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The role of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the transition to a carbon neutral economy. Green transition accompanied by economical growth.

Interview with Frédéric Mathot, founder of CO2 Strategy and one of the pioneers of carbon auditing in Belgium. CO2 Strategy supports companies and communities in building a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change and Environment

What is carbon accounting and what is its relationship to CO2 emissions? Frédéric Mathot: Carbon accounting measures the impact of human activities based on CO2 emissions. Not just those linked to energy but to all of our activities. By measuring the CO2 emissions related to everything it’s done in a company, you really get to understand which are the activities having the biggest impact, which in turn allows start considering what to do to reduce this impact. This seems like a complex process, can SMEs also implement carbon accounting or is it restricted to big companies with a lot of resources? Frédéric Mathot: Everyone can do this. It does not require as many resources as some might suspect. For example, I have put in place carbon strategies in hair salons, or in a Music Festival, for organisations that do not have revenues on the scale of big companies. One can easily carry out a carbon audit for a few thousand euros, which may seem like a considerable investment, but this will quickly be recovered by future savings. It is important to remember that everything you do to reduce your CO2 footprint not only has a positive impact on the planet, but as a general rule, if you consume less, you spend less. So, there is an economic advantage to carbon accounting which can be very interesting for small businesses. You referred to the financial aspects of implementing CO2 audits, but are there other advantages for SMEs? Frédéric Mathot: I always explain that the benefits for a company are of three different kinds: First and foremost, there are the environmental benefits. Then, there’s a second axis, the economic one I just mentioned: the less you consume the more you save, but also, in the future there might be a tax on CO2 emissions, so by implementing these changes now, SMES might be saving money in the future. The third dimension, and for me the most important one, is the strategic one. On the one hand, there’s a demand from the market/society for companies to be environmentally conscious. Further, if the company introduces a company project focused on reducing CO2 emissions and gets their staff positively involved and motivated with it, it will also improve the company’s image and its business potential. Would you say it is possible to grow as a company while decreasing its environmental impact? Frédéric Mathot: Absolutely. SMEs in particular are wary of acting on the environment because they associate a reduction in CO2 with a reduction in turnover. However, these two issues are unrelated. And in some cases, like the example above, the green transition can even be accompanied by a considerable growth. What is the actual role of an energy auditor and how difficult is it to reduce CO2 emissions? Frédéric Mathot: Involving an auditor is useful because one can then observe the numbers and see the impact an action will have on emissions. You must rely on the numbers. In the end, it is a relatively simple equation: how many trips do you make every day with a truck? How long do you wait on average? How much does your truck consume? And I can tell you straight away how much you emit. Obviously, from here you can think about the steps that will lead to a reduction in this number, and effectively, sometimes simple things like stopping the motor can go a long way. And that is an important point. There are many things one can do, which are not hard to implement, but no one appreciated their impact and here is where the auditor comes in.


SME, Small business, energy transition, energy efficiency