It seems an impossible dream for a car rental company to even consider becoming carbon neutral, when one thinks of the emissions for which its products are responsible on a daily basis.
This however, calls for proactive engagement with its vehicle suppliers and company action on its own emissions, something that Avis Rent a Car set out to achieve.
‘We were only too aware that our business of renting cars and conducting transfers contributes massively to the carbon emission problem,’ explains Avis chief executive, Wayne Duvenage.
‘But that does not mean that we should just sit back and do nothing about it. We believe that we have a moral responsibility to counter the negative impact of our operations. Hence we should start at home and reduce our GHG emissions and what’s left of our business emissions (scope 1, 2 and 3) we have decided to offset to net zero through the purchase of carbon off-set credits.’
Scope 1 and 2 emissions are direct GHG emissions that occur from sources that are owned, controlled or consumed by the company, for example fuel and electricity used to conduct business. Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that are a consequence of the activities of the company, but that occurs from sources not owned or controlled by the company, for example third party deliveries and employee business travel.
Modern society can balance eco needs
‘It is a dilemma that faces many organisations today. We know that our business is an essential part of modern society, yet we need to find a balance between the needs of society and that of the environment in which it functions.’
‘We believe that our journey and actions can demonstrate that taking a stand and doing the right thing is possible and morally correct, despite operating in a high carbon emitting business. We also know that our actions have led, and will continue to lead, other businesses to follow a similar route.’
Consequently, in 2008, Avis began mapping its journey towards carbon neutrality, working from the premise that ‘if it can be measured, it can be managed.’
‘The objective of our Avis Carbon Neutral Programme was first to measure our own business carbon emission footprint, then to look at how we can reduce it and finally offset the balance to become a ‘net zero’ emitter. We also wanted to do this properly so we made contact with The CarbonNeutral Company, which already worked with our parent company in the UK on its carbon reduction activities,’ continues Duvenage.
‘Our footprint is measured in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Our carbon offset programme is managed by The CarbonNeutral Company, which is a founding member of the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA).’
First carbon neutral in SA
‘Obviously, it was never going to be plain sailing, but we overcame the challenges the auditory processes required of us,’ Duvenage comments.
‘Only after announcing our carbon neutral status as certified by The CarbonNeutral Company for fuel and electricity, did we realise that we were the first South African company to have achieved CarbonNeutral certification. We then set out to provide our customers with information about their car rental emissions and hope to offer our customers the opportunity to offset their own emissions, for their rentals, with us in the near future.
‘We selected a portfolio of projects in which our carbon emissions volumes could be offset,’ Duvenage explains.
Back in 2009, there were no Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) or other accredited projects in South Africa. Guided by The CarbonNeutral Company, they selected the following projects as the main three within their offset portfolio:
- a clean energy generation project (windfarm) in India,
- a heat regeneration (cement factory) project in China and
- a little closer to home, the Uchindle and Mapanda (reforestation of degraded land) project in Tanzania, as the main three projects within our offset portfolio.’
‘Since climate change is a global issue, we believe that investment in China and India would have the same impact as investing in carbon offset projects closer to home. In addition, both China and India have huge growth and a requirement for additional electricity, so from a global warming perspective, they are the countries most in need of carbon finance to decrease the reliance on fossil fuel. However, our heart obviously lies in promoting South African accredited initiatives, which we can now achieve in the next chapter of our carbon neutral journey, said Duvenhage.
33,000 tons GHG emissions offset
Avis’ initial three year CarbonNeutral contract comes to an end, following the off-set to net zero of 33,000 tons of Scope 1 & 2 GHG emissions over three years from October 2008 to September 2011. As they set out to continue down this path, they tasked The CarbonNeutral Company to search for a South African verified project. They believe that their off-set investment should have a far reaching impact of not only reducing emissions, but other positive spinoffs such as health, safety and job creation.
As it turned out, their next two year project involves the purchase of off-set credits which will have this exact effect. It will not only reduce GHG emissions in SA, but also go a long way to creating a less polluted environment in our local communities. This will deliver immense health benefits to our people who live and cook with coal, mainly in our townships.
In addition, their next two year period to 30 September 2013 has expanded their CarbonNeutral certification to include Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions, which include energy, fuel, business air travel, refrigerant gas loss, third party deliveries and landfill waste removal.
Renowned for its innovation and benchmark setting, Avis has and will continue to lead the way in many aspects of the South African car rental industry. Environmental matters are just one such area.
‘We will engage with our suppliers to assist us in becoming greener, while we look at our own behaviour and effort in this regard.’