A recent press release from Ivalua over on the Supply Chain Quarterly site stated that nearly half of organization are concerned they’re at risk of unintentional greenwashing and that 48% of US organizations are very confident they can accurately report on Scope 3 emissions.
This falls into the same category as half of Procurement leaders expect their budgets to increase and 9% of companies claim to be ready to manage risks posed by AI … ridiculous.
The 52% that feel that Scope 3 reporting is a ‘best-guess’ measurement have it right. There isn’t a single carbon calculator (service) offering that is accurate. Some aren’t bad, and a subset of these will meet the baseline requirements for carbon reporting, but even those that make the baseline cut for reporting aren’t as good as you think. The majority of these work by using country-industry averages computed by third party institutes and agencies, which are then multiplied by the estimated total volume of product coming from the country-industry average adjusted. It could be totally accurate, or it could be totally inaccurate if your supplier is using a significantly older production line technology and using dirtier energy than its peers or, in the best case, was the first supplier in the region to update its production line, switched to primarily renewable energy sources, and found a way to recycle water and minimize fresh water usage.
Plus, with no clear guidance on how to properly calculate your e-Liability, how do you know that you are truly accounting for all of the carbon you are responsible for (in terms of products, logistics, services, etc.) while not taking on carbon that belongs to your supplier (that they are trying to pass on to you).
Also, if you’re passing on your calculation to a third party, or even worse, to a supplier, how do you know that, if there are multiple potential third party region-industry estimates to choose from, that the third party isn’t choosing the absolute worst (so you will believe you need their carbon reduction consulting services) or that the supplier isn’t choosing the absolute best when answering your RFX (when neither of these estimates are correct).
The reality is that, even if you use a third party, your scope 3 calculations are acceptable (but not necessarily accurate) approximations at best, but likely of little value the majority of the time and your true knowledge of whether or not your supplier:
- uses renewable energy
- recycles or minimizes (fresh) water usage
- uses efficient production processes that minimize direct (production) and indirect (energy and [fresh]water) carbon
- actively looks for ways to be sustainable
doesn’t exist unless they have been audited on-site by you or a third party service that you trust. And accepting anything less is accepting greenwashing (or some variant of) to some degree.
And the only way you are truly going to reduce your Scope 3 is to:
- minimize demand for consumables, and use as many renewables as you can
- focus on renewable, or at least recyclable, content in your products
- work with suppliers to optimize processes
- invest in suppliers (possibly through long-term contractual commitments) to upgrade to modern processes that will minimize their carbon production