Clamping Down on Carbon

 
 
By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2009-02-26
 
 
 

, GE Focuses on Sustainability.

These days, it’s difficult to pick up a magazine or switch on the television without hearing the words “carbon footprint.” Yet understanding the concept and relating it to a business can be perplexing.

In short, “carbon footprint” refers to the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused “directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product,” according to the U.K.’s Carbon Trust. The term “carbon offsets,” in contrast, refers to the mitigation of carbon emissions through sustainable energy sources.

Though most businesses support good environmental practices in principle, building a solid business case can be time-consuming and challenging. Nevertheless, government agencies and political leaders are weighing taxes and regulatory limits in the years ahead. In fact, California and several other states have already launched a carbon trading system.

Andrea Moffat, senior director of Corporate Programs at Ceres, a Boston-based organization that promotes sustainability in business, says companies must ultimately extend energy efficiency and sustainability beyond computers and IT and into business operations and the supply chain.

“The reality is that organizations will be paying for carbon consumption in one form or another moving forward,” says Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner. “Executives who discount the importance of a green approach and say they can’t justify it are in for a rude awakening. They are going to find themselves seriously behind the curve.”