Do you know what your carbon footprint is on Earth? An average person's carbon footprint is 7 tonnes per year. Now can you imagine how big the number is for an entire industry? It can be as high as millions of metric tonnes for big industries.
Carbon footprint means total emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by any entity.
In Bangladesh, each person's carbon footprint is 0.47 tonnes per year. This number seems negligible, but we are still contributing to climate change and, in the grand scheme of things, bearing its consequences.
In the past few years, we have seen firsthand how Bangladesh is struggling due to climate change.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2021, Bangladesh ranked 7th among countries most affected by climate change from 2000 to 2019. Simultaneously, Bangladesh is also the country least prepared for climate change.
Because of this reality, many Bangladeshi conglomerates have expressed their concern and decided to take actions to save our planet. Olympic Industries Limited is an example.
Since 1979, it has been one of the largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of biscuits in Bangladesh, and 98% of its revenue comes from the food and confectionery department. As the organisation grew in the last 10 years, so did its carbon emission.
In the beginning, they wanted to know the size of their carbon footprint. In that search, they turned to the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) in 2015, which solely works with Sustainable Development Goals. CSD taught Olympic Industry how to assess their carbon footprint and helped to decrease its size.
In 2016, their carbon emission rate was 1.17 kg per one kg production. They set a goal of decreasing carbon emissions from 1.17 kg to 1 kg by 2030. Surprisingly, they all but achieved their 15-year target in just five years by cutting it down to 1.01 kg by 2019.
The idea of decreasing carbon emissions, as an organisation, was the brainchild of Tanveer Ali, president of Olympic Industries Limited, who had been brought up in Canada and wanted to introduce all the governance, ethical and environmental practices of first world countries into Olympic Industries Limited too. As a part of that goal, a CSR division was formed.
"We never planned to do something flashy or philanthropic as CSR. Rather, we wanted to focus on actions that would bring visible changes to our lives. Hence, we decided to be responsible by taking a timely approach, and formulating an inclusive business model that ensures sustainability including steps like decreasing our carbon footprint as an organisation," said Ali.
In factories, carbon emission happens in three scopes, and its first two scopes involve using fossil fuels and converting natural resources. The third scope of carbon footprint comes from the goods' raw materials. But as carbon footprint measurement is not very popular in our country, the companies automatically become liable for the third scope, too.
"If our raw material providers measured their carbon footprint, our carbon emission rate would have decreased further. They could then follow the steps we are following. Then, we could have proudly said that we use raw materials that have zero carbon emission," said Saifullah Al Azad, Deputy Manager, CSR at Olympic Industries Ltd, Bangladesh.
Olympic Industries tried to resolve this, but none of the small-scale factories cooperated with Olympic Industries Limited's proposition to measure carbon footprint.
Hence, it plans to promote the carbon-dioxide offsetting idea by planting trees to negate the carbon emission from the third scope. In this way, it aims to reach zero carbon emission by the year 2030.
They not only decreased their carbon emissions but also decided to be more environmentally-friendly in other aspects as well. To achieve that goal, they organised training by Green Savers in 2018, an eco-friendly organisation, which enlightened them about their usage of natural resources and contribution to producing waste.
"When we got the numbers on paper wastage, our jaws dropped. We realised the number could be cut down to half if we start printing on both sides. With that realisation, we started collecting invoices digitally," said Azad.
Since 2018, it has become more responsible as an organisation. Every department started using LED lights, planted trees, installed heat and steam recovery systems in the machineries to save fuel. Also, it set on-grid solar panels for the factory because it helped them use less electricity from the national grid and take another step towards decreasing carbon emissions.
"While installing all these machinery, we invested huge amounts of money, around Tk3 crore, knowing that we will get the result much later, maybe years after the initial investment. Yet, we chose to do this [actions taken to cut down carbon footprint] because we were thinking from both environmental and monetary perspectives, whether it brings revenue or saves up money.
Also, it has created a positive impact on our habits, mentality, lifestyle, and most importantly, on our environment," remarked Azad.
Interestingly, such environment-friendly sustainable models have become popular among other conglomerates too. For example, DBL Group, Nestle Bangladesh and Epyllion group have chosen to be more environment-friendly.
On carbon footprint, Dr. Samiya Selim, associate professor Ulab and director of CSD, said, "It is pretty easy to decrease your carbon footprint on a personal level because all you need to do is be conscious. Simply by decreasing your use of electricity, use of fossil fuel, intake of red meats, and choosing walking over motor cars for commuting; you are contributing to decreasing your carbon footprint. It is high time to be aware of carbon footprint both at the personal and industrial level because we are having a tough time."