Converting university spending to greenhouse gas emissions: A supply chain carbon footprint analysis of UC Berkeley
This paper was a recipient of AASHE's Award for Student Research on Campus Sustainability.
Author(s): Kelley Doyle
Program Name: B.S. Environmental Sciences
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Environmental Studies and Sciences
Publication Date: May, 2012
Paper Type: Undergraduate Thesis
This senior thesis study calculates a supply chain carbon footprint for UC Berkeley based on procurement expenses in fiscal year (FY) 2009. The study presents recommendations to reduce supply chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, identifies opportunities for future study, and develops a reproducible tool for UC Berkeley to facilitate annual GHG emissions reporting. The thesis conducts a hybrid top-down life cycle assessment (LCA) to determine the total magnitude and composition of UC Berkeley’s supply chain carbon footprint by reviewing over $500 million of procurement expenses. A hybrid top-down LCA differentiates between emission scopes and considers vendor location creating a more accurate estimate of the carbon footprint – an improvement over a previous study conducted by campus researchers that did not take into account this level of specificity.
Through this study it was determined that in addition to the reported GHG emissions by the campus, 128,590 metric ton CO2e of GHG emissions were released as a result of UC Berkeley’s procurement in FY 2009, representing 39% of the university’s total carbon footprint. The top five emitting categories of procured goods and services were construction, scientific equipment, office products, IT & telecommunications, and food; all together contributing to 80% of procurement emissions. In order to reduce these emissions, the thesis includes recommendations that UC Berkeley expand reuse initiatives to reduce consumption of goods, investigate food procurement and continue seeking alternatives for carbon intense food products, develop a “green” supplier score card, and survey campus buyers to understand current barriers and opportunities for reducing emissions from procurement.
There is a demand for industry-specific supply chain carbon footprint calculation methods. Many universities, including UC Berkeley, are committed to annually report and aggressively reduce carbon emissions through the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. A standard calculation approach for university supply chain carbon footprints does not currently exist. However, such a methodology would complement existing reporting standards and help campus administration identify procurement habits that result in excessive carbon emissions. This thesis provides a framework from which the campus can continue to develop a standardized supply chain GHG emission report and to regularly report on these emissions.
While the recommendations in the thesis are unique to Berkeley’s campus, the underlying concepts behind the approach are applicable to other campuses with similar electronic decentralized procurement systems. Other campuses could utilize this methodology to carry out pilot supply chain carbon footprint assessments. As reporting standards become more rigorous and transparent, supply chain emissions will need to be addressed. Thus, if campuses start piloting these studies now, they will be better prepared when new requirements are established.
The thesis concludes that with climate change as the largest environmental problem of our generation it is essential that universities take a leadership role in considering all emissions contributions if we plan to slow future climatic effects. Both direct and indirect emissions should be considered when aggregating environmental impacts that will ultimately lead to lasting solutions.Supplemental Materials:
Please log in to view contact information.