Auditing your emissions
The carbonReduction Programme certified by Achilles can help companies verify their efforts to reduce environmental impacts, and becoming involved can have significant advantages, as global utilities supplier MWH has discovered.Making corporate claims about reducing impacts to the environment and actually delivering on those promises are two very different things. All too often companies are keen to act but are seeking the externally recognised standards, measurement techniques, reporting tools and management methods needed to achieve a practical common benchmark from which to work.
One key supplier to the utilities sector is actively committed to reducing its carbon emissions, and is achieving its aims by being the first to be certified by Achilles through the carbonReduction Programme.
MWH is a global provider of environmental engineering, strategic consulting and construction services to the water and energy infrastructure markets. Operating from 197 offices across 38 countries, it has a broad range of industry specialists who deliver technically complex solutions for public and private sector clients in areas such as hydropower services, energy production, water management systems and sustainability planning.
Although it has been actively measuring its carbon footprint since 2006, MWH wanted to ensure its scope and methods of measurement were appropriate, accurate and in line with emerging standards. Importantly, MWH wanted its processes and results verified by a respected independent source aligned to international standards.
Alison Bradley, MWH's environment manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), explains: "MWH is a supplier of services to many clients across the UK and internationally. We have been compiling carbon footprint data since 2006, tracking back to 2002, continually learning and re-visiting methodologies as knowledge has grown. The independent auditing process of our work undertaken by Achilles has been invaluable, and to us, the most important aspect of the carbonReduction programme."
For buyers in the water, energy and utilities sectors, a supplier's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint is fast becoming a pre-qualifying factor for tenders. This makes it essential that processes be properly audited, verified and appropriately certified against international standards.
Glenn Cargill, auditor for Achilles' carbonReduction Programme, believes that "while it's important to try and be helpful, as a verification body we have to maintain independence, so we have to be careful we don't tell a company how to do it. Our task is to get the scope and boundaries agreed and then to verify results by going back to source data, looking at individual meter readings or utility bills".
As an office-based environment, Cargill terms MWH as a medium risk company for carbon emissions, with business travel, electricity and gas usage being the key areas to look at. The reason he does not regard the company as low risk is because it has several offices around the UK and operates on a global basis.
Although the present audit only reviewed UK operations, MWH used findings from this process to improve carbon footprinting on a European and international level.
"I have found myself referring back to things that have been done in the UK audit and applying them more widely," adds Bradley.
And with the carbonReduction Programme having its foundation in emerging international standards, it may help inform MWH's carbon footprint work elsewhere.
The carbonReduction Programme is based on CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme), an established international programme connected to both International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and World Resources Institute (WRI) committees. The CEMARS standard is built around the carboNZero certification programme run by New Zealand-based Landcare Research, developed over ten years of research into greenhouse gas emissions and carbon monitoring.
Being a consultancy-based business operating on a global level, MWH's largest emissions relate to company travel. However, as it works as a supplier to the water industry and some of the world's largest utility companies, the five-year Asset Management Plan (AMP) cycle in the water industry also has a major influence over the company's use of travel.
This five-yearly wave of activity makes year-on-year comparisons on emissions difficult, as subcontractors and consultants undertake extra travel to engage in bidding for the next batch of programmes.
Such a challenge - in many respects unique to the water and utilities sector - makes the collaborative nature of the carbonReduction Programme valuable to the whole industry, bringing a shared experience to the table and offering a common perspective.
Although MWH was the first company to be certified by Achilles through the carbonReduction programme, many more suppliers to the utilities sector are set to follow as the big utilities champion the scheme, adopting it as the industry-wide, collaborative initiative to drive down carbon emissions in the supply chain.
As Bradley points out: "Many invitations to tender that come in ask a great number of corporate social responsibility questions, and now our answers are strengthened due to the recognised third-party audit process. We are committed to measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of our operations, and Achilles verification provides evidence to our clients that we are doing this."
MWH is one of United Utilities' key suppliers and heard about the Achilles carbonReduction scheme workshop through the company.
"Initially we were attracted by E-Manage, an online tool for recording and managing emissions data, but it was the audit process that was the shining star of the programme for us," explains Bradley.
MWH has found a number of significant benefits in getting involved in Achilles' carbonReduction Programme. It now has a clearer view of its carbon footprint and the scope and the processes involved in gathering and verifying key data; it has an audited and fully certified process that shows industry buyers that it is committed to, and aligned with, buyers' environmental goals; and importantly, the scheme puts MWH on a collaborative footing with other progressive companies in the utilities sector.