As a consultancy company in the field of sustainability, we support our clients on their journey to tackle sustainability challenges. In particular, we focus on their response to climate change and the implementation of a circular economy.
As a purpose-driven company, we consider the positive impact we generate as equally important to our economic performance. We have been seeking ways to minimize our environmental impact since the creation of Sofies in 2008, and our B-Corp certification in 2020 was simply a step to make this commitment explicit.
It is therefore natural for us to adopt ambitious and bold objectives, and to apply to ourselves what we advocate and apply to others, whilst keeping a critical mindset that continually questions our convictions.
Considering the above, we want this commitment to be more than just a declaration. Attaining net zero emissions in the next decade is un-charted territory and a challenge for any organization. We see here an opportunity to clarify what this process entails for a service sector company like ours. It is also a chance to revisit a few definitions and reconsider a few assumptions. We are therefore glad to share a couple of reflections that will be guiding us in this great challenge in the form a Q&A copied below.
We will be publicly communicating along this journey on both our progress towards net zero, but also on our reflections and considerations as we get more deeply involved.
- Does committing to net zero emissions as a company make us climate neutral?
Climate neutrality can only be considered globally, when the totality of anthropic emissions corresponds to the totality of carbon sinks (natural or man-made). We believe that it is incorrect for a given organization to claim to be “climate neutral” all by itself. Reaching net zero emissions is our contribution to the global effort towards climate neutrality.
- Isn’t the concept of “net” emissions simply a write-off exercise and simply a way of buying ourselves a good conscience?
The risk of falling into the pit of green-washing is real, and depends on the transparency and consistency of the efforts put in place to reach net zero. More precisely, the following aspects are crucial for the credibility of the process:
- The calculation of our emissions needs to be transparent, verifiable, and based on recognised data and methodologies.
- Priority must be given to the direct reduction of our own emissions along the 3 scopes (according to GHG protocol), by implementing best practice wherever possible.
- We need to be absolutely clear and transparent on the offsetting of our unavoidable emissions.
- How can we compensate for our unavoidable GHG emissions?
As a service industry company, the large majority of our emissions fall under scope 3. Even though we have some leverage in reducing our scope 3 emissions – through our travel or purchase policies for instance – there will always remain GHG emissions that we cannot avoid, as we remain dependent on a global and highly carbonized economy. In order to compensate for those and to balance out our emissions to net zero, several options are available under the generic term of “offsetting”, which we believe need to be differentiated. In particular, a clear difference needs to be made between:
- Avoiding future emissions, for instance by investing in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects.
- Ensuring the physical removal of CO2 (or possibly other GHGs) from the atmosphere from concentrated emission sources or directly from the atmosphere (Direct Air Capture) through credible Carbon Capture and Utilization or Storage (CCUS) projects.
Both approaches are important and essential to support the global transition towards true climate neutrality. The first contributes to reduced emissions in the future, while the second “cleans up” the atmosphere from the surplus of CO2. Our strategy for offsetting our emissions in a consistent way must therefore combine both reduction and removal.
- How much GHG emissions would we need to reduce and compensate for to reach net zero?
To be able to claim net zero emissions in full, we believe we should aim to compensate for the totality of GHG emissions since the creation of Sofies in 2008. This means that until 2030, we will aim for net negative annual emissions!
- What action will we take to reach net zero by 2030?
First of all, we will focus on reducing our own emissions along the 3 scopes everywhere possible. This entails continuously seeking to improve the good practices that we have already put in place.
Then, we want to use this commitment as an opportunity to stimulate our entrepreneurial spirit and have launched a call for ideas to our staff for investable initiatives that could compensate for our remaining emissions, and if possible, those of our clients. A high attention will be brought to balancing ideas resulting in the avoidance of future emissions with those resulting in the physical removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Finally, if our own initiatives do not allow to fully compensate for our emissions, we will purchase certified carbon credits from a third party, in priority related to projects ensuring the physical removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Last but not least: we will continually question and challenge our convictions in order to adjust our strategy as we gain experience on our path towards net zero.