You may be unfamiliar with the term ‘carbon accounting.’ In fact, it has been around for more than 20 years. In 1997, carbon accounting was established under the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is a treaty written up and agreed upon in an effort to reduce emissions that can alter the climate. Based on these facts, one might assume that carbon accounting is a method for tracking carbon emissions.
So, what is carbon accounting and why is it really important? In a recent interview with Open Sourced Workplace, Eduardo Gomez, Co-Founder of EmitWise explained carbon accounting as the process of transforming raw material information and data into a carbon equivalent. That means taking the information and using it to estimate the emissions and greenhouse gasses released from the creation of the process, product, or service and transforming it into the carbon equivalent. The importance lies in the development of a cleaner world.
With a greater understanding of carbon accounting and how it works, the world may make a real impact on the climate change situation. Understanding starts by seeing examples of the differences made, how the process might help businesses, and how much it costs. Making an effort to develop a system of carbon accounting for your own company might be more beneficial than you think.
Can Carbon Accounting Truly Make a Difference?
When you think about quantifying the emissions that your company is putting out, you may wonder if it is worth the time and effort. How much could really be changed by putting a number to your greenhouse gasses? In truth, many companies have no idea how much of what they create for their business affects the world around them.
Do greenhouse gasses and other pollutants really have an impact on the earth’s climate? Although some believe our carbon footprint has nothing to do with climate change, science says otherwise.
What does Greenhouse Gas Emissions do to Climate Change?
According to NASA, greenhouse gasses rise naturally. However, an increase in the burning of fossil fuels has created a drastic boost in airborne carbon dioxide. The extra carbon dioxide is trapping heat toward Earth’s surface, which creates an increase in temperature.
A common question that arises with the idea of climate change is: Why does it snow so much if people’s actions are increasing Earth’s temperature? Simply put, the hot temperature of the planet is causing more water to evaporate. When water evaporates, it causes more precipitation. In the winter months for some places, that means snow. In other seasons, floods can be dangerous and prevalent.
Because of the impact emissions have on climate change, it’s important to measure your carbon footprint. Eduardo Gomez claimed that without a measurement, our carbon footprint cannot be managed. Climate change must be managed so that we can reduce greenhouse gasses over the coming years and decades. We have to find an effective way to measure the emissions that we put out.
Is Carbon Accounting Only Done by Businesses?
While businesses may leave a greater carbon footprint than a household, individuals can begin carbon accounting as well. By tracking how much electricity you use, how often you drive your car, and for how long, the frequency of meat in your meals, where you shop, and how much you recycle, you can determine how much of an impact you are having on climate change.
In fact, the United Nations offers a carbon footprint calculator that can help you to determine where you need to cut back. It also offers suggestions on how to offset your footprint. For example, if you use a lot of electricity, they suggest alternate sources of energy, such as wind turbines. If more households and companies were willing to offset their own greenhouse gasses, real improvements could be made.
How Can Quantifying Emissions Help Businesses?
Aside from helping the environment, why should businesses use carbon accounting? There are people that have no concern for climate change, so it can be good to know other benefits. In fact, the benefits that a company might see from carbon accounting can have a positive impact on the business in a few different ways.
Benefits of Carbon Accounting
The use of fossil fuels costs money. By finding where emissions are too great, companies can also find where the money is being wasted. For example, if a company were to discover their electricity is drastically overused, finding ways to reduce the use of electricity can save on the electric bill. Some common ways this might happen is with solar panels or wind turbines.
If company vehicles are hard on fuel or used often, the purchase of electric cars can help in gas costs and carbon emissions. Businesses that cut down on travel and utilize video conferencing will also see a decrease in expenses.
There is also the added benefit of outside recognition for making an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. Those that support the effort will in turn support companies that do the same. There are also studies that suggest that businesses that make an effort to add environmentally friendly corporate social responsibility programs attract the best employees. Companies with a green initiative also retain employees better than those that do not have such programs.
Is Carbon Accounting Expensive?
There is no set number or cost for carbon accounting. It can be beneficial to a company that makes an effort to alter their ways of doing things after accounting has determined processes that need to change. In most cases, the offset it worth the cost. However, every attempt at reducing greenhouse gas emissions can make an impact. Whether that means budgeting a small portion to carbon accounting or a huge sum, the changes can start as small or as large as the company leaders desire.
Carbon accounting is not necessarily a map that must be followed to reach the desired end goal. It can be adjusted and made specific to the company that is using it. By custom-designing programs to reduce emissions, each company has the power to take action in their own way. It is because of that reason – and the return on investment – that companies should consider carbon accounting.
Choosing Carbon Accounting for Your Business
Making the choice to start carbon accounting is a great decision. Your business may release more greenhouse gas emissions than you had ever thought. With the ability to make a positive impact on the world and on climate change, more companies should make an effort to be more green. That effort can result in a cleaner environment and better profits for the company.
Are companies required to “go green?” While there are some standards in the United States, companies are not legally required nor expected to practice green procedures. Many companies willingly go paperless or recycle in the office, but none are required at this time.
How often do companies do carbon accounting? Experts suggest that carbon accounting be completed at least annually. This allows time for the business to make the necessary changes prior to seeing how those changes made an impact in the following year.