, waste, freight, vehicle use and travel. The good news is that you already have most of the information you need sitting in your accounts system. Missing pieces of information can be collected by a simple phone call or email to your supplier. There’s a useful summary of records needed for Ekos’s free online calculator at: https://www.sustainabletourism.nz/blog/how-to-measure-your-carbon-footprint/
There are three main groups of emissions. The first group is ‘Direct emissions’ from sources you own or control, such as fuel for your vehicle fleet, or being used on-site for heat. Second, there are emissions linked to the use of electricity, heat or steam which are produced elsewhere. Finally there are emissions related to the organisation’s activities but arising from sources it does not own or control, such as purchased goods and services, freight, waste and business travel. To see the whole picture, all of these sources should be considered. See the discussion of ‘Scopes’ in our ‘Definitions’ page.
This will vary depending on the complexity and the level of accuracy needed. If you are looking at a very small business you can estimate your business emissions at no cost, using an online tool. Examples are Ekos https://ekos.co.nz/businesscalculator-lite or Catalyst – http://catalystnz.co.nz/sustain2015/environmental-footprinting. If you are looking for ISO standard measurement the cost will vary depending on the provider – we recommend you reach out to them directly to discuss.
We will provide useful, up-to-date information on our website, in social media and blogs, in media articles, and in workshops and events. Other organisations, such as the Sustainable Business Network, Climate Leaders Coalition, Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, Nelson Tasman Climate Forum, and the Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy, will also be useful. Climate issues are vital to us all, and we’re acting on these and moving in similar directions. We all have a lot to learn, and we don’t have time to do it alone. Collaboration is a key to finding the best solutions.
Technical support and funding may be available from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) or other government bodies. But important sources will also include your supply chains and other businesses in your sector and in this region – even your competitors. We all have an interest in a safe future and a vibrant economy. He waka eke noa!
Carbon footprint knowledge is power! Measure, identify carbon reduction opportunities, and build these into your business planning, for example in capital investment and asset planning.
This information will be increasingly valuable as we are all required to move to ‘net zero emissions’ over the coming years and decades. By understanding your current emissions you can start to reduce them, before the costs of these increase. This knowledge will help to reduce emissions now, and avoid making investment decisions that might be regretted later.
Some might not notice, but growing numbers of customers, suppliers and others will. In a recent survey (IAG, 2020) 76% of NZ respondents thought businesses should reduce emissions in line with global targets. And for some customers, a low-emissions supply chain will be increasingly valuable. You might want to consider what your business peers are doing in this area. Businesses with carbon neutral products on offer could provide a competitive advantage as well as cost reduction and environmental benefits.
Attitudes might vary, but most employees will find the process valuable and some will care passionately, and be proud that their employer is taking action. Awareness of climate issues is growing rapidly, and organisations that do not respond will increasingly be seen as antiquated or uncaring. This could impact on potential employees as well, and particularly with bright young people who would prefer to work for an employer they consider is more enlightened and future-focused.
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing rapidly, mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels, and this is leading to growing global climate disruption and other impacts. By measuring your business’s carbon footprint you will be able to start cutting emissions effectively, and considering whether offsetting these makes sense.
Action on climate change is not just an environmental issue: it’s a business, finance and marketing matter, and a social, ethical and health issue. Well-informed decision-making will be good for the environment and your business.
No one is too small to make a difference. Acting early on cutting emissions can mean opportunities, such as invitations to supply or to collaborate with other businesses, and acting late can lead to risks like higher energy costs, suboptimal investments, and being left out of supply chains and snubbed by customers.
Similarly, NZ may be a small player on the world stage but one that many other countries look to for leadership – and even more so since Covid-19 struck. And while countries like China have far higher emissions, ours are much higher per capita than theirs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions_per_capita Action here can inspire others to act – we have a real opportunity to work for the good of our businesses, ourselves, and future generations. We could be the difference the world needs.
There will be a range of effects, and there will be risks and opportunities. There will be direct impacts, like hotter summers, water shortages, sea level rise and increases in the frequency and intensity of storms and droughts (which could disrupt power supplies), floods and fires. Insurers will make changes to avoid these risks. Some customers and suppliers will seek businesses with low emissions, and those that are taking action on climate change. Costs related to fossil fuels will rise, and investments linked to these could lose value as ‘stranded assets’. These impacts might happen quickly – in all of these, businesses that see them coming and act on them early will fare much better.
Ask the question and shop around. Your move to a low-emissions future will be helped by having low-emissions partners.
If you’re building a supply chain from scratch and have a number of companies to choose from, you could search those companies’ websites, reports, backgrounds and any certification or accreditation, and get advice from others. But perhaps you’ll be limited to working with your existing supply chain, and the businesses you’re working with might be at an early stage on their climate journey. Discuss your goals and collaborate with them. It’s possible they’re also ready to start working towards a low-emissions future, with you.
You might not be in a position to make changes straight away, but change is a constant in business. Measuring and understanding emissions now will make it easier next time you’re involved in business planning, for example, or you want to buy or replace an asset. If you have a clear picture of where you are and where you need to be in future, you’ll find it easier, cheaper and less disruptive getting there.
Many business activities lead to the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. We can reduce these emissions in a number of ways, including greater efficiency, cutting our waste, and switching to cleaner, renewable energy sources. But there are some emissions which, however much we want to, we find it hard to avoid.
One option is to ‘offset’ these emissions until other solutions can be found: by supporting processes which absorb carbon dioxide, such as planting and protecting trees, we can reduce our emissions to ‘net zero’. The growth of trees in protected forests is measured to assess the carbon these have absorbed. This growth allows the creation of ‘carbon credits’ which can be purchased to compensate for carbon emitted by a business.
Of course, planting and protecting trees can provide wonderful co-benefits as well, including their support for biodiversity, protection of waterways, retention of moisture, helping to clear the air, and reducing the risks of erosion and flooding – providing multiple benefits for now and the future.
Measuring emissions is a great first step – well done! (By the way, please let us know if you’ve done this and we don’t know about it, so we can show your business name on our website if you’d like us to.)
Certifying your business as ‘zero carbon’ is entirely voluntary – but it is one way to show that your business is committed to actively measuring, offsetting and reducing its emissions. This could be a wonderful way to show customers, employees, family members, your supply chain, a future investor or purchaser… or anyone else… how you work and how you care for Te Tauihu and for future generations here. And not least, you’ll have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’re building a better business and a more sustainable legacy.
Measuring your business’s carbon footprint is the first essential step