We must become more sustainable to solve the climate crisis. There is data available which can be used to make your organisation more climate-friendly, but interpreting that data is wildly complex. There is great demand for a simple tool that helps organisations analyse useful data so they can take meaningful action.
Should workplace canteens stop serving red meat, or should the company cut down on employee flights? Would the most significant impact come from changing the office heating technology? What would make an actual, meaningful difference?
“The first step is to calculate your organisation’s carbon footprint. If you don’t know it, how can you cut emissions in the first place? We have a number of international and national targets that aim for carbon neutrality around 2030,” says Merli Juustila, CEO of CarbonLink. CarbonLink is an automated carbon footprint service for organisations, backed by the research of atmospheric scientists at the University of Helsinki.
Juustila refers, for example, to Finland’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2035. The UK government aims to reduce emissions 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. For the EU as a whole, the target is 2050. Financial instruments increasingly steer the process. A good example is the Fit for 55 climate package which aims to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
Reduce, capture, offset
One driver for change is the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities. It is a classification system which establishes a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities, linking corporate financing and the implementation of climate targets.
In short, the taxonomy means that the availability or cost of financing is connected to how well the organisation’s activities consider, for example, climate objectives. At this stage, the EU taxonomy has been extended to listed companies and large businesses employing more than 500 people and the financial sector, including banks and insurance companies. The first data under the taxonomy is to be published in early 2022.
“If you want to save the world, you need to start with mapping carbon emissions, then reducing them as much as possible, and capturing or offsetting the rest. Carbon sequestration, or offsetting, is not possible until we know the level of emissions,” Juustila explains.
Low and zero emissions are important goals for many companies. This is also something that is increasingly watched by different stakeholders such as NGOs, investors, suppliers, and customers.
It boils down to competitiveness. The expectation is that businesses measure the environmental impact of their operations accurately and develop a concrete plan to reduce their carbon footprint.
Here the carbon footprint calculator Sustion steps in. It is a result of a collaboration between CarbonLink and Visma which helps companies make useful and valuable decisions on the path towards carbon neutrality.
“The collaboration with Visma took off from the fact that climate change is too big of an issue to be solved in silos. Visma had tried to find ready-made solutions for their organisation, but there weren’t any. My background at the university is in co-creation and co-design, which aims to harness research to benefit the wider society. That’s where the collaboration got its start,” recalls Juustila.
The result of this collaboration, Sustion, is a cloud-based service that calculates carbon dioxide emissions generated by a company’s activities in real-time, based on financial management data. It demonstrates how and where the carbon footprint is created and what steps you need to take to reduce it. The approach emphasises ease of use.
“There are many different tools available for calculating your footprint. However, all of them are based on estimates. Alternatively, they require that someone in the company finds out, for example, how many miles staff have spent sitting in an airplane. We want to eliminate this cumbersome step,” says Juustila.
You don’t have to be a climate expert
It is difficult to calculate carbon footprints and reduction goals, particularly when there is such wide variation between countries, industries, and even individual firms. So, should every company hire a person with a master’s degree in a field that provides an understanding of carbon footprints or atmospheric science?
“Absolutely not. We want to make things better and easier by bringing to the market a product that allows you to calculate your carbon footprint and do so based on scientific research in atmospheric sciences,” says Merli Juustila.
Juustila shows the Sustion pilot model on a computer screen. Data extracted from financial management data is cleverly visualised on the screen as multi-coloured graphs. By clicking on them, you can see where your company’s carbon gluttons are. Do they lurk in car trips, in flights, in catering or perhaps in the use of electricity?
Each company’s report will look different because the information is based on the company’s unique financial management figures and accounts.
“The aim is to have everything accounted for, but at this stage, it depends a lot on the financial management data. The more detailed the data, the more detailed the information we can pull out for the report. And that data is improving continuously with the rise of e-invoicing and electronic receipts,” says Juustila.
Learn more about how Sustion can economically and efficiently help your company improve your sustainability and meet your goals.