Carbon footprinting is becoming a must for companies, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is an imperative that is gradually being imposed on all companies. Pressure is increasing from all customers, investors, employees and candidates, and regulations are becoming more and more demanding.
3.5.2022

How to build and lead a network of carbon ambassadors in your company

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Foreword

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This article was written with the help of Laurent Barbezieux and theAktio teams, we have just organised a webinar on the theme: "Engaging your employees locally on carbon footprint reduction". To find the replay it's here!

Enjoy your reading 😊

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Carbon footprinting is becoming a must in business

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The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is an imperative that is gradually being imposed on all companies. Pressure is increasing from all stakeholders: 

  • B2B customers are demanding carbon footprints for tenders, and B2C customers are increasingly demanding transparency and commitment from brands
  • Investors implement CSR due diligence to provide financing
  • Employees and candidates make the company's environmental commitment a criterion for their career choice
  • And finally, the regulations are increasingly demanding

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Beyond these external pressures, companies have an interest in measuring and reducing their emissions, in order to exist sustainably in a low-carbon world. 

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The carbon challenge in multi-site companies 

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To reduce its emissions, a company needs a reliable and comprehensive measurement of its emissions, ideally on an annual basis, to measure its progress and areas for improvement.

The first difficulty encountered is the collection of data for the Carbon Footprint, particularly for multi-site companies.

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Indeed, a carbon footprint is based on physical and non-monetary data, not all of which are traditionally centralised. For example, electricity consumption (in kWh), vehicle fuel consumption (in litres), refrigerant recharges for air conditioning (carried out by maintenance providers), waste tracking slips (in kg of waste per type), etc.

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This data exists, but it is in the hands of many people, at many levels in the organisation. So you have to identify these people, tell them what information needs to be retrieved, and manage that data retrieval process.

Finally, once the carbon assessment has been carried out, the company must define its carbon strategy, and take into account a double constraint: 

  • DĂ©finir une stratĂ©gie Ă  (trĂšs) long terme - jusqu’à 2030, voire 2050 ! - mais mettre en oeuvre des actions concrĂštes Ă  court-terme (<3 ans)
  • To steer the trajectory of the whole group, but to bring it to life as closely as possible on the ground with the teams at each site.

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What is the Carbon Ambassador Network?

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To implement their low-carbon strategy, and more generally their CSR policy, multi-site companies can set up a network of carbon ambassadors. 

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These ambassadors or referents are the armed forces of the group's carbon strategy at each site or department. They are responsible locally for :

(1) the collection of CSR data - in particular that required for the carbon footprint 

(2) leading and monitoring concrete CSR actions.

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The interest is twofold for the company: 

  • These are the same people who can collect the information and then implement the reduction actions and see their concrete effects.
  • The fact that each site builds its carbon footprint with data from the field allows forrelevant comparisons and creates a collective dynamic - for example with comparisons between sites.

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In many cases, this network of ambassadors is a more general network of CSR ambassadors, whose role is also to deploy the network's low-carbon strategy. 

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This is the case of SGS and Leroy-Merlin, two multi-site companies that have experimented with the best way to set up a CSR ambassador network.

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How to build a network of carbon ambassadors? 

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The first step in setting up an ambassador network is to start with your organisation:

  • What are the national / regional directorates? 
  • Where are the different sites and agencies located? 
  • Which functions are carried locally or centrally?

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This organisation must then be compared with the mapping of the company's flows, which is the first step in carrying out its carbon assessment. Thus, for each type of emission (energy and fluids, business travel, logistics, waste, etc.), we can identify the person who is best placed to manage this part of the emissions, for example : 

  • A regional HR manager for business travel
  • A branch manager or a production site manager for energy consumption
  • A general service manager for waste and air conditioning
  • A purchasing manager at headquarters for all indirect purchases
  • Etc.

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Finally, it is obviously preferable to call on volunteers to carry out these projects, but this should not exempt the company from formally including these responsibilities in the job descriptions of the people concerned.

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Maintain and animate its network of carbon ambassadors

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The low-carbon strategy is a long-term issue, but it is important to have concrete and quick "victories" to maintain motivation and collective momentum. Once the carbon ambassador network has been set up, the carbon footprint calculated and the action plan defined, it is key to make this network sustainable, as the footprint must be calculated every year, the implementation of actions monitored and communicated to all employees, etc. 

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For this purpose, it is recommended that :

  • Integrate the objectives of the CSR/carbon roadmap into the objectives of the managers of each site
  • Define what percentage of time is spent by the carbon ambassadors on these topics
  • Create a "central" CSR/sustainable development function if it does not already exist, and attach it directly to the general management. If the company's activity lends itself to it, it is also possible to have this responsibility borne directly by a "core business" department (production, logistics, marketing, etc.) rather than having a dedicated manager.

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Conclusion

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The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a strategic and long-term issue for all companies. It is therefore natural to set up a structure to support this effort internally. A network of carbon ambassadors is a flexible structure that is close to the ground and particularly suitable for multi-site companies that wish to measure their impact precisely and reduce it concretely.

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