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Carbon footprint disclosure: Why is it so important?

We already know that measuring your business’ carbon footprint is the first and most important step of the sustainability journey but, what about carbon footprint disclosure; why is it so important?

The best examples of disclosure feature carbon footprint data across Scopes 1, 2, and 3 for the reporting period, and for previous years. They also present quantitative targets for reduction and report on progress towards said targets. These aspects of disclosure are crucial, not only for transparency, but for long-term footprint reduction and stakeholder engagement.

Accountability and Commitment

Many businesses are reluctant to make public disclosures and commitments, fearing the risk of negative repercussions that may incur should their footprint be high or their targets fail. However, public commitments featuring quantitative targets are actually a key predictor of success in sustainability initiatives. In fact, by publicly disclosing footprint data and targets, a sense of accountability and commitment are created within a business, which ensures that sustainability initiatives and carbon footprint reduction targets are given proper attention and prioritisation, increasing their chances of success.

When creating and disclosing targets, it is imperative that these targets are clear, measurable, and have a goal date. Goals such as “reduce our plastic waste” are too vague and therefore reduce accountability. It is also important that targets are not strictly focused on the distant future, such as “net zero by 2040”. There instead should be a variety of different targets, ranging across short and more distant time periods. Distant targets are great way to set overarching goals, but are easy to be ignored until closer to the set date. By implementing short-term targets, businesses are better able to stay on track and keep motivated.

Stakeholder Engagement

Through disclosure, businesses can demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and a willingness to be open and honest about their impact on the planet. Stakeholders, whether they are customers, investors, or employees, increasingly value this information, so much so that public sustainability credentials are likely to become a key predictor of business success in the near future.

Disclosing historical footprint data alongside current data is important for stakeholders, as it demonstrates the impact that reduction initiatives are having on the footprint. Furthermore, even if a business’ carbon footprint is relatively high, clear and quantitative targets for reduction assure stakeholders that the company has a well organised and precise roadmap to environmental sustainability. However, stakeholders are not stupid. If a business’ targets are vague or too long-term, as discussed above, stakeholders will not take them seriously.

Disclosing footprint data is especially important if a business is offsetting their emissions to become carbon neutral. Without public disclosure, it is impossible for stakeholders to know if the ‘carbon neutral’ business they are engaged with has achieved this status ethically, by reducing ~90% of their emissions then offsetting the remainder, or unethically, by just offsetting without meaningful reduction. If a business is making claims of carbon neutrality and net zero, it is imperative that they disclose their footprint, or stakeholders will hold suspicion.

If you’re ready to begin your disclosure journey, we can help you do it the right way. FutureTrack guides you through every step of the sustainability process, from carbon footprint calculation and setting targets to environmental impact reduction.