Why SMEs Should Foster, Not Fear the Corporate Carbon Footprint

Most firms are occupied with selling products and meeting payroll and feel they don’t have time or aren’t all that impassioned about “saving the world.” However, ignoring sustainability is not really an option.

So states Blair Gifford in the book “A Simple Path to Sustainability: Green Business Strategies for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses”. Needless to say, I totally agree. Well, in order to be clear and precise, ignoring sustainability is of course an option, but it’s a pretty silly one. Why? Because you miss enormous opportunities! As Wolfgang Wimmer, Kun-Mo Lee, Ferdinand Quella and John Polak put it:

An SME with an exemplary “green” product can change the whole market

This statement is taken from “ECODESIGN – the Competitive Advantage” (partly available at Google Books). And again, I totally agree. Gaining a competitive advantage – that certainly is the number one motivation managers of small and medium-sized enterprises feel personally when they think about how green their products should be. Another motivation (less apparent, but not less important) is the effect of hard environmental facts. The ability to provide the public with precise numbers on the company’s environmental performance facilitates successful and smooth stakeholder management. Gifford explains:

All businesses have stakeholders to whom they have to respond. Stakeholders, such as employees, customers, and other businesses, make choices, and their loyalty can be fickle. Maybe a handshake and a nice holiday card will keep a few close stakeholders loyal, but there are many competitive small and medium sized businesses out there; especially during trying economic times, businesses should not disregard the views of all these people and firms who do business with them.

Third, carbon footprints give proof of the pay-off from green innovation. Whatever your company does to reduce emissions, the corporate carbon footprint will measure it. Gifford:

A company must measure baseline conditions and then analyze the impact of interventions for sustainability to demonstrate program impact and credibility.

Now, how can a small company afford the complex calculation of the entire company’s carbon footprint? At first sight, it may seem problematic, but it is not actually complicated to arrange. You just need to know how to do it. Or just hire someone who does.

The international accounting company, PwC, is one of the endless options you have in order to do this. Do what? Hire a carbon footprinting expert. From 2007 to 2012, PwC reduced its own carbon footprint by 20% (according to the company’s own figures). It conducts its carbon footprints in line with the GHG, the greenhouse gas protocol.

For the special needs of SMEs, PwC Germany recommends the CliCCC method. The CliCCC calculator was developed by an interdisciplinary team, including environmental economists from the University of Pforzheim, IT experts, carbon footprint software programmers from ifu hamburg, and SME-experienced practitioners from the chamber of commerce in Freiburg. With the aid of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which co-financed the project, a web-based carbon calculator was established that can meet the needs of small and medium enterprises.

See for yourself – Registering for a CliCCC test account is free. Unfortunately, it is only available in German so far. We can only hope the developers do not rest on their upcoming laurels and, rather, get started on the English translation soon.




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