This focus on supply chains is relatively recent and speaks to a change in perspective among business leaders. Climate action is no longer merely an aspect of corporate social responsibility. It is a central business concern. And according to the leading GHG emissions protocol standard, monitoring carbon emissions – the first step to reducing them – must now be divided into three stages or “scopes”.
Scope 1 is mandatory. This covers direct emissions from company-owned resources like delivery vans, heating units, and air conditioning units. Or from the manufacturing process. Scope 1 is subdivided into four categories: stationary emissions (heating a building, for example), mobile emissions (site visits, where an engineer reports to a building to fix faults), process emissions (the manufacturing process) and fugitive emissions (leaks, refrigerant gasses and so on).
IoT technology in buildings can help with all these examples. Sensor technology is now commonly deployed to monitor leaks in pipework, and even to monitor the temperature of pipework in cases where there is a risk of legionella. The same technology could easily be used to monitor fugitive emissions, warning the building operator when there is a leak and advising on ways to reduce this particularly harmful form of emissions.
Another popular IoT use case is predictive maintenance, reducing the number of on-site repair visits for routine maintenance by installing sensors on escalators, lifts and other mechanical assets to ensure that faults are detected ahead of time and, where possible, fixed remotely. This is achieved through data analysis of wear and tear, along with detailed technical knowledge from industry experts working remotely to find solutions.
Similarly, we use IoT sensor technology to increase operational efficiency and lower energy consumption over the operational life of a building. Sophisticated algorithms find patterns in energy consumption and give building owner-operators all the information they need on a single dashboard. This insight allows them to monitor asset use and benchmark reductions in energy consumption as we work to increase efficiency: a similar process can be used to reduce process emissions as well as stationary emissions.
Scope 2 is also mandatory. It covers indirect emissions by the end user. In other words, all GHG emissions that result from the consumption of purchased electricity. Here the importance of green buildings is obvious. Using less electricity to heat or cool a building over the course of its operational lifetime has a big impact on Scope 2 emissions. And sourcing green electricity from renewables considerably reduces the carbon footprint of the end user.
Scope 3 is voluntary but entails a competitive advantage. It is subdivided into 15 categories but essentially covers all indirect emissions that are not included in Scope 2. All indirect emissions that can be traced back to the activities of the company – upstream and downstream in the value chain – are grouped under Scope 3. This would include employees driving to work, air travel, rail travel. One way to reduce this would be the widespread adoption of remote working and video conferencing. But Scope 3 also covers waste generated during operations, so businesses must assess their waste management and understand how their products are disposed of – this leads to the disposable packaging mentioned earlier.
In many cases, the carbon footprint of a business is largely indirect. It is therefore very important to focus on supply chains and waste management as well as direct business operations in attempting to meet new standards for sustainability.