Illustration woman lost in a maze

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…

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.”

More concretely, this means that in addition to their carbon footprint, companies can assess the decarbonizing power of their products and services when they allow others (customers, partners, suppliers, etc.) to reduce their emissions.

ADEME adds in the definition that "the avoided emissions are evaluated in relation to a reference scenario". The objective is to compare the company's solutions with its alternative on the market to fulfill the same purpose.

Let's take an example... at DECATHLON, at random. This would be the sale of a used bike rather than a new bike. As you can guess, the resale of this bike emits less carbon than if a new one had been made: carbon emissions have therefore been avoided. Another example is the purchase of a bike to commute: our lucky cyclist replaces some of his car trips with bike trips. Using a bike avoids the use of more carbon-intensive means of transportation, and if the sale of the bike is counted in DECATHLON's carbon footprint... it also contributes to planetary carbon neutrality, and we value that through the emissions avoided.

Why calculate avoided emissions?

Emissions are a non-financial performance indicator for companies. This new indicator makes it possible to:

1/ complete the reading of DECATHLON's environmental performance. It goes beyond the simple carbon footprint indicator, which is essential but not sufficient,

2/ highlight the products and services that contribute to decarbonization. Reducing emissions is essential, but some products and services are just as essential for a low-carbon transition, so it is important to identify and strongly promote them,

3/ to allow our customers to compare products and services and thus choose the least impacting ones. We are aware that it is complicated to navigate between all the information, DECATHLON wants to be as transparent as possible and wishes to accompany customers in their choices.

How are avoided emissions calculated?

After having identified the solutions, i.e. the products and services allowing decarbonization, there are 3 steps to follow:

1/ Calculate the emissions of the solution

Let's take the example of the cyclist who buys a bike from Decathlon to ride his bike to work. In this case, we will count the emissions related to raw materials, production, transport, packaging, use (if it is an electric bike) and end of life of this bike. The sum of the emissions throughout the life of the bike represents the emissions of the solution.

2/ Calculate the baseline scenario

The baseline scenario reflects the most likely situation that would have occurred in the absence of the low-carbon solution. In our case, the reference scenario is the use of the thermal car. According to a study by ADEME, people who have bought a muscle bike declare that they have substituted a part of their car journeys with journeys by bike. On average, according to the same study, 929 km are substituted per year when purchasing a muscle bike and 1817 km per year when purchasing an electric bike.

3/ Calculate the avoided emissions
The avoided emissions are the difference of the emissions produced by each scenario.
It is as simple as that, so we obtain: avoided emissions = reference scenario - solution scenario

And there you have it, we get the avoided emissions of a solution compared to a reference scenario :)

You should NEVER subtract the avoided emissions from the direct and indirect emissions, i.e. from the carbon footprint. It would be like adding potatoes and carrots, they are two different measures and therefore impossible to add.

Picture woman and blue background

And in numbers?

A new muscle bike = 220 kilos of CO2e 929 km by car avoided per year = 172 kilos of CO2e

An electric bike = 450 kilos of CO2e 1817 km by car avoided per year = 336 kilos of CO2e

Generally, a bicycle has a life span of about ten years, considering this parameter, we obtain that during its life, a muscle bike contributes to avoid 1,5 tCO2e and an electric bike nearly 3 tCO2e.

Scenario issues

The result depends completely on the reference scenario, it is necessary to justify and clarify the assumptions and be transparent about the modeling choices.

We are talking here about user behavior, will the person who buys the bicycle really use it to replace his car? Will they only use it for 2 years and not 10 as in the example? Nothing is less certain... but what is certain is that it is necessary to encourage cycling in order to reduce GHG emissions from transport. The avoided emissions make it possible to value and highlight this aspect.

Illustration woman looking with binoculars

And what about DECATHLON ?

The longtail bike, for example, was designed with one goal in mind: to replace a car. And it works! Today, 1/4 of the people having chosen this bike declare having bought it instead of a car (post-purchase study - 2022/23).

And all this without counting on the rental of bikes, which is also a way to limit carbon emissions (as a reminder, 3/4 of the emissions of a product are linked to the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing).

Finally, second-hand sales are part of DECATHLON's history (the TROCATHLON was created in 1986). Today, second-hand sales take place all year round. In 2021, for example (in France), more than 104,000 bicycles were sold second-hand.

Illustration woman looking with binoculars

The avoided emissions indicator allows us to have a more ambitious climate strategy, going beyond the scope of DECATHLON. However, this remains a complex subject, depending on assumptions in the reference scenario and therefore subject to interpretation. DECATHLON must work as a priority on reducing its direct and indirect emissions and respect its commitment to the SBTi.

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