What is your business carbon footprint (and where does the idea come from)?

If you don’t know how big your business’s carbon footprint is, you’re not alone. But an equally interesting question is, where does the idea come from?

Have you had a guess? Perhaps a genius ecology professor? A group of nature activists?

Sorry, you’re not even close. It was BP. British Petroleum. Yes, that’s right – the Deepwater Horizon disaster BP (if you knew this, you get 10 points).

So, is the concept of carbon footprint a complete red herring? Well, yes. Perhaps on the individual level. On this level, it’s blatant propaganda.

But it’s not completely useless. There is some value in thinking about carbon footprint when it comes to how our businesses are acting when it comes to climate change:

BP’s guide to blaming the individual

Major polluters started the individual-blame ball rolling several decades before BP’s enterprising take on personal responsibility. Many of us will remember seeing the Keep America Beautiful advert where a Native American character sheds a manly tear about fly-tipping.

The original air date was 1971. But the advert lives on because of its breathtaking hypocrisy (it was funded by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Anheuser-Busch – some of the biggest plastic waste producers in the world).

So the trend of blaming the individual was already well-established by the early 2000s. Enter BP.

What is your carbon footprint?

The IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) defines carbon footprint as “the exclusive total amount of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the lifecycle stages of a product.”

BP didn’t invent this concept. Similar ideas of “environmental footprint” had been used here and there in academia and elsewhere since around the time of the Keep America Beautiful campaign’s storied propaganda ad.

But it was a marketing firm called Ogilvy & Mather who saw its potential use as a tool of active distraction and misinformation. Important, as the fossil fuel companies were adjusting to a world that no longer believed their lies about climate change not being real.

So is carbon footprint just propaganda?

The idea that fossil fuel companies like BP are not responsible for climate change and that responsibility lies entirely with the individual is clearly nonsense.

You’ll often see people making counterarguments (often in bad faith) about the need to act on climate change based on individual habits. This is a smokescreen, plain and simple.

Any positive actions taken on an individual level are good. But they are never going to add up to the level of change required. Only concerted, long-lasting changes in society enforced by government policy and the law can. It needs to be systematic and wide-scale.

For example, think back to the COVID-19 pandemic (sorry). The amount everyone flew and drove around was, briefly, cut dramatically – and so was our carbon output. But this was barely a blip in the direction we’re all travelling. And even this was enforced by law over large parts of the planet.

So what’s the point in measuring business carbon footprint?

Some ways we can reduce our impact on the environment on a personal level and that of our businesses really do matter.

It can also be helpful for businesses looking for inefficiencies, to build a greener brand, or prepare for future legislation.

No one should be frowned on for saying they’re planning to reduce their carbon footprint. Nor should any business. As long as we all remember where the buck should really stop. Make sure that you look into your carbon offset company and their project – even though it is primarily USA where the big scams happen, it’s always worth checking if your money helps the good cause you think you’re paying for. We use Ecologi for our carbon offsets – a Bristol-based, B Corp-certified company who takes pride in their transparency. We helped planting trees as well as funding some amazing green energy projects with Ecologi and we cannot recommend them more. Find out more here.

Did you know that each laptop comes with around 350kg of carbon footprint?

The best way to minimise the carbon footprint of your business IT is a smart device management combined with end of life programs. Talk to us now if you’d like a green-minded IT partner who can help you minimise your IT waste by asset managing your devices, refurbishing your equipment and making sure it lasts for as long as necessary before you spend more money (and create a larger carbon footprint) on a new laptop. We’ll also ensure all your equipment is safely recycled or donated at the end of its life, at no extra cost to you.

Would you like your business IT to be greener?