How Carbon Accounting Data can Drive Whole Company Buy-in for the Green Transition

In a recent webinar we held about net zero alignment, positivity and unity emerged as the prevailing attitude to decarbonisation. The challenge was in identifying the most efficient way for businesses to get there. 

Seeing as net-zero targets cover 90% of the global economy and that number’s only going up, change is inevitable. But inevitable doesn’t mean easy; there are trailblazers, there are sceptics, and there are those who have yet to leave the decarbonisation station.

It’s a long road ahead for companies serious about hitting their net zero targets, but without accurate emissions data, who’s to say precisely how long it is and how much it might cost? As with financial accounting, what gets measured gets managed.

To get everyone on board with the carbon transition, you need to show them the path, and using accurate emissions data is how you do it.

The Complex World of Emissions Data Collection: Challenges and Lessons

Carbon accounting involves collecting, calculating and reporting the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that result from all of a company’s operations and supply chain activities. Carbon accounting allows businesses to implement achievable carbon reduction strategies and targets. Just like financial management, it’s all about data-led decision-making.

The challenge with taking accurate emissions data and applying it to sustainability initiatives lies in how vast and disparate businesses and their supply chains can be. According to Ryan Wolcott, CSO of Pregis, “there is literally not a more complex KPI that you can measure. Period.”

Pregis tried assessing their emissions factor in-house, but struggled to get to grips with such an enormous task. Without company-wide buy-in, they struggled to set up a cross-functional team. Things got easier once they had data that all departments could relate to. This provided them with a platform to build on. What was once a herculean annual effort has now become orderly and automated. They’ve been able to move from annual to quarterly to almost monthly carbon accounting.

A holistic, accessible-by-design approach that enables everyone at every level of the company, C-Suite and supply chain included, to make sense of unstructured data, is essential. That’s why Emitwise’s carbon accounting platform takes its cues from financial accounting. In part because of the need to present stringent, verifiable data, but also because that’s what businesses are used to. Given the disparate nature of emissions data, putting a single number on it that everyone can relate to is an exercise in galaxy brain thinking.

Emissions Data and Mapping the Path to Net-Zero

Making changes to improve sustainability can appear costly at first. There aren’t any shortcuts, but there are optimal paths through the transition. How can businesses know where to begin? Emissions data is the GPS that will help companies to navigate the road to net-zero. 

Emissions data also ensures resources, people, capital and time are allocated efficiently. This includes stakeholders, supply chain actors and employees who must be brought on board for any holistic sustainability strategy to be a success.

Who Needs Emissions Data? Onboarding Employees and Beyond

Carbon reduction initiatives can be good for business, no matter the organisation.

Employees are ready to make the jump, as evidenced by a recent Consultancy.EU survey that demonstrated a desire among professionals to go beyond compliance.

Data granularity not only allows businesses to make the most efficient decisions to optimise their activities for decarbonisation, it also allows businesses to personalise their net-zero journey for their employees. Making data personal requires, as Capgemini’s Lee Beardmore put it, creating “a  direct and meaningful correlation with the underlying data” for employees.

How can an individual employee identify with and affect the big, enigmatic number that is your company’s emissions calculation? Once those numbers are translated into real world, tangible activities, it gets easier. It’s about meeting people where they are. It can be as simple as telling employees that riding a bike to work will make the number go down.

Once employees and supply chain actors’ relationship with emissions data is made clear, Lee says sustainability can “[become] of the ethos and DNA of the company’s construction.”

It’s not so much a case of choosing the carrot over the stick (who isn’t going to choose the carrot) as it is about being able to see the carrot in the first place. Accurate carbon data is revealing the business benefits of decarbonisation, allowing companies to build credibility into their business decisions, internally and externally. This newfound transparency means that regulatory and peer scrutiny are the building blocks of cross-sectoral alignment on net-zero.

“It’s too complex…” Not anymore.

What once seemed an almost impossible feat: getting accurate business-wide emissions data on scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions is now possible with carbon accounting tools that provide emissions data that are ready for the regulators, the financial accountants, the C-suite and the supply chain.  This improved accuracy enables success in the following business areas:

  1. Regulation: you can’t pass audits without accurate, trustworthy data.
  2. Decarbonisation: accurate data is crucial for quantifying impact. Without it, you can’t measure the impact of your actions, and you won’t be able to make consistently beneficial decisions.
  3. Profitability: Using data to drive revenue-creating, or saving decision-making.

Procurewise, Emitwise’s supply chain carbon accounting tool, does the complicated work for a company’s Scope 3 emissions, collating all the disparate supplier data into a cohesive carbon story, dispelling the mystery around emissions data.

Working with a partner like Emitwise that understands the importance of presenting emissions data in relatable ways. Shareable, customisable dashboards that allow for emissions factor inputs tailored to your company are essential to creating a personalised data-gathering experience. The platform arranges emissions by scope/category, so users can make sure what they see is relevant to them, as well as offering pre-populated reports that make submission a breeze.

“Make it good for business, then stuff actually gets done.”

Carbon accounting is a necessary tool for businesses with environmental performance commitments and obligations. All businesses need an accurate emissions baseline against which they can track their progress, and change practices where necessary. 89% of investors believe companies with strong ESG performance should have a valuation premium. We already know the benefits this can bring for the planet, for customers, shareholders and investors. It would be a waste not to bring employees along for the ride.

In the not-so-distant future, sustainability will become a core component of modern companies, and it ought to be treated as such. What’s good for the planet and what’s good for business aren’t so different from one another; with accurate emissions data, businesses can have it both ways.

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