The Essential Guide to Carbon Reduction Opportunities
All organisations, big or small, need to reduce carbon emissions. These reductions must be ambitious to be in line with the latest climate science (we support Science Based Targets – read more about them). Reduction is also a key requirement of our Toitū carbonreduce and Toitū carbonzero programmes. But it can sometimes feel easier said than done, so follow our steps to ensure that your organisation’s plan is as robust and ambitious as possible.
Key areas of consideration
There are three main areas to consider when developing or updating your management and reduction plan.
1. Know your emission sources
Get to know your Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions sources. Your biggest reductions will come from working on your largest sources of carbon, and knowing your inventory will help you focus on areas that matter.
Develop a deeper understanding of emissions by committing to improving the accuracy of your data. Consider increasing the information coming directly from your suppliers or look at enhancing your own data capture systems. This is especially important if you are working on reduction projects in this area – you want the data to reflect your hard work.
2. Get key people on board
You might be the person managing the overall inventory, but there will be other people who are responsible for activities that produce emissions, or who are producing the data, approving the investment case or owning particular carbon reduction initiatives. Taking a collaborative approach is key, and including subject matter or process experts in your planning can help identify more opportunities for reduction. For example, a manufacturer might include site foreperson, accountant and building operation manager into a working group. Every organisation is different so make sure you have all the people on board that you need.
Also, communicating your target and individual reduction initiatives to the wider team can increase momentum and ambition. Involving the whole team builds GHG reduction into the team culture, which in turn can generate new ideas and keep the focus on monitoring emissions and progress.
3. What levers can you adjust to reduce emissions
Your emissions can be measured in two ways;
- the total amount of carbon emitted by the organisation (absolute level)
- the rate of emissions per unit, e.g. GDP or product unit (intensity).
You can reduce your carbon emissions by influencing either the level or the intensity. For instance, a company may emit 100 tonnes of carbon to manufacture 100 products. Their level of emissions are 100 tonnes, and their intensity is 1 tonne per product. Using this example, they could decrease their level of emissions by sourcing components from a closer site. Or they may focus on the intensity, by changing the transport of those components from a diesel truck to an electric truck.
Ideally, for any source, you pull both levers to reduce the emissions. This is because the two measures are linked. Using the previous example, a change in manufacturing process may mean that they use more energy. This increases their overall level of emissions, but also the intensity as they take more emissions to produce the same product. Also, if they decrease their emissions intensity of the product, but then go on to manufacture more products, their overall level of carbon will still increase, despite being more efficient.
Make sure your carbon reduction plan considers short, medium, and long term
It’s important to consider carbon reductions across all your time horizons. What is achievable now, what could occur in the ‘near future’, and what is more a ‘long-term’ project? This should also align with your targets or goals for different time-frames (for instance, is there a Science Based Target?).
What is immediately achievable because it’s straightforward and needs little or no investment? Can you switch to a low-carbon or like-minded supplier (e.g. Ecotricity for Toitū carbonzero certified electricity)? Swapping your fleet’s tyres to fuel efficient versions can reduce associated emissions by about 7.5%.
What projects require a bit more work and time to develop? Perhaps you’re a manufacturer and could work with your supplier to develop lighter and more efficient packaging. Could you analyse how you move your product to identify more efficient routes to save emissions, time and money? If you have got a fleet, could you consider a transition to hybrid, or even fully electric vehicles over time?
These projects need significant investment through capital expenditure, resourcing, waiting for existing contracts to expire, or potentially the evolution of business strategy. Examples here could be renovating or moving offices to improve energy efficiency, replacing a coal boiler, or installing smart building monitoring systems to reduce ongoing operational emissions. In some cases, there might be no easy solution, or you need to wait for (or develop) new technology not yet imagined. But it is still important to have these goals in the plan as they’ll need consistent work and innovation along the way. To help identify some of the opportunities, look at any industry guidance available that can provide ideas.
Pick your lens - view your emissions sources from multiple angles
Lastly, for each emissions source, it’s important to think about the different aspects of the business that contribute to it. This is about viewing it through different lenses – behaviour, process and infrastructure to identify different ways to find reductions.
Can your team work in more carbon efficient ways? Improving driver behaviour can reduce emissions by up to 20% – it just requires some training. A bin audit can identify opportunities to reduce the amount of waste to landfill through awareness campaigns, improving signage, or even moving your bins so they are easy to access. Whatever you do, behavioural science insights show that we should focus on the present and make the impact feel real (check out our webinar recording on this topic for insights, techniques and case studies).
“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” can be a business mantra - often because changing a process can be complex and tedious. However, there are a mountain of opportunities for carbon efficiency by adjusting the way we do things. Look at your processes with a fine-toothed comb, including both the downstream and upstream inputs. For instance, a freight and logistics company can reconsider their approach to moving cargo. More smaller hubs closer to low carbon transport like rail, rather than a main hub that relies mostly on road transport, may create significant carbon savings.
Your organisation might be lean, but your machinery or infrastructure can still let you down. Consider your assets. Replace fuel-powered machinery with electric (or perhaps even hydrogen) powered alternatives. When you build significant new infrastructure, start right in the design process and prioritise construction materials that are inherently low carbon. (The New Zealand Green Building Council have many reports that support this).
Once you have your ideas, feed them into your Target Setting Template (your Technical Account Manager can provide this to you). This will help you to see the percentage opportunity of reductions and how it contributes to your overall targets. You can also compare industry specific targets to see if you have the right level of ambition.
Our Toitū carbon frameworks make it easy for your organisation to develop a robust emissions management and reduction plan. Your dedicated Technical Account Manager is on hand for guidance, and we also support you with a range of resources such as the Technical Guide, Manage Guide, Emissions Management Webinar (and the Target Setting Template we reference previously).
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