Embarking on a path to climate neutrality – Fairware takes first step with the Climate Smart Program

Fairware recently completed the Climate Smart Program. Delivered by Climate Smart, a social enterprise based in Vancouver, the Program helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) measure and reduce their carbon emissions.

It’s a unique and valuable program because SMEs generally aren’t a focus for emission reduction initiatives. All current regulation and major federal programs focus on large businesses.

An example of this is the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a pending cap and trade system that will affect western states and the majority of Canadian provinces. The WCI requires reporting by businesses with more than 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (C02e) in direct emissions. Business with more than 25,000 tonnes C02e in direct emissions will be required to participate in a cap and trade system.

WCI Partners and Observers

By comparison, data from Climate Smart suggests emissions reported by SMEs are on average less than 1000 tonnes CO2e, with most businesses reporting emissions closer to 200 tonnes of CO2e.

An art installation from the 2009 UN climate talks was created to help people visualize what a ton of CO2 “looks like”.

Climate Smart grew out of the recognition that SMEs, the largest part of the economy and 98% of Canadian businesses, are largely overlooked by climate change policy and that this dynamic sector can play a key role in addressing climate change.

Here’s a quick overview of our experience with the program, which consisted of 3 half day sessions spread over 3 months, broken down into the following 3-step process:

Step 1: Measuring our emissions

The first session gave a succinct overview of climate change – the basics of greenhouse gases, sources and implications – and an introduction to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used international accounting tool for quantifying and managing greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Protocol, companies undertake a greenhouse gas inventory that covers scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (see image below) over a one-year period.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emission sources under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol

While consideration of scope 3 sources isn’t required, it’s recommended that companies include them as they can represent a relatively large source of emissions and by extension may represent a significant contribution to a company’s GHG risk exposure.

This inventory process is repeated annually to track progress against the baseline year.

Below is a first draft of Fairware’s operations and emission sources (color coded for the 3 scopes) completed in session 1:

With this visual of our greenhouse gas emissions in hand, it was just a matter of identifying data sources for gathering the required details for each source.

The session ended with a tour of Climate Smart’s slick online app and tools for compiling and calculating emissions by source. With an invitation to contact the Carbon Hotline (604-CLIMATE…love it!) with any questions, session 1 came to a close.

Session 2: Reducing emissions

The second session was the most motivational and began with a visioning exercise that asked participants to “think big” and imagine the headline they’d like to see their company recognized for in 10 years.

We were also presented with impressive case studies from prior Climate Smart participants including Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and YWCA Vancouver.

Perhaps best of all was the discussion with fellow participants. We shared ideas for reducing one another’s emissions, talked about potential challenges and geeked out on the research, news and innovative strategies people had come across in their day-to-day.

We left the session feeling a lot more knowledgeable and inspired to create a plan for reducing the emissions of our own businesses.

Session 3: Offsets

This session was info-packed! The main message – offsets shouldn’t be considered an easy-out or sole strategy to achieve carbon neutrality.

Companies should first be avoiding carbon intensive activities where possible, next reducing the emissions they do create, replacing carbon intensive activities/processes where possible, and finally, considering offsets for the emissions they’re not currently able to address through these 3 steps of avoidance, reduction and replacement.

Carbon Management Hierarchy

We looked at the concept of cap and trade and discussed existing voluntary and compliance markets.

Graphic describing cap & trade from the Washington Post

Another key message was that not all offsets are created equal.

There are 4 main types of offset markets – energy efficiency, renewable energy, methane capture and biological sequestration – each with advantages and challenges to consider.

Beyond the type of offset, there are considerations to be made regarding location, strategic alignment, price and more. While these details may seem confusing, overwhelming even, there are widely accepted criteria and standards that can help companies find high quality, verified offsets.

Some of these standards include the Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve among others.

We were also directed to some great resources to assist us with offset decisions, including Purchasing Carbon Offsets: A Guide for Canadian Consumers, Businesses and Organizations by the David Suzuki Foundation, which has done considerable research in the carbon market field.

The session concluded with a discussion of internal and external communication strategies for gaining employee support and public recognition.


We thoroughly enjoyed all the Climate Smart sessions and, while we realize there will be challenges, are psyched to embark down a path to climate neutrality.

Beyond a better understanding of our carbon footprint, the data collection we undertook to complete our inventory provided some valuable insights on our shipping and travel patterns, and useful data for both carbon and cost reduction steps.

An additional benefit to completing the Climate Smart Program is becoming a part of the Climate Smart Alumni and gaining access to the regular learning and networking events organized by Climate Smart.

We’ll be documenting some of our reduction initiatives here. We’re keen to hear your ideas and feedback!