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Certification to ISO 14064-1

by Richard Hadfield

If, when at school, I had been told that there would be something called a “carbon footprint” I might have imagined it was something to do with carbon dating or not wiping my boots on the door mat when coming into the kitchen.

Today a movement is established which addresses the management of carbon footprinting on a personal, product or organisational level. ISO have issued, and continue to issue, standards on carbon footprinting for the voluntary sector. The European Union have published Directives and guidelines for the permitting and enforcement of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) for the mandatory sector in Europe.

Although there is controversy about the future global warming scenario and the political implications of greenhouse gases, we are facing an inevitable limit to the amount of fossil carbon based fuels that can be extracted from the planet. Recently, China has changed from an exporter of coal to the biggest importer in the world which has created new coal mining opportunities as ships carry coal to China from as far away as Colombia. “Peak Oil” will be sometime in this century; this is the point when oil production will plateaux and eventually decline. Natural gas is flowing through our grid but for how long? Will we change to a hydrogen economy? Will we produce alternative fuels in commercial quantities from sustainable sources?

If one looks at developing countries, it is evident that sustainable organic sources are also limited and, in some countries such as Nepal, goats and firewood scavenging have removed most of the vegetation from the countryside. We have choices which we must make while we can.

These choices are either be voluntary or imposed by legislation and commercial pressures. As an example of this, we already see the imposition of carbon taxes in Ireland and know that these will increase. In addition to this, the price of fossil fuel increases with demand and the increasing costs of supply (exploration, recovering, processing, transporting and delivery).

NSAI have been offering greenhouse gas verification services since 2005 and are now offering carbon footprinting certification to ISO 14064-1.Our first clients are as enthusiastic as NSAI’s auditors. Talking to one CEO recently, it is evident that it is both a commercial imperative as well as satisfying the “green agenda”. 

From NSAI’s perspective, it nicely compliments other systems such as Energy Management EN 16001; Environmental Management ISO 14001 and Quality Management ISO 9001 (or ISO 22000 in food companies).

For an organisation, there are three levels of commitment:

  1. Direct emissions and energy indirects
  2. Direct and indirect emissions and
  3. Offset direct and indirect emissions.

NSAI recommend that a company starts on the first level as this the emissions which are totally within an organisation’s control. Direct emissions are those coming from boilers, chemical use, vehicles, generators and other processes under the organisation’s direct control. Indirect emissions are those where the organisation does not directly control the creation of emissions but has some influence (e.g. employee commuting, business travel, electricity use, waste disposal etc.). Energy indirects (because they can amount to 50% or more of an organisation’s emissions and substantially within the organisation’s control) are included in level 1.

Companies are free to define their scope of certification at present but NSAI are considering publishing a national specification to use with ISO 14064-1 so that organisations within Ireland are taking a uniform approach. For instance, at present, some organisations are adopting a “cradle to gate” approach while others are taking a “gate to gate” approach.

There are many challenges with indirect emissions as some become very complex as the number of variables increase (e.g. use of consolidated international freight services, agricultural operations etc.). However, NSAI take a practical approach with the main benefit being the actions arising from assessing emissions and acknowledgement of uncertainties. One company, which is offsetting its carbon footprint buy buying carbon on the market, says that, even with buying carbon credits (at present, about €15 per tonne), they have a net financial benefit.

In 2011, I would hope that Ireland can develop their own specification for the use of ISO 14064-1 (as has been done in the UK, PAS 2050) and a mark which can be used by certified companies on packaging and company documentation. Other countries have possibly been too idealistic; Ireland needs to be practical and focussed on benefit to organisations and consumers. Carbon footprinting is a commitment to the future and to sustainability. Some may see this as though it was a new religion and the early adopters as evangelists; the truth is that we really don’t have an option – it’s jump or be pushed. NSAI look forward to working with individuals and organisations and their work on carbon footprinting. The payback is improved sustainability through informed choice as well as energy and environmental security in the long term.

For those that have completed their carbon footprint, there’s water footprinting – but that’s for another (wet?) day.

Find out more

Further details on Carbon Accounting