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Sustainability and resource-saving business practices are becoming a long-term challenge for companies. Customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders are increasingly sensitised and have recognised the importance of a credible contribution in the form of effective climate management by companies. As part of its "Go For Green Tech" initiative, the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) provides diverse assistance for implementation. Ultimately, many paths can lead to climate neutrality. One of them is the internationally recognised GHGP (Greenhouse Gas Protocol) standard.

On the way to climate-neutral production: implementation in the company

Where and how to start? This is one of the most frequent questions that companies ask themselves when it comes to becoming climate neutral. In the meantime, we know that it is a long way from the collection of emissions data and balancing to the implementation of measures to reduce emissions. Those who embark on this path should proceed in a targeted and systematic manner. Help is provided by an international standard that is intended to facilitate contemporary climate management.

Understanding "scopes": Identifying emissions in your own company

The activities of companies in their own processes and in upstream and downstream value creation are usually far-reaching and individually structured. This makes the identification of emission sources particularly complex. However, a look at the internationally recognised GHGP standard can help. There, the activities of companies are divided into three main categories - so-called "scopes".

Scope 1 represents the direct emissions from the company's own combustion, for example emissions from its own processes and plants as well as its own vehicle fleet. The second scope looks at indirect emissions from the purchase of grid-based energy, such as electricity, steam, heating and cooling agents. The last and most comprehensive level covers Scope 3. This looks at all other indirect emissions from processes that are caused directly or indirectly by the company and thus affect upstream and downstream value creation. This includes, for example, the purchased materials and intermediate products, their transport and the use of the technologies produced. How they are dealt with at the end of their life cycle is also taken into account. But business trips and employee mobility also belong to this category.

In particular, the determination of emissions from Scope 3 is a major challenge. Obtaining data is one of the biggest hurdles for many companies. How should companies deal with this? This is about finding the right "caretakers and implementers" in the company.

Setting organisational and operational boundaries

At the organisational level, it is first necessary to clarify which people in the company are to take on which tasks during implementation. The roles of all those involved must therefore be clearly defined and communicated in advance. This is closely linked to the question of which corporate structures are to be mapped in an emissions reporting system. Depending on the size and complexity of the corporate structure, it can be decided whether, for example, only a single location should be included in the carbon footprint or several at once. Basically, it can help to orientate the emissions accounting on the financial accounting methods and business units already established in the company.

Don't take on too much at the beginning

The operational limitation, namely the question of which of the scopes and thus emission sources should be accounted for, prevents companies from taking on too much at the beginning. Here, too, the GHGP provides answers: According to the GHGP, emissions from the first two scopes must be included in the corporate greenhouse gas balance. There is no reporting obligation for Scope 3. However, it is in the interest of the reporting company to identify and include relevant categories from Scope 3. There are various criteria for assessing the relevance of an activity. These include, for example, the level of expected emissions, their influenceability, a special interest of stakeholders, the determination of key figures or benchmarking.

This makes it clear that companies do not need to present the all-encompassing emissions report from the outset. What is needed much more is a coordinated strategy on how to proceed, with individual steps and an overarching objective.