Lack of an agreed methodology on calculating the carbon footprints of operations and brands could lead to companies using increasingly diverse approaches, making it difficult to compare products and organisations and ultimately undermine the credibility of the exercise.
Speaking at an ENDS conference on reducing corporate carbon footprints, Cadbury’s environment manager Ian Walsh said firms must cooperate to develop a "unified standard" which strikes a balance between credibility and practicality.
The Carbon Trust recently proposed a methodology for assessing the carbon footprint of products, but there are no official guidelines for measuring a company’s entire carbon footprint, which typically includes supply chain impacts along with direct emissions.
Conference delegates heard that a growing number of companies are using a variety of methodologies to collect information about direct and indirect carbon emissions. This information is being used to describe, measure and manage corporate carbon impacts, particularly “hot spots” in supply chains.
Many firms are using the information to inform decisions on how much carbon to offset. Offsetting is then used to claim carbon neutrality. Marketers are also using the information to strengthen brand image by making claims on carbon efficiency.
However the wide range of approaches emerging is making it increasingly difficult to understand what a company means by its carbon footprint. The scope varies on how far up supply chains data is collected, and on the inclusion of the carbon impacts of products or services in use.
A sector-based approach to developing a common carbon footprint methodology – with agreed principles, data boundaries, assumptions and measurement standards – would improve transparency and consistency.