by Trever Anderson and Sharon Jaye — Originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of FMJ — Sustainability is no longer just a value-based question. It is a core strategic imperative for any company that intends to thrive and grow in the years ahead.
Carbon has become the currency of the sustainability movement. In the U.S., about 40 percent of carbon emissions can be attributed to the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings. It also has been widely reported that about 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are from facilities.
As the stewards of the built environment, facility managers are in a unique position to measure and monitor both building- and workplace-related carbon emissions. Whether considering energy management, waste handling, environmental impact, purchasing, air quality or a host of other sustainability issues, the practice of carbon footprinting is a standard method of measurement of environmental stewardship.
What is a carbon footprint?
The term carbon footprint is slang for a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a greenhouse gas inventory is an “accounting of greenhouse gases emitted to or removed from the atmosphere over a period of time.”
GHG inventories quantify the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and are a critical management tool for organizations of all sizes and sectors. They enable companies to identify their emission sources and track changes over time. They can also inform corporate strategies and help organizations prioritize actions to reduce emissions, as well as provide benchmarks against which the success of these activities can be measured. Facility managers use them to establish baselines for tracking emission trends, develop mitigation strategies and assess progress.
This article provides an overview of the most commonly used international standards for measuring and reporting carbon footprints, including:
- Greenhouse Gas Protocol
- International Organization for Standardization
- Global Reporting Initiative
- The Climate Registry
Greenhouse Gas Protocol
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, developed by World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is the most widely used standard for measuring, managing and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol is used in almost every GHG standard in the world, from the International Organization for Standardization to The Climate Registry, and includes all seven greenhouse gases required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.
The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard provides standards and guidance for companies and other organizations preparing a GHG emissions inventory. It was designed to:
- Help companies prepare a GHG inventory that represents a true and fair account of their emissions through the use of standardized approaches and principles
- Simplify and reduce the costs of compiling a GHG inventory
- Provide businesses with information that can be used to build an effective strategy to manage and reduce GHG emissions
- Increase consistency and transparency in GHG accounting and reporting among various companies and GHG programs
The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard also includes the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance, which provides recommendations on what companies should disclose around their electricity purchases and requires them to use both a location-based and a market-based method when calculating and reporting their indirect emissions.
Companies also have the option to use the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard for assistance in assessing the impact of their entire value chain emissions and identifying the most effective ways to reduce them. Users of this standard can create a more complete inventory and account for emissions from 15 categories of Scope 3 activities, both upstream and downstream of their operations.
International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created an international standard for GHG accounting and reporting. ISO 14064 (2006) specifies principles and requirements at the organizational level for the quantification and reporting of GHG emissions and removals, and includes requirements for the design, development, management, reporting and verification of an organization’s GHG inventory.
Implementing this standard promotes consistency, transparency and credibility in GHG quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification; enables organizations to identify and manage GHG-related liabilities, assets and risks; facilitates the trade of GHG allowances or credits; and supports the design, development and implementation of comparable and consistent GHG schemes or programs. The three parts of ISO 14064 are:
- 14064-1:2006, Part 1 details principles and requirements for designing, developing, managing and reporting organizational or company-level GHG inventories. It includes requirements for determining organizational boundaries, GHG emission boundaries, quantifying an organization’s GHG emissions and removals, and identifying specific company actions or activities aimed at improving GHG management.
- 14064-2:2006, Part 2 focuses on GHG projects or project-based activities specifically designed to reduce GHG emissions or increase GHG removals. It includes principles and requirements for determining project baseline scenarios and for monitoring, quantifying and reporting project performance relative to the baseline scenario, and provides the basis for GHG projects to be validated and verified.
- 14064-3:2006, Part 3 details principles and requirements for verifying GHG inventories and validating or verifying GHG projects. It describes the process for GHG-related validation or verification and specifies components, such as validation or verification planning, assessment procedures and the evaluation of organization or project GHG assertions.
ISO 14064 was designed to work in conjunction with two other standards, ISO 14065 2007 and ISO 14066 2011. ISO 14065 provides requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition, and ISO 14066 provides competence requirements for greenhouse gas validation teams and verification teams. An additional standard, ISO 14069:2013, provides guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1 to greenhouse gas inventories at the organization level, for the quantification and reporting of direct and indirect emissions.
A revision to the ISO 14064 family of standards is currently under development. As of July 2015, the update reached “Committee Draft” stage, and is nearing publication. It was expected to be complete in the spring of 2016. If your facility requires compliance with ISO 14064, please monitor or subscribe for news updates on their website.
Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder approach to develop a corporate reporting system based on sustainability for organizations around the world. It has set sector-specific metrics for specific types of enterprises presenting a uniform format for reporting information that is integral to a company’s performance in regard to sustainability and environmental concerns.
GRI’s G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines provide the best and most up-to-date guidance for effective sustainability reporting. They offer a globally relevant framework to support a standardized approach to reporting, and have been designed to be universally applicable to all organizations.
In addition to being the most user-friendly version to date, G4 has an increased emphasis on the need for organizations to focus on those topics that are material to their business and their key stakeholders. This means that sustainability reports will be centered on the most critical matters in order to achieve the organization’s goals and manage its impact on society. G4 is also available in an easy-to-navigate web version — G4 Online.
While the GRI provides guidelines for reporting all aspects of sustainability, the “Environmental Category” covers impacts related to greenhouse gas emissions. The reporting of GHG emissions is based on the requirements of the WRI and WBCSD GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. The “Emissions Aspect” section provides the following seven guidelines:
- G4-EN15 – Direct greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1)
- G4-EN16 – Energy indirect greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 2)
- G4-EN17 – Other indirect greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 3)
- G4-EN18 – Greenhouse gas emissions intensity
- G4-EN19 – Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- G4-EN20 – Emissions of ozone-depleting substances
- G4-EN21 – NOx, SOx, and other significant air emissions
The guidelines are presented in two parts:
- Reporting Principles and Standard Disclosures contains guidelines for reporting, disclosure templates and organizational criteria to prepare a sustainability report “in accordance” with G4.
- Implementation Manual explains how to apply the reporting principles, how to prepare the information to be disclosed and how to interpret the various concepts in the guidelines. Organizations should refer to the Implementation Manual when preparing a sustainability report.
The Climate Registry
The Climate Registry (TCR) is a nonprofit collaboration among states, provinces, territories and tribes throughout North America that was formed to continue and expand the emissions reporting work of the California Climate Action Registry.
It is the only voluntary carbon reporting program that is supported by U.S. state governments, offers hands-on support and service to assist its members in measuring, verifying and reporting the carbon in their operations, and produces high quality, consistent and credible data to help organizations become more efficient, sustainable and competitive. Its reporting protocols capture the best practices available in GHG accounting, and are developed through a transparent and comprehensive public stakeholder process.
Hundreds of U.S. organizations report their emissions to TCR’s carbon management program, including leading corporations, universities and local and state government agencies. The benefits of participation include:
Save money and improve energy efficiency
Reducing emissions is almost always associated with reducing operational and energy costs.
Protect and build your company’s reputation
Measuring and reporting your emissions ensures that your company’s efforts are transparent and credible.
Build competitive advantage
Performing a GHG inventory can help drive cost savings, improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions, providing the opportunity to become more energy efficient, redesign business operations and processes, implement technological innovations, improve products and services, and ultimately build sustainable competitive advantage.
Measuring emissions helps facility managers adjust operations so they are less carbon-intensive, preparing the company for potential increases in energy costs and carbon-related regulations, and measuring and reporting the GHG emissions may also be required by future state, provincial, federal or international regulatory GHG programs.
Receive recognition for your company’s leadership
TCR and its board recognize leading organizations for their leadership in measuring and managing their GHGs.
Build in-house capacity and exchange best practices
TCR provides a range of services, including a live help desk, trainings, webinars, reporting tools and software, and a community of board members and hundreds of leaders from across industries and sectors.
The facility manager’s role
As a profession, facility managers have the most profound influence as to how buildings affect the environment. The importance of that role and the resulting outcomes of these activities have a far-reaching impact.
The carbon footprint of an organization promises to be a major focal point in the near future dictated by common sense, cost savings and legislation. Reporting on carbon footprint performance is one important way for organizations to manage their impact on sustainable development. The challenges of sustainable development are many and it is widely accepted that organizations have not only a responsibility but also a great ability to exert positive change on the state of the world’s economy, the environment and social conditions.
If you are interested in learning more about the standards mentioned in this article or the process of carbon footprinting, take a look at the Carbon Footprint Sustainability How-to Guide, available for free in IFMA’s Knowledge Library.
If you are interested in getting involved in the development of ISO FM standards, or for more information, contact Laverne Deckert/IFMA Standards at ifmastandards@ifma. org. Help us form the DNA of the FM profession of the future. – FMJ
Trevor Anderson, LEED Green Associate, is a sustainability consultant with
Steven Winter Associates in New York, USA. He has more than four years of experience in the sustainability field, including positions with consulting and commercial real estate firms, environmental nonprofits and local governments. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology and business administration and a master’s degree in sustainability management from the Kogod School of Business at American University.
Sharon Jaye, D.Ed., SFP, is the executive director of the Green Schools Alliance, based in Washington, D.C., USA. She has more than 15 years of experience in managing sustainable facilities for educational institutions in higher education and K12 schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a
master’s degree in project management and a doctorate of education in