It is a multi-criteria measurement of environmental behavior that makes it possible to define, evaluate and compare the environmental performance of an organization, taking into account the sum total of all matter and energy inputs and the wastes and emissions outputs. Its purpose is to reduce the environmental impact derived from the activities carried out by the organization, bearing in mind also the supply chain.
It offers a global view of the organization’s impact on the environment. The estimation of this parameter is a first step to the introduction of concrete improvements to the sustainability and operational efficiency measures
strategy, for it would make it possible for the organization to measure their environmental impact, identify objectives to reduce it and improve environmental management. It would also make it possible to improve corporate cost-efficiency by reducing costs all along the value chain; optimize the supply chain in a sustainable way and provide an efficient and transparent communication on environmental performance, which will also improve the organization’s image and the value of its brand. It is applicable to any company, institution, NGO, etc.
The Environmental Footprint of an organization can be calculated using an instrument called environmental units (EUs) -which are based on the life cycle analysis methodology- and following the different phases established by the international standards of the series ISO 14040. This methodology quantifies its different component footprints, including the carbon footprint (according to ISO 14067 or ISO 14064); the hydrologic footprint (according to ISO 14046) and the wastes footprint. It also includes the footprints resulting from the consumption of resources, biodiversity and other indicators.
Its calculation begins with the characterization of the quantified environmental factor, according to certain impact categories (consumption of energy resources, water resources, among others; generation of wastes; damages to wildlife, among others). The characterized environmental factor is standardized by comparing it to an established reference value. Thus, environmental impacts acquire a dimensionless value (EUs) regardless of their nature. This result expressed in EUs is then assessed to determine the social significance that each impact category has at any given moment, and the result would be the impact generated for every impact category. Once aggregated, impact categories in their corresponding sub-footprints as well as the sum total of all of them will give as a result the environmental footprint of the company.
There are several methodologies, tools and techniques that can be used to make this environmental analysis at the corporate level. There are three main documents that govern the analysis of the corporate environmental footprint:
The OEF Guide published by the European Union seeks to increase reproducibility and comparability, thus harmonizing the methodology so that it could be consistently implemented. It is also intended to reduce costs for companies, increase applicability for SMEs and allow companies to have a credible communication with consumers in order to minimize confusion and distrust.
It is based on many LCA concepts and methodological framework, although it is not fully aligned with the ISO 14040 referred to the LCA of products and the ISO 14072 referred to the LCA of organizations.
It refers to the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted either directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event, product or service, expressed in tones of equivalent CO2, mainly as a result of the consumption of fossil fuels (energy consumption,
transportation of goods, air travel, etc.). It measures the contribution of each of these activities to climate change. Its calculation is done in accordance with ISO 14067 or ISO 14064.
It quantifies the total volume of water consumed and/or polluted per time unit to produce either a good or a service, which is consumed by an individual, a community or a company. Its calculation is done in accordance with ISO 14046.
It quantifies the total amount of wastes generated to produce a product or a service, taking into account the valuation of wastes, recycling, etc.