DIGITAL SUSTAINABILITY: HOW VALID DATA HELPS COMPANIES TO IMPROVE ON THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT

11. November 2020

The climate crisis poses immense global challenges for the world’s population. Driven by findings from climate research and the important UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, the debate has increasingly become a social focus topic in recent years. The agenda is clear: in order to slow down global warming significantly, the world must become climate-neutral in the medium term and all carbon emissions need to be compensated. A difficult task, but one that is taking shape: in its 2018 strategy, the EU Commission calls for “a climate-neutral Europe by the year 2050” as its goal. One year later, the EU member states also agree to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Finally, the EU Commission’s European Green Deal followed in 2020: an action plan in which the project is further concretized by the proposal of a European “climate law”, among other things. Apart from politics, the business sector is increasingly becoming the focus of responsibility – but how can companies effectively tackle the issue?

 

STANDARDIZATION OF PROCESSES

The topic is already at the top of the agenda for many companies, the most prominent initiative recently came from technology giant Apple: In its own sustainability report, the company committed to total carbon neutrality by 2030. Amazon also wants to reach this goal by 2040. But what global corporations have been pushing for years, is proving to be comparatively difficult for SMEs. Although many companies are already working on appropriate strategies, the effort required to improve their own carbon footprint is often underestimated. The carbon footprint refers to the total of all emissions that a company emits during its business operations. When it comes to recording a corresponding greenhouse gas balance, a standard has been established that many companies use: the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol). This standardization is intended to make it easier for companies to determine their carbon footprint, while at the same time allowing uniform formulation of targets for reducing economic emissions. The standard divides the emissions caused into three Scopes:

  • Scope 1 includes all emissions generated directly by the company (e.g. during the manufacturing process)
  • Scope 2 covers all emissions associated with energy sources in the company (e.g. electricity or district heating)
  • Scope 3 covers all emissions caused by business activities (e.g. business trips or the daily commute of employees, but also the supply chain and, above all, emissions caused by the use of products)

Many companies focus on measuring emissions from their own operations and electricity consumption (i.e. Scope 1 and 2), as the calculation of Scope 3 emissions is often very extensive and complex. However, according to the GHG Protocol, the majority of total corporate emissions come from these same Scope 3 sources, which cannot be efficiently improved due to a lack of sufficient digital data available. As a result, many sectors of the economy are missing out on a decisive improvement in their carbon footprint.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SCOPE 3 EMISSIONS IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY

The German real estate industry shows that such Scope 3 sources have a decisive share in emissions – after all, they are said to be responsible for around a third of Germany’s total carbon emissions. Measuring the emissions of real estate not only during its utilization phases but over its entire life cycle leads to an enormous increase in the carbon footprint. The new German energy law for buildings (GEG) introduces many important measures, such as the obligation to use renewable energies in new buildings. However, the responsibility for localizing further savings potential often still lies on the side of the building owners.

The industry must therefore change its processes if emissions are to be reduced over the entire life cycle of buildings. Opportunities for this exist: Alternative materials can help in the manufacturing process. For example, in high-rise construction, a hybrid of wood and concrete can cut emissions considerably compared to traditional reinforced concrete. This construction method makes particularly efficient use of resources and at the same time increases sustainable value creation through its potential for reuse. Increasingly digital management of real estate can also save additional work and thus reduce emissions. Above all, however, the continuous conversion of existing buildings to low-energy or passive houses, can help to significantly reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Here, the aim is to determine and optimize energy requirements on the basis of valid data collected over the entire life cycle of a property.

DIGITALIZATION AND VALID DATA LEAD TO SUSTAINABLE CHANGE

In order to improve the carbon footprint in a targeted and long-term manner, data must be continuously gathered regarding the various construction and utilization phases of buildings. This data should not only be digitally available throughout the entire life cycle, but also be accessible for selected business partners.

TRUST&TRACE makes data management and exchange simple and secure: the software provides digital access to company data and product information, which can then be shared in a trusted manner. Each company maintains its data independently and makes it available to its business partners – the data is therefore only entered once and used several times. In addition to the exchange of product data, it is also possible to provide information on one’s own carbon footprint, for instance on the basis of Scope 3 emissions. This not only creates transparency along the supply chain, but also enables companies to better integrate their products into cradle to cradle strategies in the sense of a circular economy. The software’s decentralized infrastructure ensures that all participants retain control of their data at all times.

Would you like to learn more about how you can use TRUST&TRACE for your company? Arrange a free consultation appointment with our experts at [email protected].

Milan Schlegel
PR Manager and Content Creator | [email protected] | +49 176 47161036