Is your organization reporting greenhouse gas emissions? Whether it’s your first time reporting, or part of your annual reporting process, the ability to predict common problem areas could save you and your organization valuable time and money.
The Key to GHG Verification - Data
Data is the key to your GHG reporting process. Your emissions data must be collected and aggregated into quantifiable numbers that can be reported, no matter what program or scheme you are reporting to.
Your organization’s emissions data should be broken up into three categories: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are direct and indirect emissions from your business, including energy used in operational processes, fuel consumption from company vehicles, energy used to heat and/or cool buildings, and so on. Scope 3 emissions are upstream/downstream emissions that originate from assets that are not controlled or owned by your organization, such as employee commuting, use of sold products, and more. While these emissions are difficult to quantify, they often make up the largest percentage of your GHG emissions.
Common missteps and problems
1. Failure to pro-rate data
Although each organization utilizes different information systems, these systems have commonalities. For most, utility consumption data (natural gas and electricity) will be well documented and adequately tracked. There are some nuances within the reporting rules, however. One of the most common errors organizations make is not pro-rating utility data so that your reported emissions conform to the calendar year, rather than conforming to your utility billing cycle; or partially reporting Fiscal Year data combined with Calendar Year data. Inaccurate accounting of date boundaries for your inventory may not result in a large discrepancy, but may require significant time to fix. If these errors are not found until the audit process is underway, they will result in project delays.
2. Overlooking utility data from leased spaces
Due to recent protocol updates, organizations must now calculate and report purchased heating and cooling in leased spaces. Because direct (Scope 1) emissions are determined based on your organization’s Operational and/or Financial Control, this can be a tricky category to get right. Just as indirect emissions associated with electricity consumption may be a significant source of GHG emissions, purchased heating and cooling are a required category as well. If your organization occupies leased spaces, it’s important to assess how heating and cooling have been supplied, in addition to electricity consumption.
3. Initiating inventory development with inaccurate data inaccuracy
A common understanding in data management is that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, so it is imperative to track data accurately from the start. In GHG accounting, gaps in your data can undermine your deliberate preparation. Being aware of detection risk (the ability to see through the information stream deeply enough to detect missing or incomplete data) and managing that risk is one of the most important tools for anyone collecting and reporting GHG emissions. Common setbacks such as vendors that exist outside of standard channels (data isn’t captured by your internal GHG team’s initial “grab”), equipment downtime (broken meters), and transcription errors may cause downstream headaches like project delays and/or large revisions if not detected early in the process
4. Misunderstanding of program or protocol reporting requirements and tools
If your organization is reporting to a voluntary disclosure program, it’s important to be aware of any specific requirements they may have. Do you need an Inventory Management Plan or a summary table showing each gas total reported separately? Have you clearly shown applied Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and/or offsets? Have you included dual reporting of Scope 2 emissions showing market-based and location-based totals? Depending on the applicable program or standards, these minor details can turn into time-consuming problems. Whether using an external consultant like Cameron-Cole or internal resources, finding out at the last minute that your organization’s “completed” inventory needs more work can sap resources and result in a chain reaction of revisions and time-consuming adjustments, especially if those results have been previously published.
Similarly, spending a significant amount of time and effort tracking down vehicle refrigerant information, or the precise fuel use in small emergency generators only to later realize that a basic estimate or exclusion could be used is another common drain on resources. Understanding how to best optimize the level of effort and documentation required for reporting is critical in how and where your organization plans to report its GHG emissions.
How GHG reporting can benefit your organization
GHG reporting opens up a range of opportunities for your organization to begin new initiatives, such as carbon offsets to further improve sustainability.
GHG verification is also a great starting point for reporting to environmental disclosure organizations such as CDP and GRI. Disclosing to a reporting organization can provide various benefits for your company. Proficient sustainability scores can boost stakeholder support, increase profits through improved operational processes, improve brand awareness and loyalty, and contribute to creating a sustainable economy.
Cameron-Cole, an ADEC Innovation, specializes in navigating the nuances of GHG reporting, assisting clients with collecting, calculating, and documenting their Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, providing support throughout the entire process as a consultant, or serving as a verification auditing body. Is your organization reporting GHG emissions under a mandatory or voluntary reporting program? Are you subject to a third party verification audit? As an accredited GHG third party verification body with a team of experts ready to support you with GHG verification and carbon management services, Cameron-Cole can ease the strain on your internal resources. Contact us today to discuss your reporting and verification needs.