Organizations calculate GHG inventories for many reasons. They provide valuable business information that can be used to create strategies for GHG emissions reduction. GHG inventories also increase organizational environmental transparency through reporting, and they are useful for setting and tracking progress towards achieving GHG emissions reductions goals over time.
Clients, investors and other stakeholders may request the results of a GHG inventory be included in standard reporting and may evaluate the organization based on its ability to meet GHG emissions reduction targets. WSP calculates its own GHG inventory and has helped numerous organizations calculate GHG inventories, set targets for reductions, create roadmaps for reduction and track progress toward reaching reduction goals.
GHG inventories are much more suited to large-scale analysis of entire organizations than LCA. That is not to say that LCA cannot be applied to an organization, but it can take more time and require more data to accomplish this evaluation with LCA than with GHG inventory methods and data.
WSP collaborated with The Children’s Place, a specialty retailer of children’s apparel, as a professional services provider to develop a GHG inventory for the company’s climate disclosures. In this role, WSP’s Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change team calculated the company’s first water inventory and collected and analyzed GHG emissions data to identify areas where there were opportunities to reduce environmental impact.
The data was collected and used to calculate the annual reporting data concerning energy and water usage and GHG emissions, which was reported in The Children’s Place’s 2020 Environment, Social and Governance Report. Using the data, the retailer set climate and energy goals that they aim to achieve by 2030, including a 30 percent reduction of Scope 1 and Scope 2 market-based GHG emissions across its global operations, and a 30 percent reduction of Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and product transport.
For certain Scope 3 GHG accounting categories, spend data are commonly used to calculate the emissions. The spend data assign a GHG emissions intensity per dollar spent, which is applied to the amount of money an organization spends in each Scope 3 category. This is very useful to get a sense of the most relevant categories driving an organization’s GHG emissions.
It becomes more difficult, however, to reduce GHG emissions in these categories without more product, service and category-specific data. Industry-wide GHG emissions data on product types from published LCAs or EPDs are increasingly available and using such data can improve the specificity of the GHG inventory and highlight more actionable targets than spend data.
If an organization specializes in manufacturing particular products, then product-specific LCAs could further improve the accuracy of the GHG inventory and highlight particular parts of the supply chain to focus on for GHG emissions reduction.
There is a product carbon footprint standard from the GHG Protocol, but this covers only GHG emissions and no other environmental impacts such as water and air quality, water use, consumption and scarcity, energy or other categories that can be included in an LCA. Therefore, as a quantification method, corporate carbon accounting cannot be used to enumerate environmental impacts other than GHG emissions from the production, transportation, use and end of life of a product.