Do you feel like you’re always struggling to keep up with jargon used in sustainability?

Jargon can feel difficult and complicated to understand, and as more people take interest in sustainability it is becoming more important to understand technical language, acronyms and jargon. This is why we created this blog, to simply explain the terminology around some of the most commonly used sustainability jargon.

Activity Data: This refers to the unit of a particular product or material a company has purchased. Examples include the amount of fuel purchased or the weight of textiles purchased.

Anthropogenic climate change: Changes to earth’s climate because of human activity e.g. deforestation and burning fossil fuels

Base year: This is the first year the company has done a carbon footprint.You will use this to measure the progress against as you move towards net zero goals.

Carbon footprint: Your carbon footprint outlines the amount of GHG emissions associated with your direct and indirect operations.

Carbon neutral: This refers to balancing the total amount of carbon emissions by calculating your companies carbon emissions and compensating for these using carbon offsetting projects. 

Carbon reduction plan (CRP) PPN 06/21: A CRP is used to identify a supplier’s current carbon footprint and highlights their plans to achieve net zero emissions. PPN 06/21 applies to suppliers bidding for major government contracts, this includes all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies. Suppliers will be required to publish a ‘Carbon Reduction Plan’ and commit to achieving Net Zero by 2050.

Carbon reduction Plan: A company provides information on how they plan on reducing their carbon emissions in line with their reduction targets.

Carbon reduction: This is the process of reducing the amount of GHG emissions emitted by your company.

Circular economy: An economic system that promotes circulation and maximum use of resources, this also works to eliminate waste.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD): CSRD is looking to mandate sustainability reporting for companies. The regulatory framework is looking to enhance and standardise sustainability reporting.

Deforestation: the removal of forests or trees to be converted to be used for other purposes such as plantations or farming

Downstream transportation and distribution: These are emissions generated when transporting and distributing sold products in vehicles that you don’t own or pay for.

Ecovadis: a certification scheme that allows you to evaluate your impact against four main areas (environment, labour and human rights, business ethics and sustainable procurement).

Emissions Factors: these are set figures regarding the amount of carbon that is emitted based on a certain amount of activity conducted by a business e.g. financial, weight (also known as conversion factors) which allow you to calculate your carbon footprint.

European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS): The ESRS outline what companies must report on to be compliant with CSRD.

Food waste hierarchy: This is a diagram presenting the most favourable options for helping to reduce food waste and minimise the environmental impacts of waste. The least favourable option is disposal followed by recovery and then recycling. The most favourable option is prevention.

GHG Protocol: The GHG protocol provides companies with the most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standards.

Greenhouse gas emissions: Are gases that are being released into the atmosphere which are causing a warming effect called global warming. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): This is the standard structure companies across the globe used to report sustainability data.

International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Standards: ISO have developed a set of international standards to help ensure safety, quality and environmental awareness.

Life Cycle Assessment: a way of assessing the environmental impact at each stage of a products life.

Microplastics: these are microscopic remnants of plastics.

Net zero: This is when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted into the atmosphere across the company’s entire value chain is eliminated or removed.

Offsetting: This is when a company participates in a project that removes carbon emissions from the atmosphere to compensate for emissions produced elsewhere.

Paris Agreement: This an international treaty on climate change that was adopted in 2015, almost all countries across the world signed the agreement. The agreement commits all countries who signed the agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels with a preference of limiting the increase to 1.5°C.

Scope 1: These are greenhouse gas emissions that are produced from sources that are either owned or controlled directly by your organisation examples include: company vehicles/logistics, heating company facilities (e.g. offices or warehouse), combustion in company owned or controlled, furnaces, boilers, or ovens.

Scope 2: These are emissions produced indirectly that are associated with the purchase of electricity, heat, steam and cooling from an external source which is used within your organisation. 

Scope 3: These are indirect emissions linked to your value chain which are not included in your scope 2 emissions examples include emissions associated with your raw materials, products or waste generated.

SEDEX: This is a platform that helps you to evaluate your supplier’s commitment to ethical and responsible practices.

SME Climate Hub: This is a non-profit global initiative that helps to empower small and medium size businesses that holds companies accountable to ensure they reduce their carbon emissions and take climate action. 

Sustainability related KPIs: This is data that your company reports on annually to track progress towards your sustainability goals.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The SDGs are 17 goals that promote peace and prosperity for both people and the planet.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): TCFD promotes the disclosure of climate-related financial risks and opportunities.

Upstream transportation and distribution: This relates to the transportation and distribution of raw materials and products that the company pays for.