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„Our corporate carbon footprint identifies the main sources of our emissions so that we can take appropriate action.“

Bettina Moerth talks about Lufthansa Cargo’s carbon footprint in 2020.

2020 marked the tenth year that Lufthansa Cargo has voluntarily had its corporate carbon footprint audited and certified by external consultants. How does a company calculate its carbon footprint? What purpose does it serve? And what do we do with the results? We put all these questions to Bettina Moerth, Environmental Manager at Lufthansa Cargo.

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Ms. Moerth, what exactly is the corporate carbon footprint and what is it made up of?

Corporate carbon footprint is the total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions caused by a company’s activities. It includes three types of emissions: those from a company’s own vehicles and facilities (Scope 1), those associated with the purchase of energy such as electricity and heat (Scope 2), and those attributable to all upstream and downstream areas of a firm’s value chain, including its subsidiaries (Scope 3).

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When you calculate corporate carbon footprint, do you end up with a total amount of CO2 emissions? What emissions are taken into account? And how is the figure determined?

Yes, that’s right. We ended up with a figure of 4.77 million t CO2e for 2020. The small “e” stands for CO2 equivalents because corporate carbon footprint includes not only CO2 emissions, but also the other greenhouse gases listed in the Kyoto Protocol, such as methane, nitrous oxide, and so-called fluorinated gases. These emissions are converted into carbon dioxide equivalents according to their greenhouse gas potential. Our figures are calculated in accordance with the globally recognized Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol). We begin by gathering data on all consumption and its environmental impact – from kerosene consumption on all platforms and energy and fuel consumption, purchased loading equipment, waste volumes, and business trips through to employee journeys. All this is recorded in an Excel table. For each material and each environmental impact (kerosene, diesel, district heating, aluminum, waste incineration, etc.), there are emission factors that take into account the effects on the environment of things like production, transportation, and incineration. Multiply this by the consumption figures and you end up with the total I mentioned just now.

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That sounds like a lot of work. And the environmental management team does all this manually? Why take on this enormous task? Companies are not obliged to calculate their carbon footprint, are they?

Yes, our team spends a long time on this project, and no, there is no legal obligation to determine CCF. Although we expect more extensive obligations in the future, there are other reasons why we calculate our CCF. Let me explain the main ones:

1. Sustainability criteria are becoming more and more important for investors. Together with the Lufthansa Group, we participate in the ranking of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The resulting transparency demonstrates our responsibility, credibility, and authenticity.

2. The benefit for us internally is based on the principle defined by Peter Drucker: “You can only improve what you can measure.” Our CCF gives us a deeper and broader insight into the main sources of our emissions. This shows us more clearly where to take action to reduce our footprint effectively and cost-efficiently.

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How do you rate the current figure – can we be happy with it? Could you put it into context for us?

Environmental impacts are normally presented in terms of the three scopes. The first thing we learned is that a third of our emissions is caused directly by us through our freighter and operational vehicle fleet (Scope 1); less than 1% is due to the purchase of energy (Scope 2); and two thirds of our emissions come from our value chain (Scope 3).

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A closer look at the following chart tells us that almost 99% of our CO2 emissions are attributable to flights and kerosene consumption. What about the rest?

Precisely. As an airline, we decided to use a different form of presentation that differentiates between flight-related emissions and other emissions that are generally caused on the ground. And that’s how we learned that over 99% are flight-related:

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Nevertheless, every improvement on the ground counts because our figure of 50,650 t CO2 is the same as that produced by companies such as Commerzbank or Beiersdorf each year. So there is tremendous potential for reducing environmental impacts on the ground – in a manner that is visible for all our employees. Above all, everyone can contribute to this through their behavior and commitment.

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Can you draw a comparison with the last carbon footprint? Have we improved on our figures?

A number of individual items are not directly comparable because we have made a lot of changes. In quite a few areas, we adopted the method used by the Lufthansa Group. For example, we no longer report emissions by companies in which we hold less than a 50% stake. We also added aircraft production to Scope 3. This is a voluntary step according to the GHG Protocol, but is recommended. We were able to reduce quite a number of items because we use green power in Frankfurt and Munich and offset our business trips. However, our total emissions have changed significantly – from 7.42 million t CO2e in 2017 to 4.77 million t CO2e in 2020. A small part of this is due to increased efficiency following the fleet rollover, but unfortunately the biggest factor was the COVID-19 pandemic. The kerosene item relating to belly flights was reduced by half.

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What will you be doing next? Are you taking any action on the basis of the results?

When the CCF was initiated ten years ago by Bettina Jansen, Head of Environmental Management at Lufthansa Cargo, we were too early with our communication, which led to a degree of hesitancy. We were not sure how people would view the fact that Lufthansa Cargo is responsible for the same amount of emissions as a small lignite power plant. But that has changed, and we want to present this topic more strongly now, both internally and externally. Our main conclusion is that we will focus on our own Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, because we can influence them with targets and action in areas such as fleet efficiency and sustainable aviation fuel, as well as energy efficiency on the ground. We can manage Scope 3 emissions through appropriate contracts with suppliers and our own guidelines. Ultimately, our CCF has a vital purpose for us because it proves that our actions are working and that our footprint is getting smaller all the time.

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Thank you for talking to us, Ms. Moerth.

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