Many companies that have started Carbon Footprinting and have mastered the process become curious about their relative performance: “where are we compared to the competitors, can we learn something from that?”.
Often even among practitioners there are ideas that it can be smarter and cheaper if you collaborate on certain points where you don’t compete, take the collection of packaging. But it is not easy to substantiate common sense with figures, because then you also need the figures of the competitor.
Sector organizations like to show the public and the government that their sector is really doing its best to reduce emissions. To do this, you need well-founded figures.
Community benchmarking is an approach that provides practical answers to all these questions.
Voluntary and trusted
In practice in the Netherlands, five or more well-matched companies take the initiative. They choose the same scope within their companies and have comparable datasets available from their IT systems.
A trusted third party helps each of them to carry out a carbon footprint for the chosen scope. This may mean that their transporters and charters will cooperate in measuring the entire chain. Preferably, the footprint is determined at the individual shipment level and then the total analyzed. This is apparently a lot of data (a million records is no exception) but for the current IT tools this is not a problem.
The first step is for each party to look confidentially at their own footprint and analyses: do we understand what we see, how do we explain the outliers, is the picture correct. It is common that the first time it appears that there is still work to be done on parts of the data: interpretation error, gaps, wrong exports, it all happens.
Once it is clear that the data can be trusted, benchmarking can begin. To avoid competition problems, initially the trusted third party will do this, and create anonymized graphs and analyses that can be viewed collectively.
This process provides a lot of insight for the parties involved: where do we stand individually, and where are the opportunities to improve. And where do we stand collectively?