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Towards a universal carbon footprint standard: A case study of carbon management at universities

Towards a universal carbon footprint standard: A case study of carbon management at universities
Towards a universal carbon footprint standard: A case study of carbon management at universities
Organisations of all types are significant contributors to international greenhouse gas emissions. The business case for supporting low-carbon practices is gathering pace, alongside the regulatory demands imposed through carbon emission compliance reporting. Despite this, guidance for generating carbon footprints through hybrid environmentally extended input-output analysis is under-developed and under-researched. Higher Education Institutions are key components of education systems across the globe, transcending international borders, socio-political regimes and economic systems. As an internationally significant sector beginning to address climate issues through carbon reduction policies on and off the estate, very few research articles have been published that document emissions arising from all directly and indirectly attributable activities. This study outlines a number of key elements to standardise the organisational carbon footprinting process by reconciling and evaluating the methodological steps in six selected internationally reputable guidelines (published by the Global Reporting Initiative, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Kingdom's Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the International Standardisation Organisation and the Higher Education Funding Council for England). A systematic review is undertaken which relates the four principles of carbon footprinting (boundary-setting, identification of activities, collecting of data and reporting/verification) to the academic literature. Then, via consultation with university environment managers, a number of recommendations are made to address and improve i) the potential to avoid double-counting, ii) the financial and resource cost of carbon footprinting and iii) the reliability and comparability of data compiled by institutions. We introduce a methodology for a universal, standardised footprinting standard for higher education (that could also apply to all organisations regardless of sector or region) with cut-off criteria that excludes paid-for products and services typically included in the ‘Scope 3’ proportion of the footprint. In proposing this methodology, carbon footprinting is made more applicable to higher education institutions (since existing standards are designed for generality and for profit-driven organisations) and the practical issues, associated with externally owned data and nonexpert staff, are broadly overcome.
comparative analaysis, systematic review, carbon management, organisation, Higher education, framework
0959-6526
4435-4455
Robinson, Oliver J.
be48edf3-829e-46f5-9ddf-c17ea0128eea
Tewkesbury, Adam
814a6ae9-5741-4978-b942-d062875ae1e4
Kemp, Simon
942b35c0-3584-4ca1-bf9e-5f07790d6e36
Williams, Ian D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22
Robinson, Oliver J.
be48edf3-829e-46f5-9ddf-c17ea0128eea
Tewkesbury, Adam
814a6ae9-5741-4978-b942-d062875ae1e4
Kemp, Simon
942b35c0-3584-4ca1-bf9e-5f07790d6e36
Williams, Ian D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22

Robinson, Oliver J., Tewkesbury, Adam, Kemp, Simon and Williams, Ian D. (2018) Towards a universal carbon footprint standard: A case study of carbon management at universities Journal of Cleaner Production, 172, pp. 4435-4455. (doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.02.147).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Organisations of all types are significant contributors to international greenhouse gas emissions. The business case for supporting low-carbon practices is gathering pace, alongside the regulatory demands imposed through carbon emission compliance reporting. Despite this, guidance for generating carbon footprints through hybrid environmentally extended input-output analysis is under-developed and under-researched. Higher Education Institutions are key components of education systems across the globe, transcending international borders, socio-political regimes and economic systems. As an internationally significant sector beginning to address climate issues through carbon reduction policies on and off the estate, very few research articles have been published that document emissions arising from all directly and indirectly attributable activities. This study outlines a number of key elements to standardise the organisational carbon footprinting process by reconciling and evaluating the methodological steps in six selected internationally reputable guidelines (published by the Global Reporting Initiative, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Kingdom's Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the International Standardisation Organisation and the Higher Education Funding Council for England). A systematic review is undertaken which relates the four principles of carbon footprinting (boundary-setting, identification of activities, collecting of data and reporting/verification) to the academic literature. Then, via consultation with university environment managers, a number of recommendations are made to address and improve i) the potential to avoid double-counting, ii) the financial and resource cost of carbon footprinting and iii) the reliability and comparability of data compiled by institutions. We introduce a methodology for a universal, standardised footprinting standard for higher education (that could also apply to all organisations regardless of sector or region) with cut-off criteria that excludes paid-for products and services typically included in the ‘Scope 3’ proportion of the footprint. In proposing this methodology, carbon footprinting is made more applicable to higher education institutions (since existing standards are designed for generality and for profit-driven organisations) and the practical issues, associated with externally owned data and nonexpert staff, are broadly overcome.

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Accepted/In Press date: 21 February 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 February 2017
Published date: 20 January 2018
Keywords: comparative analaysis, systematic review, carbon management, organisation, Higher education, framework

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 413628
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/413628
ISSN: 0959-6526
PURE UUID: 27b54ccc-3a50-4631-981e-fdf3f61f3314
ORCID for Ian D. Williams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0121-1219

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Date deposited: 30 Aug 2017 16:31
Last modified: 31 Jan 2018 17:31

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