“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” This quote from the renowned corporate management consultant and writer Peter Drucker is a favourite of many business leaders, but it’s also been adopted by the environmental movement. And for good reason: Measuring your organization’s environmental impact is good business.

“You can’t contribute in a meaningful way or claim that you are taking the environment seriously without having data,” says David Photiadis, senior director at Delphi Group, a Canadian sustainability consulting firm.

And there are direct cost correlations to examining your Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and how to reduce them. The process of calculating your total emissions (your carbon footprint) will give you insights into how to make your organization efficient. Simply put, if you use less fuel, it’s good for the environment and your bottom line.

So how do you get started on calculating your emissions? The good news is that you probably already have most of the data readily available—so get out those fuel, electricity, heating and water bills.

And once you’ve gathered all that information, you have much of what you’ll need to prepare a GHG emissions inventory, which is part of The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, developed by The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institute.

Don’t let the officious-sounding title intimidate you, says Photiadis. “It’s technical but readable.” The website offers a wide variety of calculation tools as well as online training. Photiadis says that consultants can also provide this service, but—someone on staff must be also actively involved. “Bring in internal people who are passionate about sustainability. People who work for you want to see that you are taking this seriously.”

Photiadis stresses that the goal here is not “perfect” data. “Get comfortable with some degree of uncertainty. We might have more precision in ten years but taking action cannot wait.”

Diving into the data

Photiadis says his clients are usually surprised about where the opportunities lay after they’ve done the initial assessment. “After you map it out, you’ll see hotspots. You may find your carbon emissions come from 12 sources but two of them account for 85 per cent. It will help you direct efforts.”

He says foodservice-related businesses often have particular hotspots. “We often think it’s fossil fuels, but refrigeration may end up being the biggest priority.”

Once you have a picture of your carbon footprint, you can benchmark against other companies to see where you are succeeding and how you can do better, says Photiadis. “Lessons from larger companies can be really valuable can be translated even if you’re different scale.”

You’ll also see that your emissions fall into areas over which you have varying levels of control, which has an impact on what you choose to target: To reflect this, GHG emissions have been categorized into three different “Scopes.” (See the following section Scope it Out for a broader explanation.)

Get the word out

Communicating your findings and plans is key to getting all your stakeholders on board, and it doesn’t hurt your brand identity either.

“You want to be clear about why you’re doing it and the objectives,” says Photiadis. “Talk to suppliers, employees, customers. Each come from different perspectives.”

He also suggests that once you identify the hotspots, look for the “quick wins,” the easy, inexpensive things that can make a difference to the numbers and encourage staff to continue with the initiative. “I’ve never seen company go through process and not come up with robust list of things to do.”

Photiadis stresses that decreasing a company’s carbon footprint is a long-haul process. “Becoming sustainable is a journey. Not something you will be done with and move on from. This is something that will be with your company going forward, continually evolving and getter better.” And that goes for your business too, he says: “A sustainability strategy is a better business strategy.”

Scope it out

You won’t get far into your sustainability journey without hearing about Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Developed as part of The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, the framework is a useful way to strategize and understand your emissions and your ability to influence change and make decisions. The Scopes encompass your entire value chain (all the business activities require to create a product). In the foodservice industry, that includes how ingredients are grown, transported and processed, the retail operation and the end consumer.

Here’s how the Scope system breaks down:

Scope 1: Emissions that you can directly control. Examples: gas boilers, fleet vehicles, lighting and refrigeration.

Scope 2: These are emissions related to your organization but are produced elsewhere. You have influence over these aspects, but not direct control. Examples: Electricity and fuel.

Scope 3: All the emissions that occur outside your Scope 1 and 2 emissions and include the Scope the 1 and 2 emissions of your suppliers.  “Your scope 1 is someone else’s scope 3 and vice versa,” says Photiadis. “These aspects are outside of your control, but you can influence them.” Most sustainability programs start by targeting Scope 1 and 2 emissions.