Organizational Sustainability and Carbon Footprinting

Organizational or business sustainability could be summarized as the management of a business triple bottom line. A business social, financial and environmental risk, obligations and opportunities constitute its triple bottom line. One of the drivers of organizational sustainability is believed to be the 1987 United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) Bruntland report known as “our common future”.

Sustainable development was defined in the report as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The report has in a way served to unite countries to toll sustainable development paths.

Fast forward to today, a lot of efforts have been made to incorporate sustainable development into organizational practices. Many public and private sector organizations around the world have made and/or are making pledges to develop sustainably. Some organizational pledges are backed by special commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Large power plant on a sunny day

GHG are gasses or emissions that absorb heat in the atmosphere. Examples of GHG are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

CO2 is believed to be the most common GHG. As a result, these emissions are expressed in terms of CO2 equivalent and are referred to as carbon footprints.

GHG emissions are released during business activities. These activities release emissions. For example, waste sent to landfill releases methane, a GHG. Methane is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.

The bulldozer on a garbage dump

Transporting and processing aspects of companies also release carbon dioxide produced from the combustion of fossil fuels.

A good starting point for reducing business carbon footprints is for businesses to understand and quantify their emissions. Knowing how much emission a business produces is commonly done through carbon accounting and reporting. A common reporting standard used to measure and report a company’s carbon footprint is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a voluntary sustainability standard. Businesses also use it to demonstrate transparency and accountability to stakeholders.

Apart from measuring and reporting a business carbon footprint, there are also a lot of measures that can be used to curb GHG emissions in businesses. The following are few examples of what businesses can do to reduce their footprints. These measures are based on doing “more with fewer” resources.

1. Energy: Some of the energy used in businesses are fossil based and releases carbon dioxide. Doing more business activities with less energy is a simple way to reduce carbon footprints. A common way to reduce energy is by adopting switch off policies. For example, switching off unused energy consuming appliances such as computers, bulbs, process machines and so on can save businesses some amount of energy.

2. Waste: As mentioned earlier, waste sent to landfill releases methane. This means the less waste a business produces, the less the possibility of its waste going to landfills and releasing landfill gas. This can be achieved through waste monitoring activities to identify and seal business activities producing waste.

3. Water: This is a vital resource for every business. Energy is used before water flows from the tap. The more water that is used by a business, the higher the possibility of an increase in its emissions. Lowering water use in businesses can be achieved using water management or conservation innovations. Rainwater harvesting is a common way used to conserve water.

These measures described above are a few of several innovations that can be used by businesses to become more resilient, eco-friendly and low carbon.

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