Watch out for this new form of greenwash!
A couple of times recently, I’ve seen organisations show a graph of their carbon footprint over time, showing a nice steady downward trend. A closer look shows that this is mainly in their ‘Scope 2’ emissions which, for most, are the emissions associated with generating electricity used by that organisation. OK, you might conclude, they must be rolling out LED lighting or other energy efficiency measures.
Well, maybe. But there is another reason.
When I set up Terra Infirma some 15 years ago, the carbon intensity of the UK electricity grid was about 540g CO2/kWh – ie every unit of electricity represented over half a kilogram of carbon dioxide. Today, the equivalent figure is just 207g – a fall of about 62%. This means everybody’s Scope 2 emissions have fallen 62% over that time without them having to lift a finger – provided their electricity consumption stayed constant.
Therefore, to be able to claim credit for your Scope 2 emissions drop, they would need to be falling faster than this background trend. Looking at some of the graphs I have seen, the fall in emissions appears quite a bit slower than the background trend, which suggests their electricity consumption is actually going up. And yet those organisations are patting themselves on the back for what is in fact poor performance, masked by the achievements of others in grid decarbonisation.
I don’t think this is intentional in the cases I have seen, just wishful thinking. But take care you don’t fall into the same trap.