How we became carbon neutral – in record time.

Westernacher CO2 Monitor.

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Published on July 01, 2021 – Dr. Oliver Blau, Managing Director at Westernacher

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. As a consulting company committed to our slogan of “nonstop innovation” we want to be part of the solution. Westernacher is committed to reducing its environmental impact as much as possible. We believe that “less bad” isn’t good enough. Only net zero or better will do. Thinking it would be difficult and take years, we were in for a surprise.

When we looked into improving our environmental and climate footprint some months ago, we knew that we were producing too much CO2 but couldn’t say exactly how much. We wanted a master plan to lead us to carbon neutrality – thinking it would be a long and arduous journey.

Our master plan to become carbon neutral turned out to be quite simple. We combined and leveraged our strengths as a business and IT consulting company which resulted in the following action plan:
  1. Create transparency regarding our CO2 emissions
  2. Derive and discuss appropriate measures
  3. Execute and refine measures to become carbon neutral
With this approach our goal was to become carbon neutral within the next few years.

The plan.

First, we set aside a budget in order to be able to systematically plan and start the activities in 2021 and take a first major step on our way to become a carbon neutral company. In our rough planning we wanted to choose a tool in Q1/2021, set up the framework for the model and implement a first prototype in Q2/2021 based on that model. With that foundation we aimed to define and execute first measures in the second half of 2021. The impact of the measures would be checked, and we planned to come back with a refined set of measures in 2022.

The CO2 Monitor.

Main questions:

From the beginning it was clear that we needed to have an IT solution in place that was easy to build, cost effective and would support us in the decision-making process by answering questions like:

  • For how many tons of direct emissions are we responsible with our business activities?
  • What are the main drivers for our emissions?
  • How do activities for reduction of emissions improve our footprint in the short and long term?
  • What is the best way to show the results and discuss with key stakeholders?
  • What kind of scenarios would have the best impact on our way to carbon neutrality?
In addition, the underlying model should be flexible in terms of changing fundamental parameters like emission factors.

The landscape:

Luckily, our SAP ERP system was recently converted to S/4HANA and contains most of the relevant, basic information needed to answer our questions. In customer projects over the past years, we have had much success with SAP Analytics Cloud as a tool to create dashboards and visualize information in a fast and easy way. Therefore, we were sure to be able to build the Westernacher CO2 Monitor in a short time within the budget: A solid tool to answer our questions and discuss with the internal stakeholders.

The model:

As a consulting company in the services industry, we have different sources of emissions, mostly related to the equipment we use, our offices and the travel to our customers. The related receipts and cost are available in our SAP S/4HANA system but in order to come to a CO2 emission count, we needed to design a model that assigns a CO2 emission value to each single business activity. Only some limited changes were made in the way we book our receipts into the S/4HANA system. This was needed to measure our activities more precisely as CO2 emissions from, say, various travel modes are very different: taxi vs public transportation for example.

model-carbon-neutral

Having identified all sources and weighed the business activities with emission factors, we connected the sources from SAP S/4HANA with the SAP Analytics Cloud. All factors are fully customizable in case a later independent certification recommends using different factors.

Dashboarding:

The fun part was of course visualizing the data in a nice and meaningful way by our Analytics team, using the in-built functionality of SAC to answer our key questions. They built aggregated views with options to filter and drill-down.

And they quickly delivered what we had been looking for – the visibility into our CO2 emissions and a clear root-cause analysis that allows decision-making regarding activities to become carbon neutral.

The measures.

Our CO2 Monitor shows several effects – e.g., for our biggest legal entity which was our pilot to test this:

  • While it was clear that travel is the biggest source of CO2 emissions in our operations, it was surprising that it stands for about 90% of our emissions in non-COVID years.
  • Thereof, travelling by plane causes 75% of all travel related emissions.
  • Restricted travel during the pandemic caused a change in the delivery model towards a project delivery from the home office. This fundamental change in operations reduced travel related emissions by about 70%.
  • Up to 10% of emissions comes from energy consumption in our offices.
  • Work with laptops, screens or mobile phones is not really significant when it comes to CO2 emissions (< 5%).

Based on these findings the measures to be taken are somehow evident:

  • Reduce travel.
  • If travel is needed, take a train instead of car/plane wherever possible.
  • Switch offices to renewable energy.
  • Offset the remaining footprint.

Becoming carbon neutral – (almost) immediately.

With our CO2 Monitor we now have a tool at hand that allows us to monitor how our emissions develop. That way we can permanently see if the taken measures are within our expectations and what the cost level is that we need to invest in order to offset the remaining emissions. In any event, we have seen that becoming a carbon neutral company doesn’t need to be an onerous task. It is solvable with modern IT and business acumen.

By seeing the facts and getting transparency, we at Westernacher have been able to become carbon neutral, not in 2030 or 2025, but today, retroactively for the year 2021.

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