The “Footprint Scanner”: An Easy and Cost-Effective Eco-Footprint Tool

footprintresized.jpg If your organization has ever attempted to calculate its eco-impact, then you know that this can be a time-consuming and expensive process. A new program, the “Footprint Scanner,” promises to change that. Using an improved methodology for analysis, the “Footprint Scanner” can deliver faster and more accurate results than traditional methods. So, how does it work and how can your organization benefit? I spoke with Jorgen Vos, of Sustainability Planning Partners, to find out more.

Jorgen developed the “Footprint Scanner” as a way to mitigate a major problem in environmental reporting – underestimation of resource use. Most environmental reporting only takes in consideration Scope-1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions. This means that organizations only report on GHG emissions generated from on-site activities, company-owned vehicles, and purchased electricity. However, Scope-3 emissions, which include business travel, outsourced manufacturing, transportation services, waste disposal, goods/services used, and employee commute, contribute substantially to a company’s environmental impact. Scope-3 emissions are more difficult to measure, given traditional methods of eco-footprint analysis. For this reason, Scope-3 emissions reporting is optional under the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
Sustainability Planning Partners has developed a new way to calculate Scope-3 emissions, which would make it feasible for companies to start reporting on this data.
“There’s an easier way to do this, without spending lots of time and money,” says Jorgen.
Traditional methods of analysis use what is called Materials Flow Analysis (MFA). This means that an organization must record physical quantities of materials, energy, and waste that are used in daily operations. As you can imagine, this can be an extremely involved endeavor. Instead, why not use organization expenditures as a way to calculate resource use? Most annual financial expenditure reports detail how much money was spent for each sector of operations. The “Footprint Scanner” assigns these expenditures to standard economic commodity groupings. Your organization’s impact is then based on a percentage of the overall commodity sector impact, depending on how much your organization purchased from that sector.
Jorgen explained it to me this way: “Let’s say your company spends $100 on desk lamps. We know that the desk lamp sector as an industry is responsible for x amount of resource use and carbon emissions. From there, we can approximate that the $100 your company spent can be attributed to a certain percentage of this impact.”
The “Footprint Scanner” currently uses information from 133 sectors to help you more clearly understand your organization’s impact. When combined with a Material Flow Analysis, you gain even greater accuracy. This is what Jorgen calls the “hybrid approach.”
The “Footprint Scanner” is available for a very reasonable price on the Sustainability Planning Partners website. I suspect that a greater number of organizations will begin to evaluate their environmental impact, now that it is easier, more precise, and more affordable than before.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at