Understandably, not everyone knows what a scope is or what ‘scopes’ mean in relation to a carbon reduction strategy. So, here’s a quick 101 on scopes, and what measures you can take to reduce your organisations’ carbon footprint.

Scope 1 – Emissions from owned energy. Relevant if your business is producing its own power on site (or on shoots) or emissions from your company’s owned vehicles. 

Scope 2 – Emissions from purchased ‘electricity, steam, heat, or cooling’, so this applies to all businesses with offices, warehouses, workshops, studios, or other premises. An easy win here is to ensure you swap to a renewable energy supplier, the current industry favourite seems to be Good Energy. Reduce, save and swap is the strategy here.

Scope 3 – here’s the biggie, it’s everything else that your company does that creates carbon. That’s right, as easy as that, the bulk of most companies’ emissions fall into their scope 3 and its where you need to leave no stone unturned. Think of it as everything that’s needed to make your product or service (upstream) and all the emissions that result from your product or service being used and disposed of (downstream).

For the media, broadcast and advertising world it consists of;

• Business travel & employee commuting

• Shoots / Productions

• Office operations (paper, machinery, tech, data storage)

• Waste disposal / plastic / electronic equipment etc

• Influence – carbon emitted because of your goods or services being used or promoted

• Leased assets 

• Transportation of goods 

• Investments 

The Advertising Association shed some light on the carbon situation of the industry with its estimate that business flights accounted for around 58% of a media companies carbon footprint and 42% came from energy. Reducing your business flights is obviously essential and helping staff commute to work in a less energy intensive way is also going to reduce your company’s footprint.

But there is a lot of carbon is hiding in other parts of your scope 3 not typically identified by the bog standard set of guidelines that weren’t written with the creative industries in mind. For instance, using data centres (the cloud) to store long term film data on can be a huge creator of carbon. From my research I’ve found that storing 10TBs of data on a server for around 5 years creates 9,000kg of CO2e. That’s equivalent to around 18 return flights to Europe. That’s only the energy used to upload and download the data once and to keep it on the data centre servers. I’ve not allowed for other material costs such as water use, buildings, or equipment in/of those data centres.

Before we declare that Amazon, Google or Microsoft are going or have gone carbon neutral, that seems to only be on their scope 2 (energy), and it’s a long way off for all data centres to claim this. Even then, it won’t take into account the massive construction and infrastructure costs that data centres require. The alternative, storing the creative data on new hard drives is also a common practice and understandably so, however using new tech only once is a glaringly obvious waste of resources and ‘single use’ of everything needs to be re-examined. This sort of activity is in your scope 3 and as a production or advertising agency, it’s probably a big emitter compared to other businesses in other sectors. It’s therefore really important to apply common sense to and make sure you think of your business model intensity needs rather than only focus on what’s listed on the generic standards protocol.

Most of us know about the excellent Ad Green calculator or the free training that is available through Albert, and I’d urge you to take advantage of these. To reduce the carbon footprint of your data storage, get in touch with Film Locker who can help you store safely with no footprint. For most other things the green supplier list here is a good start.

On a final note, another interesting inclusion in downstream scope 3 is the resulting uplift in emissions created from the influence of your advert or your T.V. series on consumption. That’s way more difficult to calculate but Purpose Disruptors have had a good go at it, take a look at their report here.

The takeaway? If reducing your business carbon is to have any integrity, then make sure you look at everything you’re buying, hiring, creating, shooting, storing, disposing, influencing… 

Most of your carbon is likely in your scope 3, and the devil is most definitely in the detail.

Image Credit here

Victoria Harvey is a sustainability director, focused on implementing environmental management systems in the media and advertising sectors. She has a master’s in International Development Economics, and an advanced diploma in Environmental Management. She is a practitioner member of IEMA, the UK body for suitability professionals and is working on a government funded PhD at UEA on Climate Change & Organisational Mindsets.