According to the Living Planet report by WWF we consume, in global terms, the Earth more than one and a half times every year. It is our ambition to reduce our customers’ energy consumption and that of our own to within the limits necessary for a habitable planet, not just for our own sakes, but also for future generations. Our customers expect no less of us and only then will we have achieved our mission: ‘Sustainable energy for everyone’. To accomplish this mission, we seek collaboration with our customers, our suppliers and other partners.
Eneco and WWF have been partners since 2010, and Eneco was the first Dutch company and the first energy company in the world to receive the WWF’s ‘Climate Saver’ accreditation. Nonetheless, we maintain that sustainability is more than just the climate: it’s about our health, the quality of ecosystems and the availability of resources. Inspired by the article Planetary Boundaries by Stockholm Resilience Centre and WWF’s Living Planet report, Eneco took the initiative to team up with Ecofys and WWF to make ‘One Planet Thinking’ measurable for companies.
One Planet Thinking (OPT) is a joint development process set up by Eneco, WWF and Ecofys with the intention of learning how companies can make their value chains more sustainable so that, in the long term, their operations will have a less detrimental impact on human health, the quality of ecosystems and the availability of resources. This will help us to determine whether we are progressing as we should on our path to a habitable planet.
The design of the model is based on the most recent scientific discoveries and current measuring tools, such as the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Many companies already use this method to measure their impact on the environment. The Life Cycle Assessment distinguishes between various categories of impact, including climate change and the availability of raw materials. By linking the LCA to the One Planet Thinking model, companies can learn just how much they are damaging the Earth and which impact categories they can improve to help ameliorate life on our planet.
The three impact categories on which the production, distribution and supply of electricity have the greatest environmental effects are climate change, particulate matter and the availability of fossil fuels. For these impact categories, we have calculated the effect that we, our customers and our suppliers have on the environment using the LCA method. Due to new scientific discoveries described in publications like the Planetary Boundaries article, we can estimate by how much the emissions exceed the One Planet boundaries. By applying these steps to the three impact categories, we can produce the following graph of the environmental effect of electricity generation and the distribution and supply of electricity to our customers and our own company.
The initial results reveal that, relatively speaking, the electricity supply to our customers has the greatest environmental effect on climate change. Compared to the European average (429 gr CO2/kWh in 2010, source: IEA) we are doing very well. See Initial results of One Planet Thinking for an explanation of the initial results.
We still have a long way to go to reduce our customers’ and our own demand for energy to within the boundaries of a habitable planet. This also applies to the further development of the OPT model and to solving the dilemmas we face. The first dilemma is whether we should actually want to translate the global planetary boundaries to local business levels, as that will raise ethical dilemmas on the distribution, or fair share. The second dilemma involves the course we should take if we cannot find a widely acceptable scientific boundary for an impact category.
Fortunately, we share this ambition with many others; positive responses from other companies demonstrate that our One Planet Thinking is meeting a demand. Accordingly, we would like to invite everyone who is truly committed to sustainability to help us work out and build on this model in more detail: other WWF Climate Savers, companies, organisations and researchers. Our dream is to create a global standard and an independent method available to everyone, an open-source platform that researchers, organisations and other interested parties can continue to develop.
The advantage of One Planet Thinking (OPT) is that it is based on current scientific findings in all aspects of sustainability and at the same time enables powerful and intuitive communication. The combination of these two important matters in one model creates potential for broad application of OPT. New scientific insights and user experiences arising from the open-source strategy will lead to the continuous development of the model. So far, Eneco has come across two dilemmas relating to this development.
The first dilemma is whether we should actually want to translate the global planetary boundaries to local business levels, as that will raise ethical dilemmas on the distribution, or fair share. The alternative is that we determine the absolute environmental impacts from assessments (LCAs) and that we then reduce this environmental impact. If we only reduce the environmental impacts, we cannot form a picture of how much we need to reduce them. This alternative is also not entirely in keeping with the usual methods used by trade and industry in which targets are defined using SMART, a strategy is defined and progress is monitored.
The second dilemma involves the course we should take if we cannot find a widely acceptable scientific boundary for an impact category. Should we accept a socially accepted source, such as a law or a directive? Or should we leave the model incomplete by not setting boundaries for this impact category?
Specifically for the particle matter category, we have based the One Planet boundary on the standards set by the World Health Organisation’s Air Quality Guideline. Standards which are considerably stricter than the standards for particle matter as prescribed in European and Dutch legislation.
Eneco expects to be confronted with similar dilemmas as we work out One Planet Thinking in more detail. To address these dilemmas, we shall involve scientists directly and actively in the further development of One Planet Thinking, starting in 2014. In our view, it is important that we, and other companies, find a compass for our sustainable development, although we are aware that this compass will not be without faults in all aspects.