The Carbon Column – What, how, where of data

In this article I discuss data and the questions businesses can ask themselves to help measure their carbon footprint

Big Zero Report 2022

We live in the digital age. The value of data has skyrocketed in recent years. Businesses are using data to enable better decision-making.

This is no different when it comes to measuring carbon. Data is crucial.

Measuring carbon gives the company insight into their business emissions and where they have emissions hotspots. This helps set a focus for reduction efforts.

There is a saying which I must have said and heard hundreds of times: “You can’t reduce what you can’t measure”.

I believe this in most cases. Measuring carbon annually gives a company information to be able to communicate more effectively. It gives stakeholders a better understanding of the environmental impact of their supply chain. It enables better decision-making. It is the platform for carbon reduction to achieve net zero.

To be able to measure carbon, data is required. Data is central to all calculations. In the simplest form, it requires data from the business, from suppliers or customers and conversion factors provided by the government.

What, how, where?

Businesses need to understand the answers to what, how and where? Finding these answers needs a bit of thought with some support and guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol carbon reporting documentation.

First, what data do we need? After prioritising the categories to calculate emissions from, the business can determine the best methodology to calculate the footprint. This methodology will give you the answer to what data is required.

Second, where is this data held? Data may be held in all types of formats and systems. A large proportion of data will come from financial systems, but not all of it. A lot of data in scope 3 will come from outside of the company. This will require engagement with the supply chain to access it.

Finally, once the business knows what data is required and where it is kept, the business can plan for how. How are we going to get it? Having a clear plan how to access the information will be the most effective way to obtain the data.

Once these questions are answered, the business can split out the work between team members accordingly. If this is all one person’s task, then it is crucial they have the right support from the whole business to make their life easier.

Businesses may decide to answer these questions in a different order. I personally believe taking the effort to map the data requirements brings focus to data collection and eases the carbon calculation process.

If you are struggling with identifying the relevant data, engaging suppliers or anything related to collecting the appropriate data, please feel free to email me to discuss.

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