We hope that the collaboration with IVL leads to a new industry standard
Sveriges Allmännytta called for a way to calculate and follow up the climate impact that their more than 300 member companies could gather around. IVL Swedish Environmental Institute developed a method for climate accounting adapted to both small and large housing companies. It turned out that the public good has come a long way towards fossil freedom.
- It looks good for many of our companies. The goal of fossil freedom will be reached faster than 2030. We had no idea about that before we started this work, says Patrizia Finessi who is an expert on environmental issues at the Swedish Public Benefit and who works with the Climate Initiative.
The Public Benefit's Climate Initiative started in 2018 with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The overall goals are a fossil-free public utility by 2030 and a 30 percent reduction in energy use.
The question was how this should be calculated, how it should be reported and followed up. There is currently no industry standard for reporting the climate impact of housing companies. Although housing companies are good at calculating emissions from their energy consumption, they often use different calculation methods. Here, they also demanded a holistic perspective that covers the entire business and where both direct and indirect emissions are included.
- We also wanted it to be easy for our members. We want to lean on research as a basis for the Climate Initiative, says Patrizia Finessi.
An institute that they "could trust and that has scientific weight"
This is where IVL Swedish Environmental Institute was connected. Sveriges Allmännytta wanted to collaborate with an institute that they "could trust and that has scientific weight". IVL Swedish Environmental Institute has deep knowledge and a long tradition of calculating climate impact and many years of experience in life cycle analyzes. The method they developed meets the requirements for sustainability reporting but was tailored for the real estate industry.
- We wanted to create a method that is suitable for the large and for the small housing company. It would be possible for everyone to participate, otherwise it has no value. At the same time, those who are good could challenge themselves, says Annamaria Sandgren, who led the work from IVL's side.
The collaboration was based on a number of workshops together with a reference group that included ten non-profit housing companies. There were relatively small Gotlandshem and the large Malmö Kommunala Bostäder. It reviewed the requirements of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), an international standard for reporting climate impact. There were also analyzes of system boundaries and what is important to keep track of. Which categories of emissions are relevant and reasonable to include?
Drawing boundaries and determining the scope was one of the most important and difficult things, says Annamaria Sandgren.
- It took some time before we had decided. We have strived for simplicity and therefore excluded emissions that are relatively small or that the housing company cannot influence.
Emission modules with different levels of ambition
In this context, the direct emissions are relatively easy to calculate. The indirect ones are more difficult at the same time as they can be significant. Templates and assumptions are often required and they should be as close to reality as possible. For example, how do you calculate the climate impact of residents when you are not allowed to follow up on their household electricity or know if they are driving or not?
The model that was developed consists of different emission modules so that the housing companies themselves can decide what level of ambition they want to achieve. There is a basic module where own direct emissions and emissions from purchased energy are included. In the other additional modules, housing companies can choose to include one or more of the following: climate impact from business trips, and climate impact from residents' emissions.
- When it comes to business travel, it is not such a big item, but it is an important symbolic issue, says Annamaria Sandgren.
The three major emission items are generally energy, building materials and the residents' driving. For new production, the Construction Industry's Environmental Calculation Tool is used, which calculates the emissions linked to the production and transport of building materials. When it comes to residents' driving, the method shows how you can easily get an idea of how large these emissions are in relation to other emissions.
Tools and common method for climate accounting
- Working with the residents' mobility habits is a relatively new area for many housing companies. Here, however, the potential is great and there is a lot a housing company can do here, says Annamaria Sandgren.
The work lasted for just over a year. In retrospect, Patrizia Finessi at Sveriges Allmännytta sees that the project could have taken more time.
- When you start something new, you do not know how extensive it will be. You discover things you could not have foreseen, for example, we needed more emission factors.
The result is a tool and a common method so that housing companies can easily make climate accounts. In the spring of 2020, 178 member companies had adopted the model, ie more than half of Sweden's non-profit housing companies. Patrizia Finessi hopes that housing companies other than the public utility will also start measuring their climate impact.
- I hope that it will be an industry standard. The more companies that do the same, the easier and cheaper it will be for us because we do not need to demand special solutions.
According to Patrizia Finessi, the work has increased climate competence within Sweden's Public Benefit.
- It has been a lesson about what has a climate impact and what does not. It helps us make other decisions, to invest in the right things, says Patrizia Finessi.