The language we use at Spherics

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Getting started with sustainability is made too complex by the language that surrounds the issue. Business concepts which are central to sustainability are similarly tricky to understand without an MBA!

The most pressing issue facing humanity requires bold, quick action - so if the use of complex jargon is turning businesses off the issue, or slowing down progress, then it’s also a threat to our chances of achieving net zero targets.

At Spherics we are committed to using simple, plain English and avoiding jargon to communicate with you wherever possible.  We only use specialist terminology when it’s absolutely essential to explain something.

Recognising that the language surrounding the climate emergency changes constantly, we commit to regularly review definitions, especially at times when the International Panel on Climate Change, Science Based Targets Initiative or British government release significant new legislation.

The world of carbon is full of jargon.

We have captured our meaning in two tables below:

01

Key terms

Important words or phrases that are defined to give a clear understanding of their meaning when used on Spherics sites.

02

Full glossary

A list of specialist, uncommon or newly introduced terms with definitions.

Key terms to describe Spherics

Term / abbreviation

Meaning (including alternative terms)

A carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2 equivalent, (abbreviated as CO2e) is a metric used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their global-warming potential by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming potential.For example, R-410a - a commonly used refrigerant gas has 2,088x the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide. This means that emissions of 1kg of R-410a is equivalent to emissions of 2,088kg of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e)

A gas that absorbs and emits radiation in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. GHGs include (among others) water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and other CFCs.The most important (and abundant) GHG is carbon dioxide (CO₂).

Greenhouse gas (GHG)

The UK government definition of a large business has over 250 employees and an annual turnover of over €50 million.

Large business

Net zero is a target state which the IPCC defines as that point when man-made emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere are balanced by man-made removals over a specified period.When considering the term ‘net zero’, it is important to be clear on three details:the subject it is describing (e.g. one business, a group, a nation or the entire earth)the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that it applies to (e.g. does it encompass all GHG gases, or just represent CO2)the timeframe within which the it is to be achieved (i.e. the time between an agreed ‘base year’ and ‘target year’)Absolute global net zero CO2 refers to the ultimate target end state relative to the whole earth. The current global agreement on this (the 2015 Paris Agreement) sets out the need to achieve net zero before the second half of this century.Please note: Net zero is probably the most important term for the climate emergency as it describes the target state the world is working towards. But there are many subtle nuances and applications for how it is applied and what it means in different contexts. The SBTi is addressing this confusion for businesses by defining a corporate net zero standard, read more on this here.

Net zero

We categorise business sizes according to the standard UK Government definitions.

The UK government definition of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises encompasses three sizes:

  • Micro - less than 10 employees and an annual turnover under €2 million
  • Small - less than 50 employees and an annual turnover under €10 million)
  • Medium-sized - less than 250 employees and an annual turnover under €50 million

For clarity, a business with over 250 employees and over €50 million is classified as a large business at Spherics.

SME (Small to Medium Sized Enterprise)

The supplier is defined as a business or person that makes goods available to another business or service. We use the term ‘supplier’ and ‘merchant’ interchangeably.

Suppliers

A supply chain is a network established between a business and its suppliers to turn raw materials into goods and services and distribute them to customers. It includes producers, vendors, warehouses, transportation companies, distribution centers, and retailers.

Supply chain

A value chain describes the full range of activities to transform a product from an idea into reality. It involves activities such as procurement, design, R&D, operations, manufacturing/production, quality control, marketing, customer support, infrastructure and HR.

Value chain

The difference between supply chain and value chain is subtle and is best explained as follows:Supply chain describes the end-to-end production, with customer satisfaction as the key objective.Value chain takes a wider view and is focused on the end-to-end creation and delivery of value, with competitive advantage as the key objective.As the term value chain includes processes and activities that aren’t captured by the term supply chain, it is therefore most appropriate to use in relation to a carbon footprint.

Value chain vs supply chain

Full Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Term / abbreviation

Definition

These phrases are used to describe the two most common science-based targets. They define the two current possible emissions scenarios or pathways that businesses can choose to align their targets to be considered as ‘science-based.’They relate to whether a business wishes to commit to the reductions required to limit global temperature rises to within 1.5 or 2˚C from pre-industrial levels.Both could also be referred to as ‘Paris aligned’ because they meet with the recommendations from the legally binding international treaty on climate change agreed at COP 21 in Paris, 2015.Please note: from 15 July 2021, the SBTi will no longer accept WB-2˚C targets, as reductions become more urgent. Read more here.

1.5˚C aligned (1.5˚C) or well below 2˚C aligned (WB-2˚C) emissions scenarios or pathways

Science-based targets provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

A Science Based Target (SBT)

The year in history against which a company tracks its emissions reduction performance over time.

Baseline year

The estimated amount of CO₂ the world can emit before warming will exceed specific temperature thresholds.

Carbon budget

A carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2 equivalent, (abbreviated as CO2e) is a metric used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their global-warming potential by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming potential.For example, R-410a - a commonly used refrigerant gas has 2,088x the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide. This means that emissions of 1kg of R-410a is equivalent to emissions of 2,088kg of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e)

The COP26 event is a global summit about climate change and what nations areplanning to tackle it. COP stands for Conference of the Parties and will be attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty agreed in 1994. COP26 will be hosted in Glasgow between 1st Nov – 12th Nov 2021.

Conference of the Parties 26 or ‘COP26’

In the context of climate change mitigation, double counting is widely used to describe situations where a single greenhouse gas emission reduction or removal is used more than once to demonstrate compliance with their science based targets (SBTs).Double counting becomes prominent where multiple emissions reduction mechanisms overlap over sources or sinks, and when emission reductions are transferred among entities subject to mitigation targets and accounted towards them.Double counting needs to be avoided in order to preserve the integrity of the emissions reduction mechanism and therefore of the mitigation regime under which they operate. Emission reductions being counted more than once implies an overestimation of mitigation results, so failing to prevent double counting could hinder theachievement of internationally agreed mitigation objectives and undermine the credibility of a particular science-base target.

Double counting

A common method of offsetting or emissions removal.Emissions sequestration is long-term removal, capture and storage of atmospheric GHG emissions in an appropriate sink.

Emissions (typically carbon) sequestration

Anything which absorbs more GHG emissions than it releases.A reservoir (natural or human, in soil, ocean, and plants) where a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas is stored. Please note: that UNFCCC Article 1.8 refers to a sink as any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

Emissions (typically carbon) sink

A unit to express emissions relative to a specific business metric, such as production output or financial performance of the company.A commonly used emissions intensity is Carbon Intensity (CI) which is the amount of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) released per unit of another variable such as gross domestic product (GDP).Abbreviated to EI or CI.

Emissions intensity (EI) Unit: varies, but for example. Tonnes or grams of CO₂ per £ turnover. The SBTi suggests GHG Emission per Value Added (GEVA)

Scope 1 emissions‘Direct’ emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the reporting business. For example, this could include on site fuel combustion or emissions from company vehicles.Scope 2 emissions (or ‘indirect emissions’)‘Indirect’ emissions from the generation of electricity, heat, or steam that has been purchased by the reporting business.Scope 3 emissionsAll other indirect emissions from sources that are located along the reporting business’ value chain - from the purchase of raw materials through logistics, processing, packaging, use and ultimately disposal.For most businesses, scope 3 is usually the largest contributor as it includes the emissions of the various suppliers used to deliver a product or service through to waste.

Emissions scope (i.e. scope 1, 2 and 3)

Fluorinated gases (‘F-gases’) are a family of man-made gases used in a range of industrial applications.F-gases are powerful greenhouse gases, with a global warming effect up to 23 000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO₂), and their emissions are rising strongly.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases or F-gases

Greenhouse gas Emissions per Value Added

GEVA

The GHG Protocol establishes comprehensive global standardised frameworks to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions.

GHG Protocol

A gas that absorbs and emits radiation in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. GHGs include (among others) water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and other CFCs.The most important (and abundant) GHG is carbon dioxide (CO₂).

Greenhouse gas (GHG)

This is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.’It is the act of using information inappropriately to give a more positive impression of environmental responsibility.

Greenwashing

International Energy Agency

IEA

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.The IPCC was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.Through its assessments, the IPCC determines the state of knowledge on climate change. It identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community on topics related to climate change, and where further research is needed. The reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency. The IPCC does not conduct its own research. IPCC reports are neutral, policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive. The assessment reports are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

ISO 14001 is a specification which maps out a framework that a business can follow to set up an effective environmental management system.Designed for any type of organization, regardless of its activity or sector, it can provide assurance to business management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.

ISO 14001

This refers to the ways in which businesses can choose to integrate offsetting or GHG removal activities into their value chain.Typically insetting takes the form of partnership or investment in an accredited GHG emissions-reducing activity.

Insetting

The UK government definition of a large business has over 250 employees and an annual turnover of over €50 million.

Large business

Net zero is a target state which the IPCC defines as that point when man-made emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere are balanced by man-made removals over a specified period.When considering the term ‘net zero’, it is important to be clear on three details:the subject it is describing (e.g. one business, a group, a nation or the entire earth)the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that it applies to (e.g. does it encompass all GHG gases, or just represent CO2)the timeframe within which the it is to be achieved (i.e. the time between an agreed ‘base year’ and ‘target year’)Absolute global net zero CO2 refers to the ultimate target end state relative to the whole earth. The current global agreement on this (the 2015 Paris Agreement) sets out the need to achieve net zero before the second half of this century.Please note: Net zero is probably the most important term for the climate emergency as it describes the target state the world is working towards. But there are many subtle nuances and applications for how it is applied and what it means in different contexts. The SBTi is addressing this confusion for businesses by defining a corporate net zero standard, read more on this here.

Net zero

Offsetting refers to a number of methods used to compensate for GHG emissions elsewhere.This typically involves purchasing a credit from a certified external scheme that removes GHGs from the atmosphere. Offsetting schemes must be certified to meet certain standards in order to be a valid way of removing GHGs from the atmosphere for an agreed length of time.The various methods of offsetting can be nature-based or artificial, and include techniques ranging from rewilding to sequestration.Offsetting is also referred to by a number of other terms elsewhere, these include: ‘neutralisation’ or ‘compensation’ (both used by the SBTi) and ‘balancing.’ For our purposes, they all mean the same thing.Please note: The SBTi does not allow offsets to be counted as reductions toward meeting an SBT. Instead, companies mustaccount for reductions resulting from direct action within their operations or value chains. Offsets may be useful, however, as an option for companies wishing to finance additional emission reductions beyond their own SBT.

Offsetting

PAS 2050 is a specification for the assessment of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and servicesIt was introduced in 2008 (revised in 2011) with the aim of providing a consistent internationally applicable method for quantifying product carbon footprints.PAS 2050 is defined and certified by the British Standards Agency (BSI).

PAS 2050

PAS 2060 is an international specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality. This can be verified by the British Standards Agency (BSI) to substantiate claims that a business is carbon neutral.It was developed with The Carbon Trust.

PAS 2060

We categorise business sizes according to the standard UK Government definitions.

The UK government definition of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises encompasses three sizes:

  • Micro - less than 10 employees and an annual turnover under €2 million
  • Small - less than 50 employees and an annual turnover under €10 million)
  • Medium-sized - less than 250 employees and an annual turnover under €50 million

For clarity, a business with over 250 employees and over €50 million is classified as a large business at Spherics.

SME (Small to Medium Sized Enterprise)

The SBTi is a nonprofit partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).According to their website, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi):Defines and promotes best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science.Provides technical assistance and expert resources to companies who set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.Brings together a team of experts to provide companies with independent assessment and validation of targets.The SBTi is the lead partner of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign - an urgent call to action from a global coalition of UN agencies, business and industry leaders, mobilizing companies to set net-zero science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C future.

Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)

The supplier is defined as a business or person that makes goods available to another business or service. We use the term ‘supplier’ and ‘merchant’ interchangeably.

Suppliers

A supply chain is a network established between a business and its suppliers to turn raw materials into goods and services and distribute them to customers. It includes producers, vendors, warehouses, transportation companies, distribution centers, and retailers.

Supply chain

The year by which a company intends to meet the emissions reductioncommitted to.

Target year

The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is an organisation that was established in December of 2015 with the goal of developing a set of climate-related financial risk disclosures which can be adopted by companies so that those businesses can inform investors and other members of the public about the risks they face related to climate change.The organization was formed by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) as a means of coordinating disclosures among businesses impacted by climate change. The Task Force is charged with considering "the physical, liability and transition risks associated with climate change and what constitutes effective financial disclosures across industries," per the organisation's mission statement.

Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the United Kingdom. BSI produces technical standards on a wide range of products and services and also supplies certification and standards-related services to businesses.Relative to the subject of climate change, they are responsible for defining and certifying the PAS 2050 standard for providing a consistent internationally applicable method for quantifying product carbon footprints, and PAS 2060 standard for carbon neutrality, with input from the Carbon Trust. They also design and certify the ISO 14001 standard with the International Standards Agency.

The British Standards Agency (BSI)

Legislation requiring the UK government to set legally binding carbon budgets to act as stepping-stones towards the 2050 target of net zero carbon. A carbon budget is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK over a five-year period. The first five carbon budgets have been put into legislation and run up to 2032.

The Climate Change Act

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNFCCC

Upstream emissions are those produced by the suppliers of a business. Downstream emissions are those produced by the organisation's customers, processing of end-of-life products, company investments etc.Together, the terms cover the emissions produced by the movement of goods and raw materials. It also includes emissions from third-party warehousing along the supply chain.

Upstream emissions and downstream emissions

Depending on accounting terminology, this is defined as gross profit, operatingprofit, revenue minus the cost of purchased goods and services, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) plus allpersonnel costs.

Value added

A value chain describes the full range of activities to transform a product from an idea into reality. It involves activities such as procurement, design, R&D, operations, manufacturing/production, quality control, marketing, customer support, infrastructure and HR.

Value chain

The difference between supply chain and value chain is subtle and is best explained as follows:Supply chain describes the end-to-end production, with customer satisfaction as the key objective.Value chain takes a wider view and is focused on the end-to-end creation and delivery of value, with competitive advantage as the key objective.As the term value chain includes processes and activities that aren’t captured by the term supply chain, it is therefore most appropriate to use in relation to a carbon footprint.

Value chain vs supply chain

Kilowatt hour

kWh

The Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted on December 2015 in Paris, France, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. The agreement, adopted by 196 Parties to the UNFCCC, entered into force on 4 November 2016 and as of May 2018 had 195 Signatories and was ratified by 177 Parties. One of the goals of the Paris Agreement is ‘Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. Additionally, the Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement is intended to become fully effective in 2020.

‘The Paris Agreement’ also known as Conference of the Parties 21 or ‘COP21’