What have we learned after years of performing verifications? Good data management is essential
Is it time to call a greenhouse gas (GHG) verifier? Getting your GHG reports verified is a regulatory requirement in many jurisdictions, and I’ve been performing these verifications for nearly a decade.
Whether you are getting your GHGs verified in response to a regulation, or you are voluntarily reporting and verifying your GHGs as part of your corporate sustainability goals, verification from an accredited company will give regulators, the public, and your stakeholders confidence that you’re conducting business responsibly.
GHG verification is a review of the GHG quantities that a facility or organization claims to be emitting.
Over the past few years of performing these verifications, I’ve learned that the key to achieving a positive GHG verification outcome is good data management. If you’re looking to make sure the process runs smoothly, here are six lessons to keep in mind.
1. Keep records of everything
Time constraints at most organizations often lead to GHG emissions calculations being done quickly and keeping proper record of everything becomes a low priority. Even if a facility is doing everything right to track their emissions, the lack of proper records will slow down the verification process. So, it’s worthwhile to store all your records in one dedicated location, as you are going through the quantification. Then, when your GHG verifier arrives, you know exactly what you need to give them. It saves everyone time.
2. Prepare a good data management document
Make sure your organization prepares a useful data management document. This isn’t a requirement for all reporting programs, but I recommend it. Write down what you did while quantifying your emissions, how you did it, who’s responsible for it, and who’s going to review it.
Details around your equipment can be very useful to you, too. What equipment and meters were involved? What needs calibration and when? This document should present everything clearly in a way that makes sense to you, so you can pick it up again next year and just repeat the process.
This document also comes in handy if someone at your organization leaves or becomes unavailable. This is a time saver for both you and your verifier, since the verifier can refer to this document and avoid asking you dozens of unnecessary questions.
3. Check in more than once a year
Quantification and reporting are often done once a year. I’d advise you to check in more frequently than that—quarterly, if possible. Sitting down and doing three months’ worth of calculations, and checking that all your equipment is calibrated and the required analyses are complete, will help you catch issues early on.
If you only perform your quantification once a year, it may be too late to fix problems that could easily have been rectified along the way. For example, it is not possible to go back in time to fix a meter that was out of calibration for the better part of a year, and the result can be skewed GHG emissions calculations.
We have a strong working relationship with our clients during a process that some people find stressful, and our goal is to make that process smooth and pleasant.
4. Dedicate people to the verification process, but keep everyone informed
Many times, organizations will dedicate a single person to the reporting and verification process—usually one of the environmental staff or a process engineer. This makes sense in many ways, as these folks are the ones who know the sources of emissions most intimately.
As verifiers, we try to not take up too much of our clients’ time, but the verification process can be time-intensive. Between site visits, telephone interviews, follow-up questions, and discussions on discrepancies, I know it can be difficult to balance the needs of a verification with the other work that you need to do as well. Try to make it easier for yourself by setting aside blocks of time for both the quantification and verification process.
I have also found over the years, that keeping everyone informed at a facility on why you are quantifying GHGs, and why they need to be verified, can help you get the buy-in you need when the time comes for you to request data. Not everyone needs to be involved in the GHG quantification and verification process, but even just knowing the importance of their contribution to the process keeps employees more engaged and willing to help.
5. Stay informed to changes on regulations and guidelines
_q_tweetable:The key to achieving a positive GHG verification outcome is good data management._q_The GHG world moves at a very fast pace. Many things are happening, there are a lot of political implications, and things change quickly. Your organization should try to be to be on top of it. Make sure you know when a new regulation comes out or is amended.
At the very least, before you start quantifying, you should sit down and look at the regulations or reporting programs that are pertinent to you. Have the requirements changed? Is there a new guideline? For example, in Canada this year, the federal GHG reporting threshold has been lowered to 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually—a big drop from the previous threshold of 50,000 tonnes. (This blog post by my colleague Vicki Corning dives into this subject further.)
Staying informed can save headaches for your organization, both when you are quantifying and when you are getting verified.
6. Pick the right GHG verification body
We have a strong working relationship with our clients during a process that some people find stressful, and my goal is to make that process smooth and pleasant. Since you’ll be working closely with your GHG verifier, it’s important to choose the correct one. For more on this topic, read my colleague Nicole Flanagan’s recent blog post for tips on picking the right verification body.
Lessons learned while helping the community
I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in GHG verification since the onset of GHG reporting programs in Canada years ago. I’ve enjoyed working as a GHG verifier since I get to work in my community, and I’m able to see the changes happening over time. It’s great to be a part of that. I hope the lessons that I’ve learned will help you during your GHG verification process, so it goes smoothly for you.
About the Author
Gizem Gunal-Akgol is a project manager with more than 10 years of experience and is proficient in air quality, greenhouse gases (GHG), climate change, and sustainability projects. She works on projects like the peer review for Environment and Climate Change Canada’s GHG emissions from waste for the National Inventory Report.More Content by Gizem Gunal-Akgol