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What are you talking about?

‘Consumption-based’ carbon accounting, as the name suggests, calculates carbon footprints based on your consumption of goods and services. It is based on input-output analysis, a robust method of modelling economies. It maps nationally published data on the flow of money, into, around and out of a country via industry sectors. Originally used to study economics, it can be adapted to environmental needs by assigning ‘environmental burdens’ such as kilograms of carbon emissions to each industry. This gives you a value for kilograms of carbon emitted per pound sterling (or any other currency) spent in any industry or on any product. This can be combined to describe whole companies.

And we don’t do this already?

The method used by the majority of people to calculate carbon emissions at the moment is called ‘process-based’ carbon accounting. It is essentially a shopping list of items and activities which get assigned a carbon factor, combined to find the total carbon footprint. This could describe your energy or waste processes, for example.

There are a number of problems with this method. The data provided is often incomplete leaving gaps and underestimating the footprint, by as much as 87% in some studies. This means your reporting is inaccurate and you cannot reduce your carbon footprint because you can’t see that it’s there. It is also a very time-consuming method with lots of individual calculations that make mistakes easy to make.

How is this new approach any better?

Where ‘process-based’ methods take a long time, varied data, and huge amounts of it, ‘consumption-based’ is much simpler. Once the model is constructed your data is fed into the model and – after some fancy matrix algebra – get your entire carbon footprint. Because it uses both client data and national data sets it always calculates 100% of your carbon footprint

There is also more you can do with an input-output carbon footprint. As well as the usual detail, the final figure can be picked apart to show hot-spots for carbon in your supply chains down through 5 tiers of spending. For complex companies this allows unrivaled access to your carbon burdens and how to mitigate them. It also expands your influence and capacity for change beyond your company, and to top it off tells a great do-good story.

Get in touch

The Acclaro approach is to take its clients on a journey that provides long term solutions and stream lines burden. We have experience of developing long lasting relationships that continues to save clients time and money whilst delivering results. If you are interested in setting up the consumption based model, or hearing how we work, get in contact and we can discuss whether this approach is right for you.

This blog forms part of a series of articles on consumption-based GHG reporting. Stay in touch for further guidance and information.

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