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3 ways to reduce your company's carbon footprint

As the climate change conversation continues to pick up steam, the expansion of mandatory carbon footprint reporting has been growing alongside it. Many large companies have been reporting their greenhouse gas emissions to the Canadian and U.S. government for well over a decade now. If you are among the many companies for whom mandatory reporting will be new, here are three tips to help you reduce your company's carbon footprint.

Companies are cleaning up their act

As we approach Earth Day, which is April 22nd, it is a good time to look at your company through the lens of this year's Earth Day theme, "Invest in our planet." 

In the past, we’ve discussed ways to fortify your supply chain in the face of climate change. Now, let’s explore how we can add carbon footprint measurement to these approaches in a way that further strengthens your supply chain and bakes sustainability into your company processes.

What do we mean by "carbon footprint"?Carbon footprint_184616378_m_normal_none

As the climate change conversation has gained momentum over the past few years, a new term has become all the buzz: carbon footprint. But what does that term mean?

Simply put, carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon-containing greenhouse gases (GHG) that are released into the environment by an individual, group, process, or activity. In other words, how much an individual or company emits carbon dioxide or equivalent gases into the world is what constitutes their carbon footprint.  

Greenhouse gas reporting in Canada and the U.S.

Currently, mandatory carbon footprint reporting is required in 40 nations. While rumours suggest this will increase over time, reporting greenhouse gas emissions is by no means a new initiative. Canada has had a Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) in place since 2004. The program collects information from individual companies, organizations, and facilities relating to their annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian GHGRP tracks emissions from sources or activities taking place at the facility in question for the following:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • methane (CH4)
  • nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Currently, any facility emitting 10,000 tonnes per year or more of GHG in carbon dioxide equivalent units must submit a report for the calendar year. Since 2017, all facilities working in carbon capture, transport and storage must also submit reports covering these activities for the year (regardless of their annual GHG).

Taking the conversation over the border, the U.S. has a similar reporting program in place, funnily enough also called the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP). The U.S. GHGRP requires reporting of GHG data and other relevant information from large GHG emission sources, fuel and industrial gas suppliers, and carbon dioxide injection sites.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule. Generally, a facility is required to submit annual reports if:

  • GHG emissions from covered sources exceed 25,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent per year.
  • Supply of certain products would result in over 25,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent of GHG emissions if those products were released, combusted, or oxidized.

Why does carbon footprint reporting matter? 

Carbon footprint reporting is a potentially important piece in the large puzzle that is climate change. The global business community is working together to protect the planet by decreasing their GHG emissions. The act of measuring your company's carbon footprint is an illuminating way to gain awareness of what your company is contributing to the atmosphere. Reporting on your company's carbon footprint is a way of holding your company accountable to the larger community. Finally, both measuring and reporting your carbon footprint can become avenues through which you can change your processes to ones that are more sustainable for the planet. 

The idea of measuring and reporting something as intensive as GHG emissions can seem daunting, especially when you are in the freight and logistics industry! This is why when it comes to measuring your company’s carbon footprint, enjoying the process of data collection is certainly helpful.

Under the GHGRP, emissions are divided into three categories:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from sources controlled or owned by your company (e.g, vehicles, furnaces, equipment, etc.)
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from energy bought by your company (i.e. your hydro consumption)
  • Scope 3: All other indirect emissions (e.g, business travel, your staff commutes, materials)

At the time of writing (2023), where carbon footprint reporting is mandatory, companies are required to report on their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, with Scope 3 being optional. However, don’t let the reporting requirements stop you. Scope 3 emissions may, in fact, be a great area to explore and make changes within, as there may potentially be improvements that can be made somewhat faster than Scope 1 or 2.

Ultimately, ensuring you have a comprehensive method for collecting the data on these emissions will help you not only with any mandatory reporting requirements but also by giving you a full picture of your company’s operations in the context of environmental sustainability.

3 ways to reduce your company's carbon footprint

Climate change, whether it's freak weather events or mandatory carbon footprint reporting, can potentially deliver a one-two punch to any company’s supply chain, but it doesn't have to. For example, the steps you take towards building a more resilient supply chain can also inform your approach to reducing your carbon footprint.

Here are three ways to get started:

1) Conduct a thorough energy inventory of your company across all scopes.

Where are you wasting energy? (e.g., are lights left on overnight? Does every individual employee arrive in their own car?) What energy-reducing initiatives are in place? What other initiatives could be implemented in your company buildings and vehicles?

2) Bring in the right people.

As you might expect, any new trends bring with them a fleet of consultants and experts on the topic. In this case, it can be helpful to pull a sustainability consultant on board to fill any knowledge gaps and help educate your team.

3) Be patient and realistic with your goals.

If you are new to carbon footprint reporting, allow the process to take the time it needs to evolve and become part of your company culture. Within that, aim for achievable targets backed by the latest science. Unfortunately, triumphantly announcing, “We’re heading for net-zero in 2024!” is not helpful for anyone. Determine 3 ways to reduce your company's carbon footprint is realistic and achievable and work steadily towards your goals. 

Help your company help the planet

The shift to sustainability is likely a trend that is here to stay. Growing your awareness as a company and taking steps to prepare yourselves for much more comprehensive carbon footprint reporting could help insure you stay rising with the tide, not drowning in it.

Whether it's freight forwarding, customs brokerage or trade consulting, Cole International works at the frontlines of the global supply chain challenges the world faces today. With offices in the U.S. and Canada, and over half a century of experience, our logistics professionals can take the stress out of international shipping.

Helping your company and the planet. It's what we do.

Contact us today! 

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