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Very few unions are carbon-smart

News article

Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK achieved its goal of becoming carbon-smart, aka carbon-neutral, by the end of 2022. TEK continuously measures its emissions, makes a conscious effort to reduce them and compensates only as a last option.

Edit 4.7.2023 at 11:14: added the term offsetting claim

- Certainly, there are other unions that calculate their carbon footprint and compensate their emissions, but without measures to avoid and reduce emissions, compensation is not the right way to pursue carbon neutrality, says Jussi-Pekka Teini, TEK’s Advisor on Engineering Sustainability.

Last year, TEK’s emissions were 366 tCO2e before compensation. This corresponds to the average annual emissions of roughly 36 Finns. Teini has calculated the emissions using the Hiilifiksu järjestö (Carbon-smart Organization) calculator developed by the University of Helsinki. The letter ‘t’ in the unit stands for tons. CO2e, or the carbon dioxide equivalent, means that all the produced greenhouse gas emissions have been converted to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide with the same climate impact.

TEK's emissions are now 400 tCO2e lower than in the first year of measurement, 2017. TEK has made conscious choices to cut emissions, such as switching to carbon-neutral energy. A big reduction was seen when the membership magazines Talouselämä and TEK Magazine became zero-emission magazines. TEK has also organized fewer cruises, digitalized some of its services and held events also online.

Flying too high in 2022

COVID caused a significant decrease in TEK's emissions as TEK’s events moved online and commuting was no longer necessary. Jussi-Pekka Teini knew that the emissions would rise again after COVID, but the size of the increase was a surprise.

- Last year, we saw a surprisingly large number of flights at TEK. Air travel made up a quarter of our emissions last year. We need to explore ways to start bringing our flight emissions down without sacrificing the quality of our operations. It’s important to get as many people as possible to choose the rails whenever this is possible time-wise.

This year, TEK is compensating its remaining emissions in money. The compensation – or to be more precise the offsetting claim – costs 25 000 euros.

- We have chosen reliable sources of compensation. In the future, we want to support compensation projects that spend the money on the development of high technology that can help Finland become a carbon-smart country.