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Our carbon footprint and our climate commitments

In line with the movement launched by the Labos 1point5 collective to reduce the environmental footprint of research activities, I4CE has conducted its own carbon audit. This was the opportunity to find out how much I4CE emits, to determine where the association’s greenhouse gas emissions are from and, above all, to engage a process to reduce them. In particular, the association has undertaken to avoid flying where there is a low-carbon alternative that does not exceed six hours.

The carbon audit conducted by I4CE has revealed that in 2019, the association emitted 66 tonnes of CO2eq, whether for heating, communications, or for its employees’ meals and travel (see illustration below on the scope of analysis). All “scopes” are covered by this audit, including the manufacturing and use of objects, buildings, etc. In terms of the number of employees, I4CE emits 2.8 tCO2eq per “full-time equivalent”. By way of comparison, the average carbon footprint of a French person is 11.5 tCO2eq.

Illustration 1: Distribution of emissions by source


 Illustration 2: Scope of I4CE’s carbon audit


Four main emissions sources

Accounting for around 40 % of the association’s annual carbon footprint, the biggest source of emissions at I4CE is travel, and more specifically business travel, with the vast majority of employees travelling to work by public transport, by bike or on foot (see illustration 3).

Illustration 3. Means of transport for journey to work (% of kms travelled)


Emissions from travel at I4CE are therefore primarily due to business travel, the purpose of which is to promote the association’s work or to exchange with partners. In 2019, the team at I4CE made 54 return journeys by train and 26 by aeroplane. Below we will discuss the actions I4CE has decided to take in order to reduce this source of emissions. At this stage, let us simply note that no domestic flights were taken, and that I4CE’s employees already tend to choose the train and to “optimise” any foreign travel by multiplying the meetings, workshops and conferences they attend on arrival.

The association’s second largest source of emissions is the non-material services purchased. This category includes calls to external service providers (graphic design, press subscription, etc.). Carbon emissions from this source are estimated based on a “monetary ratio” recommended by ADEME, which converts the euros spent into CO2eq in order to estimate the emissions induced by these services.

The third source is lunchtime meals. The team’s meals were estimated based on a survey conducted internally on the composition of meals (meat-based, vegetarian, vegan, etc.). This found that I4CE team members’ meals are mostly flexitarian, with a carbon impact 30 % lower than a “traditional” meal according to the ADEME carbon base. The fourth and final significant source of emissions is linked to our IT purchasing: computers, monitors and phones.

Source: I4CE

Our commitments

Further to the association’s carbon audit, an internal task force was set up to find new ways to reduce these emissions, with the idea of regularly assessing progress made by conducting and publishing new carbon audits.

This work has first enabled us to take stock of actions already undertaken prior to the carbon audit. Where travel to work is concerned, even before the adoption of the new French law on mobility (LOM), I4CE implemented a sustainable mobility package to encourage the use of low-carbon transport, including bikes. For several years, I4CE’s procurement policy has encouraged the purchasing of used and refurbished objects: all of the association’s computers are thus refurbished. Another example is the choice of caterers used for events organised by I4CE: these are caterers that propose at least one vegetarian option. I4CE also has a long-standing partnership with a printer with the Imprim’vert label, the French certification scheme aimed at reducing the environmental impact of printing activities.

What are the new commitments to minimise our emissions? With regard to air travel, which as we know is the biggest source of our emissions, I4CE has formalised its practices since the carbon audit: the association has officially committed to not take any domestic flights within metropolitan France. Moreover, no international flights will be taken where there is a low-carbon alternative that does not exceed six hours.

Some “long-distance” travel will remain necessary for I4CE’s work, especially as the Institute is becoming more international. Web conferences between international partners are already encouraged and will be increasingly so. When travel is unavoidable, it will be optimised, in line with the trips to the COPs, during which I4CE employees multiply the workshops and conferences they attend. To apply these principles, the team at I4CE will implement a procedure, ahead of any long-distance travel, in order to help employees to determine whether travel is essential and to look at possible alternatives.

I4CE rented its premises in 2019 and was therefore unable to choose its electricity provider or to guarantee waste recycling. But in 2021, I4CE will be moving, and this will be the opportunity to observe good practice in these areas.

Finally, in spite of all the efforts that can be made both now and in the future, I4CE will not be carbon neutral. Reducing our emissions is the priority, and “deep decarbonisation” is the objective, but the reality is that we are still emitting and that we will certainly have unavoidable emissions in the future. The association has therefore undertaken to contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by financing certified projects in France, equivalent to its emissions. To do so, it will use the French Low-Carbon Label. Is this offsetting? I4CE prefers to call it a “contribution”, as we believe that financing low-carbon projects does not negate our carbon footprint.