Avoided emissions standard: what is it?

Offsets, low-carbon strategy… or even avoided emissions. The standards are becoming widespread but are not always obvious to understand…

Avoided emissions standard: What is it?

Let's start with the ADEME's (French Environmental Transition Agency) definition: An organisation's “"avoided emissions" refers to the emissions reduction produced by these activities, products/or services when these reductions are realized outside the scope of its activity. They are assessed in relation to a baseline scenario.”

OK, well, what does that actually mean? Let us take a random example… at Decathlon.
In this case it would be a second-hand bike rather than of a new bike (the usual “activity scope”). You would imagine that the resale of this bike emits less carbon than if you had to manufacture a new one: carbon emissions have, therefore, been avoided.
That said, some steps would still have been necessary to make it possible to sell this second-hand bike… This is then a new scenario, a second-hand scenario, different to the baseline scenario. 

How is a baseline scenario calculated?

The baseline scenario reflects the most probable situation that would have occurred in the absence of the low-carbon solution. In our example, the baseline scenario is the sale of the new bike, and the low-carbon solution is the sale of the second-hand bike.
The most critical step is to then detail and quantify each step of each scenario.

The avoided emissions are the difference between the emissions produced by each of the scenarios. In other words, we look at the emissions we add that enable a second-hand sale, which we then overlap with the baseline scenario's emissions. The formula can be summarised in the following way:
baseline scenario - second-hand scenario = avoided emissions

Is it becoming a bit clearer? Let's continue :)

What method is used to quantify these emissions?

In 2018, thanks to the QuantiGES method, the RDC environment and BV CODDE consultancy firms quantified emissions linked to repairing and putting on sale second-hand DECATHLON bikes.As part of this study, the baseline scenario is: “The consumer buys a new bike”.

The second-hand bike scenario is as follows: ”They purchase a repaired bike instead of a brand new bike. It is either in a degraded cycling condition or no longer in a fit state for cycling. It necessary to replace the derailleur, the bike chain and cassette with new parts to refurbish it before putting it back on sale.“

How are avoided emissions calculated?

To do this calculation, you have to trace back the “typical” journey of this second life bike's purchase:
the means of transport of the user who brought back the bike to a DECATHLON store,
the production of spare parts to refurbish the bike, which, in this case, includes the derailleur, bike chain and cassette,
transport of spare parts,
along with their end of life.

Reuse helps to extend a product's initial lifespan, because without buy-back and resale, the bike would probably have finished up in a landfill site.

As part of this calculation, we also have to take into account that a "refurbished" bike will actually lose a bit of its lifespan. In other words, a second-hand bike will be used, for example, for 5 years, while a new bike for 10 years.We estimate at around 50% the remainder of this second-hand bike's lifespan.
You might already be thinking, “Well, not necessarily”, and we would have to agree.But, for our calculation to be as accurate as possible, we prefer to adopt a "pessimistic” approach to assessing the situation (it was already the case when estimating the parts to be changed: these bike parts do not often have to be replaced on a bike). So much for the better if there are good surprises!

The time has (nearly) come to compare second-hand sales with the production of a “semi-new product”
“Nearly”, because we still have to draw up an inventory of emissions resulting from the baseline scenario, taking into account the lifespan extension factor, meaning:
The production of a semi-new bike,
the new bike's transport from the factory to the store,
the end-of-life transport to the landfill site,
scrapping of the bike at the end of its life cycle.

And in numbers?

A new bike = 200 kilos of CO2
A second-hand bike (always the baseline of the “pessimistic scenario” that involves repairs) = 50 kilos avoided, meaning the equivalent of 260 km by car.

Avoided emissions standard: What is it?

The issues with these scenarios

To be in a position where you can calculate avoided emissions as accurately as possible, you have to know a product's life cycle well to take action where its impact is the most significant. In our bike example, the manufacturing phase is the one that pollutes the most (and not its use).Therefore, it is, of course, in this phase that you have to take action. If this is also true for clothing (buying a pair of jeans has a greater impact than its use in relation to washing), it is not always the case... For example, it is the fridge's usage phase that end's up having a greatest impact.

Avoided emissions standard: What is it?

And what about decathlon ?

Selling second-hand products is part of the DECATHLON story (the TROCATHLON was established in 1986). Second-hand sales now take place all year round. In France, for example, more than 104,000 bikes were sold second-hand in 2021.

From a rental perspective, a more recent service launched, focuses on kids' bikes (2020/2021). It subsequently specifically amounts to 97,474 Decathlon product rentals (short term, subscription, long term) (compared to 63,090 in 2020).

Repairing products has a role to play: inspired by the repairability index developed in France by the ADEME, Decathlon has established, in 2021, criteria enabling it to define its products' potential for repair. . We subsequently check for each product family if:
■ documentation is accessible, ,
■ spare parts are accessible,
■ product can be dismantled,
■ the repair cost is under 30 % of the product's purchase price when new.
By following these four criteria (and by drawing up a list of the major issues that arise within each product family), teams are able to define, for each product type, the damage and failure percentage covered by a repair solution.

And, in practical terms, a support website offers tutorials to encourage product repair.

If these issues are gaining traction, they only represent 1.47 % of sustainable turnover (second life, rental, product repairs).
Despite that, we have observed an increase: It was at 1.36 % in 2020 (our transition plan is available, here, if you want to understand DECATHLON's trajectory).

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