Climate action in the company
In order to successfully implement corporate climate action, companies need both the necessary awareness and knowledge of where carbon emissions occur and how they can be reduced. In addition to employee education, there are other measures that every company can take to help shape a climate-friendly economy. We'll tell you about them in this entry. But first, let's get to the basics of why now is the time to implement climate protection in every company.
In order to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement and not exceed the 1.5°C mark, companies must also, or above all, set sound climate targets and climate action measures and strive for net-zero corporate management. A 2021 study by SouthPole found that 45% of companies surveyed worldwide already have net-zero targets.
What does "net zero" mean?
"Zero emissions" describe the complete absence of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Net zero emissions," also called "carbon neutrality," involve offsetting greenhouse gas emissions that occur by removing greenhouse gases that have an equal impact on the climate.
However, a study published in September 2022 by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman in cooperation with CDP now shows that only 5% of companies can prove that they have taken or plan to take climate protection measures to achieve the 1.5°C target.
Companies in the G7 countries in particular are playing a major role in how the world's climate is changing. This is the association of the world's seven most important industrialized nations (at the time of its formation): Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada and the USA. Current surveys show that the published climate targets and ambitions of companies in the G7 region are currently heading for global warming of 2.7°C. Excluding Scope 3 emissions, this is still 2.4°C.
Specific examples in the categories:
Scope-1: Consumption of fuels in operation and transport.
Scope-2: Use of electricity, e.g. for heating and cooling, for electronic devices
Scope-3: e.g. wastewater in wastewater treatment plants, waste management, business travel, employee mobility, delivery and shipping
None of the seven countries will reach the 1.5°C mark of the Paris climate agreement with the measures they're currently setting. While Germany is heading toward a target of 2.2°C, Canada's target is as high as 3.1°C.
Global emissions can be roughly divided into four sectors: Energy, land use, industry and waste management.
Percentage emissions by sector (source: Our World in Data)
The energy sector includes, for example:
Energy consumption in the agricultural sector is also recorded in this sector. Thus, it can be fundamentally said that every company generates emissions through energy use, but at the same time, every company has the potential to implement saving measures in this sector.
This is also the case in the waste management sector. This includes wastewater as well as general waste that ends up in landfills.
Now for concrete measures that can be implemented in any company:
Being aware of your own company's emission level and sources is the first step to successfully implement measures. This is where so-called carbon footprint calculators can be used. A voluntary sustainability report or the ESG report, which is already mandatory in many areas, also offer opportunities for companies to implement targeted emission reductions.
More information on calculating a company's carbon footprint can be found here.
Technical devices in standby mode also consume electricity. Power strips with toggle switches can lead to lower power consumption. Heat regulation also offers potential for savings. Using heating and air-conditioning systems responsibly and switching them on and off as needed is the first step toward environmentally conscious energy use.
When choosing an energy provider in the company (and also privately), the focus should be on choosing the proportion of green electricity (hydroelectric power, wind power, etc.) as high as possible. This way, larger amounts of sustainable electricity are added to the electricity mix, and the collective consumption of oil and gas for energy production is reduced.
Furthermore, companies can use free roof areas to generate part of their own energy with the help of so-called photovoltaic systems and use the sun as an energy supplier.
Employees' commutes and business trips play a major role in reducing emissions generated by the company. Offering employees the possibility to travel by public transport by providing tickets for public transport by the company supports low-emission commuting. Furthermore, car pools can be organized if the company is hardly or not reached by public transport.
Even for business trips, the train is often the most energy- and time-efficient solution. Emissions consumption is lower, and the time spent on the train can be used for other purposes, unlike when driving.
The generation of waste can already be considered in production planning and avoided as far as possible.
Avoiding waste is also easy in everyday office life. Disposable glass and plastic cause high emissions during production and incineration. The introduction of reusable systems is a good idea here. With reusable glass containers, tons of plastic waste can be saved, for example when food is taken from a restaurant at lunchtime.
Where waste is nevertheless generated, waste systems are needed for the sorted collection of waste products to simplify the recycling process.
What belongs in which garbage can varies from (federal) state to (federal) state. Here, recycling apps such as "RecycleMich" and "Digi-Cycle" are helpful in reliably hitting the right garbage can.
When purchasing new equipment such as laptops, PCs or work phones, new resources do not necessarily have to be consumed. Many suppliers sell so-called "refurbished" equipment, used devices that have been brought back up to date. And even if something breaks, it is important to have the product repaired if possible instead of replacing it directly with a new one.
Avoiding Scope-3 emissions in the value chain is achieved by setting clear regulations for compliance with social, structural and environmental standards, which are used to select partners in the upstream and downstream supply chain.
Companies often lack the awareness and/or skills to successfully implement climate protection measures or to initiate a sustainable transformation within the company. Educating employees in the area of climate protection is the foundation for a successful transition to a sustainable way of working.
The Glacier Climate Academy offers climate education ranging from the basics to industry-specific expertise.
To avoid business travel, meetings can be held via online meeting tools when possible. The emissions of commuting employees can also be reduced by offering the option of working from home.
Vegetarian/vegan days in the canteen, an extended vegan/vegetarian offer, or for example the regulation to pay only for vegetarian food from the company budget, promote climate-conscious nutrition in the company.
Furthermore, the declaration of the carbon emissions of food leads to a more sustainable diet, as a study from Germany shows.
...measures can be taken in every company to drive and successfully master the net-zero transformation. Every company is a climate company, and every job is a climate job. Setting measures for corporate climate action is an extra effort, but with great added value.
In order to achieve the climate goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, effective measures are needed that are implemented in the company and contribute to a climate-friendly economy.