Products of Change


Tue 28 Mar 2023 | by Steve Plackett

Net Zero | "Our biggest emissions are out of our control, but we have the power to influence"

As well as being the broadest category of an organisation’s carbon emissions, Scope 3 is also – for many of us – the scariest. The reason being, it’s quite simply a vast field within which to even begin measuring. Let alone start making reductions. Scope 1 and 2 emissions, these are the easier ones to handle; they are the emissions that are under your business’ direct and in-direct control. This could be emissions from the facilities you provide at your company (Scope 1) or the companies you purchase your energy from (Scope 2). All of which are reasonably simple to establish and report. Which itself is very handy, because Greenhouse Gas Protocol now dictates it is mandatory to do so. However, it is Scope 3 that accounts for our greatest impact. According to the most recent findings, Scope 3 is close to 90% of the carbon emission of companies working within our respective fields of publishing, toys, apparel, greetings, furniture, and so on. And while it is not yet compulsory to measure and report your Scope 3, we can no longer deny that to ignore them altogether is, quite simply, wrong. Add to this that by only reporting on the good things companies have done to reduce their direct emissions and claiming carbon neutral status through that, there’s an increased risk of greenwashing if Scope 3 remains unacknowledged. At Carousel Calendars, our baseline measurement , in 2019, of carbon emissions (rounded up) was 4,000 tonnes in total. 400 tonnes of that was Scope 1 and Scope 2. The rest? You’ve guessed it – Scope 3. All those sources of emissions up and down a value chain of stakeholders over which there is little control. But we do have the power to influence. Manufacturing of products, company investments, leased assets, all of these are examples of Scope 3 emissions. Include in that the transportation and distribution of sold products and you begin to see what this task of emissions reduction entails. So, while we have now got our Scope 1 and 2 emissions down to under 200 tonnes, we are facing the same challenges in reducing Scope 3 emissions as so many others. Largely, in our case, Scope 3 emissions are from factories in the papermaking and printing sector. The power sources of these factories tend to be country specific. UK companies, for example, tend to have a reasonably good renewable energy mix, while companies operating in China are more fossil fuel based. Figures vary, but according to the UK Government, low carbon energy accounts for 55% of our energy while fossil fuel accounts for 45%. Europe varies by country but on average, renewables account for 44% of Europe’s electricity. Meanwhile, renewables are up in China and reliable data is hard to find, but one report suggests that China could reach 33% by 2025 but it certainly appears to be lagging UK and Europe. So, the emissions from printing a book or making a toy in China are likely to be higher, just because of the energy mix in the country and that is very hard for the manufacturers of materials and products to change. One way of improving Scope 3 for companies like us, of course, would be to move all work out of China and relocate to the UK, assuming that is where most of our customers are. Now we know that this poses huge logistical and cost problems. But if we could do it, it’d be a sure-fire of improving those Scope 3 figures. So, what can we do that is immediately more practical? To begin our process of answering this, we note that our Scope 3 includes everything from logging, pulp making, papermaking, transport, printing and binding among other things, but the vast amount of emissions come from these major processes. The emissions of these factories and the transport of products/materials is a hugely significant factor and in my humble opinion, should be a key focus for all companies in the business so we have to encourage that whole supply chain to reduce its emissions and it’s quite a daunting task. But it takes facing up to this whale of a job. Not shying away from it. The beauty of the Science Based Targets initiative, the emissions reporting system that we have adopted here at Carousel Calendars, is that you can’t ignore Scope 3. It is ‘baked into’ the fabric of its process. As an SME, we have set an engagement target of 50%. This is the percentage of suppliers we work with that we must get signed up to the SBTi programme by 2025. This means our printers must have carbon reduction plans for Scope 1 and 2 and must be measuring their Scope 3. They, in turn, must provide evidence of their own supplier engagement plans. And so on goes the chain of influence in driving the greenhouse gas emissions down across supply and value chains right across business. And, while that target is 50% by 2025, we have already engaged with all major suppliers. We also note that many of the largest UK retailers have signed up to SBTi and we’ve already been contacted to provide information about our own carbon reduction plans as we are part of our retailers Scope 3. So, they are tackling their Scope 3 by signing up to SBTi and encouraging their supply base to do the same. This is a true power of influence. And the more we can encourage the domino effect of a programme like SBTi, and the more we can facilitate collaboration, conversation, and cross-sector action, the greater positive impact we can make together. Encouragement and coaching has already led to one significant Chinese factory signing up to SBTi. It may have taken a couple of years of persuasion, but by keeping the environment on the agenda at every meeting, we turned that power of influence into action.