Net Impact ESMT Berlin: Implementing carbon accounting to reduce our carbon footprint

4 people Standing in front of greenhouse

Net Impact ESMT Berlin has been shortlisted for the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards – Best CSR and Sustainability Initiative 2022. The winner will be announced on January 21st, 2022. Read more to find out what we are doing to improve campus sustainability at ESMT Berlin. 

Carbon Accounting Initiatives have been growing in popularity through CSR departments at corporations, but how often is it seen that students are the key drivers of the initiative at their business school? Well at ESMT, this is our story. 

The leaders of Net Impact ESMT Berlin, an active student club with a key focus on sustainability and over 40 members, asked ourselves, what can we do to make our community more sustainable and to educate the future business leaders on the feasibility of sustainability measures? Well, carbon accounting just made sense.  

With Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and co-founder of Plan A, as a key partner and advisor to the Net Impact Club, all that it would take to get the ball rolling was the support of more members of the ESMT administration and alumni committee. After pitching the initiative to the leaders of the ESMT community, there was an overwhelming agreement on all the positive outcomes of such an initiative. Enough money was collected to purchase the software, and as of April of 2021, ESMT started tracking its carbon footprint. 

What does this initiative entail? Firstly, the students of the Net Impact Club working together closely with a group of employees from ESMT’s Sustainability Ambassadors, began to collect data about the school’s monthly commuting activities. The most interactive aspect of this data collection is the monthly commuting surveys where approximately 65% of all ESMT employees regularly participate to share their commuting habits (students were left out during virtual schooling time). Once the numbers are collected, they are put into the Plan A carbon accounting software where progress can be tracked. Information about the status of the school and the next steps for carbon reduction initiatives is shared with all employees via email.  

The graphic depicts the breakdown of the emissions for the month of September 2021. This clearly shows ESMT’s largest emitters being heating and electricity, making up roughly 47%* and 40%* of the total usage, respectively. This has inspired further discussions with the CFO and facility management team on how to proceed with adopting new energy sources. *While data collection methods have improved, the carbon emission numbers may be an inaccurate representation of the true emissions given uncertainties. 

While this data collection and reporting has been instrumental in raising awareness around improving individual habits, the more impactful aspects of this initiative are the events, discussions, and projects that accompany it.  

Most notably, one of the goals of the Net Impact Club is to have more plants than people at ESMT. Together with the Sustainability Ambassadors, we were able to raise the funds and commit the time to build a greenhouse with over 10 kinds of flourishing produce. Building the greenhouse was a big success, but the opening ceremony that went along with it was even successful, as more than 70 students and employees joined us to learn about and support the sustainability efforts taking place on campus. 

The greenhouse represents the first step to meeting the goal of more plants than people, with the end goal to build a mini forest following the Miyawaki Method. 

Having the carbon accounting platform has allowed us to gain the legitimacy to hold real discussions with ESMT’s CFO to implement more sustainable measures around our campus.

One of the steps that we have taken towards reducing our environmental impact and educating our community, is through organizing park clean-ups, with the biggest being Clean the Spree. This year we partnered with Plan A and a local Berlin organization, WirBerlin, to bring together over 140 people to collect over 50 bags of trash. These events do not have a direct impact on reducing our school’s carbon emissions, however, the impact on the community is equally as valuable. 

Battery collection stations, proper waste separation, panel discussions on partnering for sustainability, pro-bono consulting projects for GreenTech start-ups, and film screenings of environmental documentaries – the list goes on. Although the carbon accounting initiative may seem like just collecting and reporting numbers, it encompasses so much more. As soon as more months of data have been collected, a strategic plan for how to reduce the school’s emissions can be made, followed by a realistic goal for going carbon neutral. 

ESMT is proud to be educating the future leaders of the business world, and through this school-wide carbon accounting project, ESMT students can see how change is possible. We are actively learning how to uproot the status quo by witnessing it at our own school. 

We are proud of all that we have achieved, and it motivates us to set even more ambitious goals to achieve our vision. We students dedicate our free time to the initiatives, but we are driven by the knowledge that we are making real change. Further, we know that we can be a model for other universities, and hope that by winning this award, we can shine some light on how change is possible.