How you can use 2021 to halve the footprint of your organization?7 min read

Throughout 2020 it increasingly became more apparent what impact we as humans have on our planet earth- COVID-19 being one of the results of our actions. But what can we really do to ensure the prosperity of our future generations?

When the first astronauts were in space and first handily looked out over the earth during their spaceflight, what did they see?

They saw the reality of Earth in space: a tiny, fragile ball of life, floating in the darkness.

No perception of national boundaries, no conflicts, just our planet. Protected by a thin layer of atmosphere.

This is called the overview effect. A cognitive awareness shift among astronauts that makes our planet look small and fragile, a planet that isn’t untouchable, that can be affected. 

Something that’s difficult to experience when you’ve never you… know- been up there.

But a cognitive awareness shift that we need to try to embrace ourselves. Because our earth is being affected.

The question is: what will we do to save our tiny fragile ball of life?

COVID’s wake-up call

2020 was a messy and very unpleasant year, but COVID-19 did force us to really have a better look at our relationship with nature.

We don’t want a repetition of 2020 right? ‘Let’s prevent these things from happening in the future’ was one of 2020’s main takeaways.

And this takeaway initiated something. 

At the UN General Assembly in September 2020, biodiversity finally became a large focal piece in which a true commitment to reversing biodiversity in 2030 was finally made.

But in order to do so, changes need to be made. Quite drastic changes. 

According to a study by Metabolic and WWF, halving our collective footprint by 2030 is more or less in line with the science of various footprinting methods and necessary should we restore the balance nature is so desperately in need of right now. 

Phew- 2030. That’s only 9 years away from now… Which means: Action!

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We all have a part to play

If we want to reverse our biodiversity loss by 2030, we need to do something about our collective footprint. Countries, states, international organizations, companies, NGOs, consumers, etc. We all have a part to play.

At Ecochain we increase awareness about- and measure the environmental footprints of organizations and products, which we understand as an organization’s or product’s impact on the environment. In a sense humanity’s footprint entails the same….only it’s not as ‘easy’ to calculate.

Humanity’s footprint is our collective impact on the natural world and includes all the ways in which we degrade or put pressure on our natural systems.

And the environmental footprint calculations already made by various scientists, show that we have significantly surpassed acceptable levels of impact. 2030 is the set goal to be able to bring this impact back within safe boundaries.

If we want to achieve this goal, it is crucial we look at the impact’s source, and I think we can all agree that this mainly comes down to excessive production and consumption.

Responsible Production & consumption

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already interested in sustainable business or taking part in it.

Which is great. Because if organizations are able- or aiming to critically look at their supply/value chains and see where they can improve, they’re already part of the solution.

According to the study conducted by Metabolic for WWF, there are certain drivers, pressures, and stakes that we need to take into consideration should we be able to half the footprint of our consumption and production (image 1). 

And tackling these drivers, pressures, and stakes means becoming more responsible with our production and our consumption patterns. 

And just as you can identify hotspots of impact in your own supply chain, Metabolic and WWF pinpointed 4 hotspots- 4 key sectors that are contributing to the biggest impact within our environmental footprint.

Or as I like to say it- the biggest windows of opportunities for us in which we can reduce our footprints. Which are:

  1. Water availability;
  2. Greenhouse Gas concentration;
  3. Biomass consumption;
  4. Land-use change.
Image 1. The Drivers, Pressures and States of sustainable change. Source: WWF & Metabolic

Measuring, measuring, measuring & doing something with your data

After reading all of this I can imagine you might think- but what could I and my organization do? 

If you take another look at image 1, you will probably recognize many of these drivers and pressures. And that’s because many of these drivers and pressures are already incorporated in various current frameworks for measuring your footprint. 

Planetary Boundaries, Material Footprint, Environmental Footprint, Water Footprint, etc. These are just a couple of these famous frameworks. And although they individually cannot account for the entire footprint of our world’s consumption and production, they already make a big difference in the bigger picture. 

At Ecochain we’re not a fan of trying to do everything at once and aiming to reduce your organization’s impact in every possible way. Don’t try to do everything. It makes your measurement and reduction process unfocused and messy. 

Do it where you know your organization can actually make the biggest difference. 

Map out your primary and secondary processes, map out your entire supply chain, and calculate your entire company’s (or your product’s) environmental footprint. Look at the data, try to understand it, analyze your biggest hotspots of impact, and compare them to the drivers, pressures, and states mentioned above. 

You will see that you will most likely be able to address, change, and reduce quite a lot of them. And by using your environmental intel to create what-if scenarios, you are able to set clear and effective reduction targets. You will be able to help contribute to halving our world’s footprint.

Sustainable action comes down to measuring, measuring, and measuring your data and taking that extra step: using your data for sustainable improvements. 

Metabolic and WWF created the Action-based measurable targets for all these drivers/ pressures and states that are necessary for halving our collective footprint in their report (see image below). Have a look at them here.

Image 2. Actionable targets for tackling biomass consumption. Source: Metabolic & WWF

Going the extra mile

Once you know your organization’s environmental footprint, we urge you to take the extra mile. 

Be transparent about your impact to your consumers. Communicate these footprints and what you’re doing with them. 

By increasing consumer awareness, you will increase consumer confidence in sustainable products and their important role in our future. 

Sustainability is contagious. All it needs is trust, vision and people that believe in change. 

After all- in the end sustainability means (quite literally): “Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Interested in effectively reducing your Greenhouse Gas emissions? Sign up for our free webinar on the 20th of January, 2021 on how to move your organization towards carbon neutrality.

Just one thing before you leave. Sadly Ecochain is not able to measure social footprints. But the social impact of our actions requires just as much attention if we want to make this world a more sustainable place. If you are able to, have a look at the potential social implications of your supply chain/product as well. We would like everyone from our future generations to meet their needs, not just the wealthy. 

Sector

Published

January 7, 2021

Lead Specialist

Roel Drost

Author

Zazala Quist

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