The environmental impact of service oriented companies

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Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Creative Sustainability in Real Estate
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Master’s Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability
The service sector is not traditionally seen as an emission intensive sector with a great environmental impact. The service sector is, however, economically a large and fast-growing sector and consequently the absolute emissions will grow. Even though a shift to a more service-oriented economy decreases the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity per unit GDP it does not in itself imply that the GHG emissions would decrease in absolute terms. To improve the environmental performance of service oriented companies, the negative environmental impacts must be identified and measured. A framework mentioned in several guidelines for studying the environmental impact, is the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. Based on the LCA framework, a methodology called carbon footprinting has been developed to assess the environmental impact. The carbon footprint methodology is broadly used by companies and organisations to examine and understand the GHG emissions occurring from products, services and processes. The overall objective of the study is to get an overview of the environmental impact of service oriented companies, focusing on climate change. The aim is to find the relevant components for calculating the carbon footprint of a service oriented company and determine which activities and variables that stand for most of the emissions. The methodology used in this study is the life cycle assessment (LCA). Two applications of the methodology; input-output LCA (IO-LCA) and hybrid LCA, have been applied. The assessment follows the GHG protocol for boundary definition and guidelines. A case study was performed on one digital service creation company located in Helsinki, Finland. The included environmental impacts are limited to climate change and CO2 equivalents, which is the definition and unit of carbon footprint in this study. The study compares three different LCA models and analyses the difference between national and international models. Additionally, the relationship between costs and emissions are analysed. Previous research suggests that the service sector should focus on office premises and business travel as these in general are perceived to cause most of the emissions. This study, however, shows that such generalisation cannot be made for service oriented companies as they represent a large variety of businesses. The three different models gave surprisingly similar results, mostly due to modest sized office premises and lack of detailed process information for the hybrid LCA. In the case study company business travel stands for most of the emissions (29 %). Commuting does not cause significant emissions and the remaining categories have similar magnitudes of emissions. The total emissions are approximately 1 400 tCO2eq. Compared to previous studies the studied company’s emissions are lower than average. No direct correlation between costs and emissions was found.
Junnila, Seppo
Thesis advisor
Rintala, Timo
carbon footprint, life cycle assessment, service oriented company, corporate responsibility, hybrid LCA, sustainable development
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