Written by Winston Logist
During my Business Engineering studies, sustainability was often mentioned superficially, but seldom in great depth or referring to the practical aspects. Despite it being an important topic in business and society in general, I felt like I did not know a lot about the specifics. Personally, it is an area I always wanted to explore.
Therefore, I was excited about the opportunity to work on a carbon accounting project at BrightWolves, one of a handful of Belgian companies with approved Science Based Targets (SBTi).
Carbon accounting: what?
Carbon accounting is a method to measure and track how much greenhouse gas (GHG) an organization emits across its value chain. It’s a concrete and more quantifiable way to hold organizations accountable for their activities and an excellent internal motivator to take focused actions in those areas of high impact.
Carbon accounting: a path littered with obstacles
Soon, I discovered that carbon accounting is all about data, ranging from fuel, electricity usage, or data on capital goods. Connecting with a large group of internal and external stakeholders was necessary to collect all relevant data. It was a rare exception that the received data was ready to use. Most of the time it was incomplete, needed some manipulation, or the correct data seemed to be non-existent.
Consequentially, following a rigorous methodology and keeping track of assumptions was necessary to come to a truthful result. Once all data had been collected, it had to be multiplied with an emission factor to finally come to a total sum for each emissions category.
Some lessons learned are to (i) be pragmatic and (ii) perform regular sanity checks to verify if the outcome is plausible.
Carbon accounting: the real work starts after
When you put all the data together, and have the overview on the total emissions, you get a clear answer to the obvious question: “How did our emissions evolve over time?”. It allows you to easily identify the main drivers of change in the emissions’ profile and figure out if past measures already had a visible impact.
It was not an option to stop merely at backward looking reporting … BrightWolves expected me to identify those big impact initiatives and translate these to a forward-looking reduction plan.
While presenting my findings to the full management team, they challenged me one last time: “organize an interactive moment to engage with all the Wolves on our reduction plan and capture their additional ideas”.
Some important lessons learned are to (i) focus on high impact areas by quantifying, and (ii) engage with the entire company.
Carbon accounting is a challenging, but extremely important chain of the full sustainable transformation of an organization. I see it as a crucial tool to focus on those areas that matter the most in your respective value chain.
Looking back at my internship, it was an extremely enriching experience, for which I am truly grateful. It was an opportunity to work on both my hard and soft skills, while learning more about an important topic. In the end, what will stay with me the most is the fun and inspiring environment BrightWolves is.