Explanation of methodology
In our methodology, we distinguished between the types of project we worked on. These projects were then analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. There are certain things we would like to be able to measure but, at this stage, that cannot be done to a satisfactory degree.
Distinction between feasibility studies and design assignments
Witteveen+Bos carries out projects in various stages of development: from feasibility studies through to design. With the notion of the chain as a point of departure, we assume that all these projects will be realised in accordance with the advice or design we provide. However, this is not always the case. For that reason, we make a distinction between feasibility studies and design assignments.
Qualitative and quantitative
First the projects were qualitatively assessed by determining which SDG the project contributed to (positively or negatively). These projects were then quantitatively assessed, where possible.
Measuring the impact quantitatively is often more difficult than qualitatively estimating whether an SDG is affected by a project. For each SDG, therefore, we pose at least one question to quantify the impact. These questions were derived from indicators used by the UN to define SDG targets and focused on engineering works. We also formulated the questions so that they are applicable to developing countries in the SDG Impact Tool and to those with sufficient basic services in the Societal Value Tool. In quantifying the impact, we use the same units as much as possible – such as the number of people, the land area in km2 and emissions in terms of CO2-equivalent tonnes.
Positive and negative impact
It can occur that a project has both a positive and negative impact. A project to create gas-free neighbourhoods, for example, which has the positive impact of giving 20,000 people gas-free homes (SDG 9), nevertheless requires an increased amount of raw materials for biomass and other required elements. This in turn leads to a negative impact in relation to SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).
Difficult to measure: SDG 13 (climate action)
It is not easy to determine the quantitative effect of all our activities on CO2 emissions. Most infrastructural (building) works use materials and energy. For this reason, we assume that all our projects have a negative carbon footprint. An exception to this applies in projects where the focus is on renewable energy and circularity.
Unfortunately, Witteveen+Bos does not yet possess insight into the CO2 emissions of every feasibility study and design assignment. Because climate action is a point of attention for Witteveen+Bos, we take as many measures as possible to reduce CO2 emissions – for example, through our sustainable design principles. We cannot yet quantify emissions per activity or design. In light of this, we did not assign a concrete negative score, instead scoring our qualitative impact on the carbon footprint as ‘neutral’.
In 2021 we will be working to quantify, as much as possible, the CO2 emissions attributable to our designs and studies, as well as the reductions in emissions achieved by the application of CO2-reduction measures. For now, the conclusion is that we made a negative, difficult-to-quantify contribution in respect of SDG 13.