The key to measuring carbon emissions in your supply chain By Charles Naud

Understanding what sustainability challenges that businesses within our community are facing is key to what we do at Action Sustainability. Through the Supply Chain Sustainability School, we run an annual sustainability impact survey amongst our 50,000+ members. This exercise naturally prompts us to think of solutions to these problems.

In 2019, it became apparent that climate change was high up on people’s sustainability agenda, but the survey results told us that companies felt ill-equipped to tackle their carbon emissions. At the time, the Supply Chain Sustainability School resource library already had a plethora of carbon-related resources ranging from e-learning modules, interactive workshops, and loads more resources on the topic of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, our impact survey results proved we weren’t doing enough.

Not known to rest in front of a problem, we built a special-purpose taskforce called the Climate Action Group. This group  is compromised of the top sustainability professionals from the UK’s leading  clients and contractors from the construction, infrastructure, and facilities management sectors.

After a few brainstorming sessions, it transpired that these organisations had a good handle on their own carbon emissions: they had measured their footprint and put plans in place to reduce them. However, the problem was that they had very limited scope 3 data. In other words, they did not know the amount of carbon emissions embedded in their supply chains. This was a massive blind spot.

Unsure of the difference between Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions? Read our guide here.

To be able to cut down on your carbon emissions for your journey to net zero, you need to be able measure what you actually need to cut down on.

Gathering your consumption data to calculate scopes 1 and 2 should be a relatively simple process for most organisations: you know how much fuel or electricity you have purchased. However, to calculate scope 3 emissions, you will need to gather information from your supply chain, which can prove difficult.

As a workaround to this problem, a methodology is to estimate emissions based on spend by category. For example, you can use proxies that calculate emissions associated with every pound spent on facilities management. This methodology is very approximative and will only show reductions in your footprint if you reduce your spend.

To come back to our impact survey results, companies reported that they weren’t taking action to reduce their carbon emissions. When we explored this with the major clients and main contractors, it became apparent that there was a dangerous lack of data from the supply chain.

That’s why we decided to build a very simple tool that allows suppliers to measure their carbon emission for free and apportion them to clients based on percentage of turnover.

Considering that the world needs to accelerate its path to net zero carbon, we’re focused on helping create sector-wide solutions that will have lasting impacts on our understanding of where our emissions are truly coming from.

You can register to use the Carbon Calculator as a supplier for free. If you’d like to use the Carbon Calculator to gather data from your supplier chain, please get in touch.

For more information

Charles Naud
Head of Product

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