We must embrace a more vigorous approach towards sustainable private ventures. Miriam Telma Jemio reports for Pagina Siete:
Bolivian companies already measure their carbon footprint
How much does your daily activity bring to the problem of climate change? To know this you must measure your company’s carbon footprint, i.e. accounting their GHG emissions of greenhouse, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2).
This global practice joined Bolivia with the pilot project “after the carbon footprint”, executed during 2011 with financial support from the Latin American CAF Development Bank.
Its objective was to build national capacities to implement business actions aimed at energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. So nine companies and foundations identified how much they emit, in what areas and reduce or neutralize the contamination.
The ‘carbon footprint’ is the measure of the amount of total emissions of GHG greenhouse (GHG) caused directly or indirectly by persons, organizations, products, events or States in a year.
For Juan Carlos Enríquez, Manager of the consultancy company Servicios Ambientales, the carbon footprint is a tool for doing business. Companies have such high emissions of CO2 than “have the opportunity to reduce them and that are business for everyone (…) especially because they save money,” he says.
This goal is achieved with a measurement of validated CO2 and energy efficiency practices, as well as the proper handling of materials and supplies and investment in emission reduction projects.
Energy efficiency is achieved with practices ranging from replacing light bulbs flows by some saving to use computers or industrial equipment of low power consumption. Change the type of fuel or adjusting routes to save fuel is also important.
The country has a sui generis experience in this field and began with the training of experts from the Instituto Boliviano of Quality Standardization (Ibnorca) and the drafting of the standard that guides the measurement of GHG emissions, verification of such posting and its subsequent certification.
“Bolivia acquired the technical capability to offer it to the market,” says Verónica Sotomayor, Director of technical services of the Institute.
11 Technicians specialized in the measurement of the carbon footprint and “we already have the Bolivian Norm ISO 14064 for applying it in this topic”, says Viktor de los Heros, President of Ibnorca.
Then, with the assistance of the consulting environmental services, the pioneers – Banco Bisa, Gravity, Saguapac, BZ Group, energy and fine industries – quantified its CO2 emissions for one year, from available data in their activities.
They focused on the consumption of electricity and fuel, land and air transport that uses fossil fuel, refrigerant gases and solid waste disposal.
All together emitted 127,925 tonnes of CO2. “Each contribute more than others according to the volume of their activities,” said Enriquez.
This posting was later checked by technicians of the Ibnorca under the guidance of the norm (NB-ISO 14064). That job is to confirm whether the measurement is real, if the calculation is suitable and if the corresponding computers were used, explains Sotomayor.
Knowning the footprint of each company, a proposal of reduction was prepared through good practice guides involving measures from the backlight turns off when you quit an Office until the investment in technology and vehicles.
This allows each organization commitments to annually reduce 10% of their footprint. A modest goal which – according to Enriquez – can be achieved with limited resources; It is feasible to monitor annually the reduction and see the impact of the measure on operating costs.
Taking into account that no activity can reduce their emissions to zero, the rest is to neutralize the footprint through projects that capture CO2. The project included the neutralization mechanism and a developed standard.
The first interest of a business should be reduce at home, but it is also important to support third parties, here comes the concept of neutralization, explains Enriquez.
“Become carbon neutral means zero emissions of greenhouse gases and this is achieved by investing in projects that reduce emissions,” he says.
In this pilot project we worked with three projects: solar ovens implemented in the Yungas by the Association Inti Illimani, energy efficiency in the Swisscontact Cochabamba clay- brick construction sector and the protection of forests in the reserve the Chore (Santa Cruz) of Fundación Natura.
Their effective function of CO2 capture was validated by the Ibnorca experts. It was a singular experience that required to make a revision of international standards for having parameters that have not been established in the country, explains Sotomayor.
In that framework, for example the Gravity company, which takes tourists to Yungas by bike, it will neutralize its footprint by investing in 50 solar ovens of the Association Inti Illimani, with which will reduce air pollution and Yolosa beneficiary families will save the time spent looking for firewood. [a clear win-win situation that I highly commend!! it’s not hard to be environmentally sound, it just takes drive and willingness!]
And, finally, companies seeking to be neutral can buy carbon credits. “The Government has a position against, it does not mean that one in particular can buy carbon credits to generate social and environmental benefits”, said Enriquez.
Sotomayor expresses its satisfaction because the “seed that was planted” with the pilot project “already beginning to bear fruit” – although at a slow pace step -, since other companies already began to measure their footprint.
How to do the exercise is worthwhile, even for a small activity, because to do so they have the Bolivian standard as a guide or technique recommended to start with a baseline of GHG, which will be the reference to identify at what point can they start reducing.
• Measure the carbon footprint involves using resources, inputs and raw materials of most efficient ways, implying lower consumption of resources, less waste, fewer emissions and less cost, because reducing emissions translates to lower operating expenses.
• 11 IBNORCA Auditors throughout the country have necessary capabilities for validation and verification according to the NB-ISO 14064, both the carbon footprint and emissions reduction projects.
• 9 companies and Bolivian organizations have conducted pilot evaluation and verification, according to the NB – ISO 14064: 1 carbon footprint and have emission reduction strategies.
• 3 local emission reduction projects have been designed and validated according to the NB – ISO 14064: 2
• Created the internal mechanism for the neutralization of emissions.
• In the 12 months, the pilot project also generated its own emissions, with air travel issued 11,12 tonnes of CO2, five solar cookers will neutralize it.
Bisa reduced 15% of their CO2 emissions
Banco Bisa took the initiative to measure its carbon footprint, by knowing the amount of carbon dioxide (main greenhouse gas) which broadcasts with their activities and reduce it initially by 15%.
Jorge Velasco, Vice-President of business of Banco Bisa, told PaginaSIETE.bo that his goal is not only to mitigate its impact on the environment but also contribute to raise awareness so that other organizations take the same path, which is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility practices.
For the manager, apart from the importance of combating climate change, reducing the emission of carbon also means a reduction in costs by payment by energy or fuels.
The financial institution participated in the pilot project “after the carbon footprint” accounting for their direct and indirect emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the activities of its main branches of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
We use the Bolivian standard ISO 14064 for measuring the consumption of natural gas, energy and fuel in vehicles, air conditioning and refrigeration, as well as travel by land and air, explained Juan Carlos Enríquez of the environmental services consultant.
It is estimated that the footprint of each employee of the Bisa is 1.42 tons a year. The financial institution emitted 981.8 tonnes of CO2 a year. Electric energy consumption represents 64.5% and air conditioning 13.77%. Santa Cruz recorded a 51% footprint for such use.
Velasco considered it low compared with financial institutions abroad, which already measured their footprint of carbon, such as Citibank, Santander and BBVA, among others.
“At first you think what will it do if it is not an industry that pollutes, but despite the low rate of our emissions we have a responsibility to the environment, not just for the Bank but for our stakeholders that should be added, so we all benefit”, says when remembering their inclusion in the project promoted by the CAF.
Knowing their footprint they developed a strategy, internal and external, in the short and medium term, to mitigate it. According to the Senior Executive, develop actions to reduce and save expense of – for example – energy consumption, but also studying alternatives to neutralize their emissions.
The challenge of the Bisa is now in implementing its plan of a 15% reduction, then move to the neutralization, i.e. to become a neutral Bank in emissions.
And how will they do so? Through internal campaigns of efficient use of resources and the development of guides of good practices that serve both for the Office and for households, responds Velasco.
To reduce their footprint, the staff of the Bisa performs a series of internal actions such as turning off the computer when they attend meetings, turn on the printer only when they use it, having the lights turned off while there is daylight, recycle paper or make minimum use. “We try to approve appropriations and assessments via on line,” remarked Velasco.
The next step will be to reach neutralization through initiatives such as the Natura Foundation tree planting or building solar ovens of the Fundación Inti Illimani. “We are assessing. There are alternative projects that we can carry out ourselves,”said the Executive.
The footprint, a barrier to exports
That an enterprise has a “high” carbon footprint (greenhouse gas emissions) currently does not affect its exports, but in the near future could become an export-tax barrier, since the parliaments of some countries, mainly European, discussed rules on the subject.
In this regard, the President of Ibnorca, Viktor de los Heros remarked that “measurement with the Bolivian norm NB-ISO 14064 carbon footprint is voluntary, but it becomes obligatory for them when exporting”, precisely because of new requirements applied by importing countries.
“We are risking our future. The measurement of the carbon footprint will soon be a technological barrier. In Bolivia we are ready because we have standards and a well trained team of professionals, proof of this is that CAF is inviting us to work at the international level”, says De los Heros.
At export products it is important that companies know to detect where and how much CO2 emitted to implement a plan to reduce or mitigate these emanations.
For Jorge Velasco, Manager of business of the Bisa Bank, financial institution which already measured their footprint, export companies have better markets if they neutralise the emissions from products that traded in Europe, mainly.
This is shared among customers of the Bisa, he says. This Bank also has an environmental management system which allows evaluating the environmental risk in the granting of credits, this is to prevent possible negative environmental impacts of the activity.
“We have lines of credit that contemplate a regulation in compliance with good practices in relation to the environment,” remarked Velasco. Although initially had a bit of ignorance on the subject among its clients, now they accept it because “they were aware that benefits them”, assures.
The general agreement is that he is needed to count on the support of the State for this type of private initiatives. However, the MAS Government closed the doors to the carbon market on the grounds that it ‘merchantilizes’ nature. [again and again… central government fails to see the broader picture]
“Companies have many opportunities in this field and it would be ideal to receive State support in economic policies, to see the positive aspect for the country,” expresses Juan Carlos Enríquez, Manager of the consultant company Servicios Ambientales.
“The project is not aligned with carbon markets, here speaks of mechanisms of compensation”, points out.
“We are doing a good deed. If we are to neutralize our emissions, we are going to plant more trees I do not think that Government will tell us to stop planting trees, because neither it is saying us to stop emitting GHG or to discontinue the use of energy. It would be good that there is a regulation. This private initiative is positive, should serve to make the Government look this example,”says Velasco.
Good initiative, just wish more companies join this wonderful group!