Defra: Reviewing the conversion factors tool
Simplifying conversion factors use
Defra is the UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues. They provide greenhouse gas conversion factors for companies to report on greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2012 appointed Carbon Smart to lead a review of the factors to improve their usability through simplification and the development on an online tool to better navigate them. The resulting changes to the factors themselves and the way they are presented affect any company that reports on carbon in the UK. This change is particularly pertinent with the introduction of the mandatory greenhouse gas reporting regulation, which requires any UK listed company to report on greenhouse gas emissions from the enforcement date on 30th September 2013.
Defra required the winning consultants to achieve the following criteria:
- A simplification of the conversion factors presented, the navigation of the conversion factors and the guidance surrounding them
- Stakeholders to be fully engaged in the decision making process
- A reduction in enquiries to Defra from companies regarding the conversion factors.
Carbon Smart were required to engage with a broad range of stakeholders; from government departments, to SMEs and multi-national companies, and were responsible for selecting a suitable medium to generate debate and capture feedback. The changes to the factors, and system for accessing them, needed to strike a balance between the many strong opinions on the best way forward. It was also necessary to push for a truly simplified set of factors, rather than a return to business as usual, where there were many options to choose from but little guidance on how to use them.
Redesigning the factors
Stakeholder engagement was carried out through a series of workshops that invited organisations to come along and voice their opinion on the current conversion factors. Carbon Smart then carried out a review of historical queries received by Defra about the factors, and looked at common themes that could be addressed through changes. The factors were then redesigned, incorporating both streams of input from users, followed by a second set of workshops organised in order to get feedback throughout the development stage. Carbon Smart then presented the proposed changes to Defra, agreed the new design and began work to develop a user interface to make accessing the factors online a far more intuitive process.
Achieving user-friendly and effective factors
Defra and the sample stakeholders are extremely pleased with the finished article; a significantly more user friendly tool with a streamlined set of factors. Although in the short term the new factors will mean that some companies are required to rebaseline their carbon reporting, in the longer term the changes will mean that reporting is considerably easier for all companies. The focus of reporting is now less geared towards the intricacies of applying carbon conversions and more about making tangible changes to business activities which bring about carbon reduction.