Understanding emissions for a business is more complicated than for a household. A household is typically a straightforward consumer--emissions are associated with what the household does. Businesses, by contrast, create emissions through both consumption and production--they create products and services that generate emissions after the point of sale. When talking about business emissions, experts put business emissions into three categories:
Large businesses typically deploy a team of staff or consultants to calculate and track corporate emissions. Smaller entities, by contrast, can start by using an online calculator like this one from UC Berkeley to get a good estimate of emissions. As illustrated in the image to the right, this calculator estimates Scope 1 and 2 emissions along with specific Scope 3 categories (which you can customize). The tool is a good place to start if you are new to calculating emissions.
Once you've calculated your emissions you can identify the best opportunities to reduce those emissions. Remember, the overarching goal of Dane County's Climate Action Plan is to cut all emissions in half by 2030 and then to become carbon neutral by 2050. Experimenting with a calculator like this one will help you see where the best opportunities are for your business to cut its emissions. No matter what your profile, the resources on this page can help you make simple changes that reduce your impact.
Business use resources--human talent, raw goods, energy, water--to create valuable products and services. Businesses thrive when they match the resources used to the products sold. It's not profitable, for example, to buy a million chocolate chips and then create just a dozen chocolate chip cookies because the chips were 'lost'. Similarly, it doesn't make sense to use more energy or water than necessary in your operations; your aim should be to get every bit of value out of the resources you purchase. Optimizing resource use reduces your operating costs and improves profitability.
The good news is that you've got access to experts who can help you maximize the value of your resources.
For more discussion on strategies to manage resource use, check out the business-specific webinars that were part of this year's Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference.
Ten years ago almost three-quarters of Wisconsin's electricity came from coal but by 2050 experts predict that our electricity will be 100% renewable. Electricity is an increasingly clean fuel, which means transitioning activities--heating buildings, or moving goods--from fossil fuels to electricity is a great way to reduce your corporate emissions.
One way to reduce emissions is to transition your light-duty vehicles from gasoline to hybrid electric or battery-electric options. Wisconsin Clean Cities has resources to help you calculate savings and identify vehicles that will work for you.
If you are considering a new facility, explore opportunities to be net zero energy or net zero carbon. An all-electric facility with on-site renewable energy can be net zero energy while a highly efficient facility that utilizes off-site renewable energy or carbon offsets can achieve net zero carbon status. We highlight some aspects of both options, along with resources, in this primer. For more details on building a net zero building, check out the City of Eau Claire's Net Zero Design Guide.
Your employees are a critical part of your operations so you need to involve them in your efforts to reduce emissions.
Involve employees because
Corporate leaders often remark that employees are their most important asset. It only makes, then, to give employees a role in an organization's efforts to be more sustainable.
Initiating a green team is a great way to engage employees. Sustain Dane offers a Green Team Roundtable where your team can connect to other Green Teams, sharing ideas and building momentum.
For examples of ways other organizations leverage green teams, check out the case studies on the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council website.
Employees travel contributed to your emissions. That includes both employee commuting and when employees travel to attend meetings and other work-related events. The good news is that you can take action to reduce both kinds of emissions!
COVID-19 has prompted a lot of individuals and companies to re-think their travel habits. This is a great time to work with your employees to establish a new normal that is healthier, less stressful and better for the environment.
Every day your employees make hundreds or even thousands of decisions that affect your business. Will they turn off lights and equipment when not in use? Will they toss the paper in the nearby trash can or find a recycling bin? Will they seek out suppliers that meet your green critieria?
To facilitate good workplace decisions make it easy for people to do the right things. A clearly-labeled recycling bin, next to the trash, makes it easy to separate items that can be recyled. Clear messages about equipment usage (e.g., "always turn off your monitor if you'll be away from your desk for five minutes or more") clear up any confusion about what to do. It's also important to celebrate when people do the right things; simple acknowledgements can reinforce important habits. Thank a colleague for turning off the lights as you leave the conference room or provide treats for a team that's doing a great job recycling. Your acknowledgement will reinforce good habits and encourage others to adopt those habits as well.
You can also influence what employees do by making certain practices the new normal--by creating social norms around those practices. To learn more about making change easy and the new normal, check out the webinars on the Cool Choices website.
In addition to making your operations efficient, you can choose to power your operations with renewable energy. By powering your operations with clean energy you can use electricity without generating greenhouse gas emissions.
There are two primary ways that entities might access renewable energy:
LOTS of organizations in Dane County are already doing one of these options. Learn more below to decide which opportunity is best for your business.
When organizations install renewable energy they typically install solar electric (photovoltaic) systems. A wind turbine might also be an option if you are in a rural setting in Dane County.
There are multiple private solar installers active in Dane County (see a list of vendors from the Solar Energy Industries Association). The Midwest Renewable Energy Association's annual Energy Fair is a great opportunity to talk to installers and learn about renewable energy technologies. And if your business is in Madison, the MadiSUN program is a great resource.
Focus on Energy also offers information and some incentives for solar energy projects.
Check out our Clean Energy Map to learn a bit about other organizations in Dane County that have installed solar energy systems.
An organization can also opt to purchase green power from your utility for a small premium. This option works well for organizations that rent their space or have facilities that are not suitable for solar. Learn more about your utility's green power offerings:
In our Climate Action Plan we set a goal of 1200 MW of solar installed in Dane County by 2030. Whether you install a system on your own house or buy green power from your utility, you are helping us achieve this important goal.
Getting to net zero is a process. After you understand your emissions the first step is efficiency, eliminating all the waste in your internal operations. Then, where feasible you want to shift your operations from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. These are the emissions over which you have direct control so it makes sense to focus there first.
As part of this process you will also need to examine your supply chain, to work with suppliers to reduce the emissions associated with the goods you buy. And you will also want to think about the life cycle of the products you create. Can you, for example, make it easier for consumers to recycle your product? Some manufacturers are actively aiming to influence how consumers use their products.
After all of those efforts you are likely to still have some emissions and that is the point at which you will want to consider purchasing offsets.
Learn more about carbon offsets via the 2020 Nelson Institute Earth Day webinar series for businesses.
It is vitally important that everyone--businesses, individuals, communities--reduce their emissions.
It is also vitally important that folks TALK about what they are doing. When businesses talk about their efforts, customers and employees listen. Almost 7 in 10 people in the US and Canada prefer sustainable brands. More, research shows that consumers follow through on this purchase and are more likely to buy sustainable products. Similarly, your employees care about what you are doing; more than 8 in 10 employees want to work for a company that's environmentally and socially responsible. Talking about your efforts can help you attract and retain employees as well as customers.
Your story can help motivate other businesses to do more. It might inspire your neighbor to cut their energy costs too. The story of your solar project might inspire another company.
So talk about your efforts! Too often entities in the Midwest are modest about their efforts, thinking that they will share their story at some later date, when they have more to share. But you already have a lot to share so please, talk about your efforts.
If it feels awkward to talk about your own successes, submit a story to us. We're happy to talk up your efforts and use you as an example for others. After all, that's how we make change happen.