Digital Carbon Emissions an Opportunity and Risk for all Businesses.
Not too long ago, some business leaders considered sustainability and carbon reporting as a box-ticking exercise.
Today many of those companies are already losing business, or missing out on bids because they don’t have clear, credible sustainability or NetZero plans.
And this is just the beginning.
Like many other successful regulatory frameworks, carbon accounting and reporting is a trickle-down strategy.
First, bigger companies were made accountable for measuring, reporting and mitigating their direct emissions. As they got to grips with this, they became under pressure to report and act on the extended realms of emissions, in their supply chains, investments and beyond.
The emphasis on supply chains naturally meant suppliers, and their suppliers needed to report and act on their immediate, direct and indirect emissions.
While this cascading carbon obligation is still very much a work in progress, medium, small and even micro sized businesses are already needing to evidence that they have strategies to deal with their direct (GHG Protocol Scope 1, Scope 2) and indirect (Scope 3) emissions.
Determining a company’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions is a relatively straightforward affair for many companies. Scope 3, on the other hand, is both complex and often accounts for a vast majority of a company’s total footprint (typically 60–90%).
For many businesses, their digital carbon impact is relatively unknown.
If it’s unknown, it can be neither reported nor acted on.
Therefore, companies that are unable to measure, act and report on their digital carbon footprints are at risk of being excluded from projects or bids, being penalised by regulation or buyers, or finding it harder to secure funding.
“As our dependency and use of digital technologies continues to grow, we often forget they too have environmental impact,” said Scott Stonham, a published expert on digital carbon footprints and founder of Digital Carbon Online.
“Since websites are often the most public view of an organisation, leaders should be looking to measure, act and report how much carbon is generated by visitors to their sites.”
Digital Carbon Online was conceived to help companies address the most public of their digital carbon footprint problems, their websites.
Digital Carbon Online produces reports and charts that allow carbon-conscious companies to measure, report and act on the carbon emissions associated with visitors to their websites.
Companies can include data from these reports in existing carbon accounting as well as demonstrate their action and leadership through a unique ‘Digital Carbon Online Verified” badge and optional public dashboard.
When it comes to digital carbon footprints, not all websites are equal, and indeed from a recent study it appears not all industry sectors are equal, either.
In a study that involved analysing the home page and first 50 pages of more than 100 websites across the Berkshire, UK region there are clear differences between industries.
Coming in at the top of the list with the lowest average web page carbon footprint were Accountancy firms.These firms had an average of 0.24 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (gCO2e) per web page.
Even still, 5,000 monthly visitors to their pages could generate more than 14 KGs of CO2e per year.
At the other end of the scale, Further Education averaged 1.1 gCO2e per web page, equating to 64.5 KGs per year. Dwarfing this number Legal Services company web sites averaged 1.6 gCO2e per page, taking them to almost 100KGs CO2e per year from just 5,000 monthly visitors.
100KGs of carbon dioxide is equivalent to driving approximately 250 miles in a car or burning 5kgs of coal.
To generate these reports the home page of each company was entered into the Digital Carbon Online calculator engine, along with up to 50 pages that the home page directly links to.
Each page was scored individually, from which the average for the 50 pages was determined. This average was then multiplied by 5,000, to quantify the impact of an assumed 5,000 monthly visitors viewing an average page on the website.
More details of the Digital Carbon Online methodology can be found here: Digital Carbon Online — How it Works
Limitations of this Study
This study works on an assumed amount of traffic to an average web page of each company.
The actual carbon impact of a website depends on specifically which pages are viewed, and by how many visitors. This is exactly what Digital Carbon Online has been designed to do.
Calling Carbon Conscious Companies
Carbon-conscious companies wishing to measure and report the carbon emissions associated with their websites should get in touch via https://www.digitalcarbon.online/ to request their free report.