Spatial Vision is a carbon neutral organisation – how do we achieve this?

Demonstrating our dedication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and our continuous efforts in sustainable resource management and climate change mitigation, Spatial Vision has achieved certification as a carbon-neutral organisation. Read on to learn from our Senior Consultant Jeremy Alcorn, how we approach it and what it means to our business and our people.

ariel view of Melbourne

The desire to address the impact of climate change is a factor driven by the staff of Spatial Vision and informed by our work helping clients who are facing the impacts of climate change. Examples range from changes to fisheries throughout the World, impact on vulnerable Pacific Island communities from rising sea levels, agriculture diversification and adaptation challenges, and threats to municipal assets.

From a personal perspective, our staff have a high degree of awareness of the impacts of a warmer and wetter climate on their well-being and the well-being of their children, grandchildren and entire ecosystems.

The management at Spatial Vision acknowledge the reality of climate change and support the wishes of staff to make a difference and are keen to be seen as a leader within IT and spatial industries in how we address sustainability adaptation. We hope to me an example to other organisations to follow our lead in reducing their emissions.

Climate Active

SV has been carbon neutral for two years and is now pursuing certification for a third year.  We are certified under the Australian Federal government’s Climate Active scheme which requires organisations to:

  1. Calculate our annual carbon emissions in tonnes of CO2
  2. Develop a plan for ongoing reduction of carbon emissions over a defined timeframe including identifying actions that the company will pursue to reduce emissions
  3. Offset any emissions that cannot be eliminated through an approved emissions scheme.
climate active_carbon neutral

Certification schemes

There are a number of certification schemes associated with GHG including:

  • ISO 14068 which specifies the principles for quantification and reporting of GHG emissions
  • ISO 14067 which identifies the principles, requirements and guidelines for quantification and reporting of the carbon footprint of a product
  • ISO 14068 which provides organisations with guidance for achieving and demonstrating carbon neutrality.

As an organisation conducting the majority of our business in Australia, Spatial Vision decided to pursue certification under the Australian Federal government’s Carbon Active Carbon Neutral Standard because:

  • It is built on international best practice using the ISO standards
  • Carbon Active certification is rigorous
  • It is founded on sound carbon accounting and offset integrity principles
  • It is a recognised standard in Australia
  • Its high profile in Australia means that there are a number of consultants qualified to support certification in Climate Active
  • Under the scheme we are one of 547 ‘Certified Brands’ which means that we are promoted on the ‘Climate Active’ website to clients wishing to support Green organisations.

Carbon zero v carbon neutral v net zero

Carbon neutrality and net zero are synonyms that mean balancing total carbon emissions through the offsetting of those emissions in an offset scheme. Generally, offsets are purchased from a registered and audited scheme which stores carbon, such as reforestation, or alternatively reduces fossil fuel use through better farming methods or the windfarms. Carbon zero means that emissions are not being produced by an organisation such as an organisation’s power supply sourced entirely from solar energy. Given that most organisations will rely on a supply chain outside the organisation, Carbon zero is very difficult to achieve.

Journey to Carbon Neutrality

Commitment

The first step in the journey to Carbon neutrality is ensuring that there is a commitment from your company management to pursue it. While it is not absolutely to pursue (and pay for) certification, if you are going to invest the time and resources required to get to carbon neutral it’s worth the relatively small cost of certification. It also ensures the validity of your GHG calculations and proposed reduction strategy.

There is a fairly substantial commitment in resources to bring together the information required to support the initial submission, however our experience is that this is reduced in subsequent years as the reporting requirements become more familiar within the organisation. There is also the cost of purchasing carbon credits.

Applying for certification

Once you have decided to pursue certification it is necessary to calculate your GHG emissions for an initial base year. The emissions boundary establishes an organisational context for the certification such as the parts of the organisation covered by certification and the type of certification whether a product, event, service or entire organisation. While Climate Active provides plenty of resources to assist you with this, submitting the first application is a daunting and complex task and we found that the guidance of a suitably qualified and sympathetic consultant was essential to get us through the initial phase. You will want to ensure that all relevant emissions are accounted for, there is sufficient evidence to substantiate any claims made by you.

A key activity in certification is the calculation of the carbon account which will account for all emissions directly (for example power consumed by your office) and indirectly (for example allowing for professional services provided to your organisation).

Preparing the Public Disclosure Statement (PDS)

The PDS was an opportunity for us to put our ‘best foot forward’ and promote our vision for a sustainable future. The PDS must include statements about the level of emissions, significant sources of emission, emission reduction strategies and activities and offsets purchased.

Reducing emissions.

Making your emissions reduction strategy an organisatonal KPI ensures that emission reduction receives appropriate consideration and becomes part of corporate strategic planning. Some emissions reduction strategies are relatively easy to implement, although they may not be cheap!  Purchasing green energy is a great way of reducing your GHG as is ensuring that you purchase carbon offsets for business flights. All of Australia’s big three domestic carriers have opt-in certified carbon services. It’s harder to ensure that all your suppliers are carbon neutral but the Certified Brands list on the Climate Active website will help you find goods and services that are carbon neutral.

Ongoing reporting

Once the initial baseline has been established and initial certification attained, we have found that reporting has become much easier and the process of submitting our annual emissions statements and PDS has become more streamlined. While we still use a consultant to assist us in submission most of the content included in our GHG calculator is now entered by us. The more involved in the process you become the more transparent the process is.

Good luck on your journey to becoming Carbon Neutral!