Company carbon footprint

The three main aspects of a business’s carbon footprint are: energy consumption, transport and use of goods and services.

Energy consumption includes electricity and heating at the company’s offices and it may also entail energy consumption elsewhere.

As to transport, there is a carbon footprint from commuting and business travel, and in addition the transport of goods to customers. For businesses selling physical goods transport can be the bulk of the carbon footprint.

The use of goods and services from other companies contributes to a company’s carbon footprint. However, this invites the question: who is responsible for the carbon footprint in a commercial transaction, the company providing the service or the company receiving it?

For example, a manufacturer produces goods and sells them to a retailer. The retailer in turn sells them to end consumer. How do we apportion the carbon footprint of the process? At each stage a carbon footprint has been created.

If we take the view that the consumer is responsible then the provider has no carbon footprint. It’s the principle of “selling on” the carbon footprint. On the other hand if the provider is responsible, then the consumer has no carbon footprint. This second approach is more likely to be consistently applied because not all consumers will offset. If we adopt the principle that the consumer expects the goods to be “zero footprint” at the point of sale then offsetting will be more universal.

The answer is not set in stone. The reasonable approach is that we all participate is generating the carbon footprint of the process. There is then a potential for double-counting: both the provider and consumer may offset for the same carbon footprint. To avoid this, the provider should declare if the product has been offset or not.

Double-counting can add to cost but it is certainly doubly beneficial to the environment. It is a form of super-offsetting. By offsetting the same emissions twice, instead of bringing the emissions balance to zero we actually capture carbon from the atmosphere.

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