I recently attended a sustainability-focused event, and while in line for my cup of Fair Trade coffee, I overheard a gentleman say, “This whole carbon footprint thing is really over.”
My first instinct was to seek shelter from what I knew would be a verbal onslaught of statistics hurled at this poor soul from fellow event attendees. However, being a sustainability-focused gal (and wanting a bit to hurl some statistics myself), my second thoughts were of disbelief and concern.
Is this what those outside of the small world of professional sustainability believe? Is this the rhetoric of a headline reader? (You know, those who read only the headlines and feel they have absorbed the current state of any issue sufficiently enough to have an opinion on it? You have talked with them before.)
From where I sit – still receiving CDP supplier requests, endless surveys and forms to fill out – the answer is that “this whole carbon footprint thing” is far from over. Perhaps, the issue is that the more mainstream something gets, the less we feel that the general public needs to be educated about it. It might not be sexy that the majority of businesses find it common practice to fill out forms reporting their emissions, electricity use and water consumption, or that there are even whole departments or positions created for this very purpose. But it is reality. And maybe we should communicate this more often to the general public.
How do we make sure they understand that tracking our collective carbon footprints is not dead, but now a formal corporate process? I think the key is transparency.
Once we move from sustainability pages or sustainability reports to completely integrated sustainability data, it will be impossible to miss the facts. Right now, every website visitor or annual report reader can opt-out of sustainability information by simply foregoing those sections or links, but once integrated reporting takes hold, it will be there – no escaping or ignoring it. Carbon footprint will be right next to the profit and loss, which will make it virtually unavoidable.
What do you think? Do you think sustainability professionals should do more to keep the broader world updated on what we do day- to-day?