Quantifying Our Environmental Footprint as a Service Organization


Environmentally friendly. Carbon neutral. Corporate social responsibility. These are just some examples of buzz phrases that are often thrown around these days. Many companies are trying to operate more sustainably – but “how” to do it is the challenge. 


At Environics Research, the first step in our sustainability journey was to quantify our environmental footprint. This was a daunting task in itself. That’s why in 2022, we partnered with Green Economy Canada (GEC), a national non-profit organization that works with businesses to help measure their current environmental impact and advises on how to mitigate emissions in the future.  

We worked closely with GEC developing a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory to take into account a variety of emissions sources that contribute to our environmental impact. As researchers, using data to unlock insights for clients is our specialty. However, taking stock of our emissions was new territory for us to take on and we encountered a few bumps along the road. Namely, the limited availability of information overall for how service organizations can measure their environmental impact, understanding where employee commuting and work-from-home fit in, and both accessing the data needed to complete the inventory as well as converting that data into usable measurements. 


Sustainability for service organizations is a distinct challenge – and there are few resources available
  • Statistics Canada estimates that more than 75% of businesses in Canada would be considered “services-producing” – operating in areas like professional services and administration.
  • However, despite this large majority, the resources on how to quantify the environmental impact for service organizations are sparse. Much of the information is geared toward manufacturing operations and other industrial sectors since these businesses tend to generate a higher environmental impact and it is easier to identify areas where GHG can be reduced.
  • As service organizations are under-represented in sustainability discussions, our team often felt like we had more questions than answers. With limited resources available, the guidance we received from Green Economy Canada was vital.


Prioritizing employee emissions in the inventory process
  • Capturing employee emissions was considered optional for the inventory but was a key priority for us as a service organization. Environics Research has been remote work-friendly since long before the pandemic, and many people at the company work from home most or all of the time.
  • To accurately capture our environmental impact, we wanted to understand how our work-from-home (WFH) policy and employee commuting habits shaped our footprint.
  • Green Economy Canada recently developed a survey as part of their toolkit to track employee emissions and we were able to adapt the questions and provide feedback to better suit our needs.


Emissions data was not readily available and had to be modified
  • To complete the GHG inventory, we collected extensive data about emissions from our company’s offices (e.g., natural gas, electricity, paper use). However, the data we had access to was limited in scope and was not set up for tracking GHG emissions.
  • To meet inventory requirements, the data we received often needed to be converted into different measurements and estimations were made to fill in missing information. For instance, statistics from our Toronto office were representative of the entire square footage of the building and we had to calculate the share of emissions our specific office space generated.
  • The process of developing our first GHG inventory has made evident the importance of setting up data collection processes in order to streamline the inventory process in future years.


Since members of our climate committee did not have a background in this area, understanding and adapting emissions data was complicated at times. We were grateful for support from the team at Green Economy Canada, who were a helpful resource throughout the inventory process. They addressed our (many!) questions and recommended best practices based on our available data. We found that you don’t need to be an expert to contribute to the development of a company’s greenhouse gas inventory – just be willing to learn!

Upon reflection, we feel this has been a valuable learning experience, building our teams’ capabilities in an area of growing importance. It also reinforces the benefits of cross-functional team involvement in climate change initiatives. Having climate champions across the organization ensures we have ample support for the next phase in the process – setting tangible targets for reducing our environmental footprint as a company. Now that the first step of quantifying our emissions is complete, it’s time to put the findings from the GHG inventory into practice.

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