Are we all doomed? And other questions about footprinting and sustainability, all answered by the experts at Best Foot Forward.
Frequently Asked Questions about:
What is an ecological footprint?
An ecological footprint measures the amount of land used to make a product, which means it includes carbon emissions but goes further. We are world leaders in ecological footprinting, having used the methodology since 1997. The core textbook on footprinting, 'Sharing Nature's Interest', was co-written by our directors Craig Simmons and Nicky Chambers, with Mathis Wackernagel.
What is the difference between a carbon footprint and an ecological footprint?
A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation or product. Carbon footprints help organisations understand the impact they're having on the climate so they can develop strategies to reduce that impact. The ecological footprint looks more broadly at environmental impact, by measuring not just carbon emissions, but the overall amount of land that is used up. Read about carbon footprinting and ecological footprinting.
Why are emissions put into different categories: scopes 1, 2 & 3?
When we measure an organisation’s carbon footprint, we look at different types of emissions. Organisations have direct control over some of their emissions, but others they can only influence indirectly. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol categorises all emissions so that it's clear what degree of responsibility different organisations have for producing emissions.
Is a carbon footprint the same as life cycle assessment?
No, but there can be many similarities. A product carbon footprint will often take a ‘lifecycle’ approach, which subdivides the assessment into lifecycle stages (e.g. raw materials, transport, production, retail, use and end of life) and measures the entire product impact from cradle to grave. However, a true lifecycle assessment measures other impacts beyond greenhouse gas emissions. Our experience is that a holistic carbon footprint is quicker and more powerful than formal life cycle assessments, allowing data interrogation and forecasting. We often also supplement our carbon work with other environmental metrics to capture a wider set of impacts or resource use issues.
What is the relationship between carbon and financial cost?
Carbon footprinting and ecological footprinting can bring financial benefits. The 'first-mover' company in a sector to footprint their product gets credit for leading the way. The company with the lowest footprint in the sector gets credit for being the best.
Ignoring carbon and resource use is financially risky for businesses. As the costs of energy and materials increase, supply chain resilience is put in danger. Companies may be hit with costly regulation as requirements to report emissions are introduced. We advise on strategic sourcing, how to achieve cost savings and planning ahead for carbon pricing.
Why go beyond compliance with environmental strategy?
There is a growing recognition amongst businesses, governments and consumers that the world’s resources are limited. This is impacting on business already and in the future the pressure and competition for resources – including carbon - will increase.
Smart, forward-thinking companies know that the regulatory environment is changing to reflect this reality, and they need to be prepared.
We have not engaged in any type of footprinting work before and our data is scattered, can we still do a footprint?
Absolutely! We will support you in tracking down the data we need to produce your footprint, whether that means identifying and dealing with knowledge gaps, or helping you to communicate the point of it all internally. Creating footprints for new clients is what we do best and we’ll help you every step of the way.
Why would I want to get a study verified by a third party?
Carbon and ecological footprinting can be a minefield and trying to do it yourself with a spreadsheet is unlikely to be cost effective in the long term. If you have produced a study, it’s a good idea to get your calculations checked by an independent organisation like Best Foot Forward. If you’re going to tell the world about your footprint, you want to be completely sure you’ve got it right.
Does doing an assessment to PAS 2050 give you a carbon label?
Not necessarily. PAS2050 is a product standard developed by BSI, Defra and The Carbon Trust to guide businesses on how to complete a comprehensive carbon footprint. The UK-based carbon labelling scheme from The Carbon Trust follows PAS2050 as the underlying methodology, but imposes additional requirements to qualify for the Carbon Reduction Label. So, while a labelled product will have been analysed according to PAS2050 the inverse is not necessarily true. We've done carbon labels for a number of products and are registered as footprint experts with the Carbon Trust.
Do you produce carbon calculators?
Yes. Best Foot Forward are specialists in calculating sustainability metrics and using them to communicate findings to clients and wider audiences. We have developed software tools to engage users and demonstrate the relative impacts of alternative decisions. Our tools range from simple calculators to communicate personal lifestyle impacts, through to the sophisticated footprinter series that enables full environmental accounting, risk assessment and reduction planning.
Who develops your software?
We do it in-house. Our technical team all do a degree of software specifying and development, and they are supported by dedicated software experts who work on our more complex applications and products.
Does Best Foot Forward do international work?
Yes. Best Foot Forward has international staff and our team in Oxford, UK uses the latest technology to communicate with clients around the world while keeping our carbon footprint down. We’ve measured the footprints for Australian city Lake Macquarie, for the San Sebastian film festival in Spain, for Jamie Oliver’s American roadtrip and for hotels around the world.
Can Best Foot Forward review or certify footprinting analyses?
Yes. We regularly do third party reviews of footprints for businesses, other consultancies, and government agencies. Best Foot Forward provides quality assurance services and summary statements, although we do not formally certify third party studies.
What data sources do we use?
Our experience means we are experts on data – we know where to find it, which sources are best for a given project and how to develop emissions factors when data isn’t out there. Sustainability metrics have moved on – it's not about getting access to the data any more, it's about understanding it and ensuring it is relevant, consistent and traceable. This is something Best Foot Forward does best.
Do you do standards-compliant studies e.g. ISO14064, PAS2050, GHG Protocol, etc?
Yes. We are experts in all of the core carbon footprinting standards, and regularly apply these to our studies when appropriate. However, we are experienced enough to realise that trying to follow standards to the letter isn’t always appropriate, perhaps because a streamlined approach is sufficient or the project is too complex for the application of existing standards. So, if you need your study completed to a specific standard or want reassurance that we know what we’re doing then contact us and we can explain our recommended approach.
Why were you honoured with a Queen's Award?
We are pioneers in ecological footprinting, we’ve been leading the way internationally on both the theory and the practice. While others focus on carbon, we’re looking more broadly at measuring what matters in a resource constrained world. In 2005 we were awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category for this pioneering ecological footprinting work.
What is your recruitment process? I would like to get an internship with BFF
We are always interested in hearing from exceptional people. Send us an email with your CV if you’re interested in doing an internship with us.
Who owns BFF?
We are a limited company, majority-owned by our founders Nicky and Craig.
Are we all doomed?
Maybe. But with Best Foot Forward you can measure the doom, communicate the risk of doom to your colleagues and use our pioneering tools to try to mitigate the doom.
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Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE, United Kingdom. Best Foot Forward Limited is a company registered in
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