“Conclusions from first ever real-time ‘personal carbon’ calculation trial revealed by Atos Origin”

London, 13 November 2008

Groundbreaking trial proves carbon emissions can be managed like money

Atos Origin, an international IT services company, today reveals that feedback from the first ever trial to enable real-time calculation of personal carbon emissions demonstrates a willingness and readiness to measure such emissions.

The pilot, initiated by the RSA and built using Atos Origin technology, focused on measuring the carbon emissions from individual use of road fuel. The trial highlighted the following key conclusions:

  • There are a number of mechanisms from credit and debit cards through to loyalty and fuel cards that can be used to automatically capture and report personal carbon emissions.
  • Personal carbon accounts could be implemented relatively quickly and easily with minor adaptations to technology and information that already exists today. For example, utility billing systems hold home energy data, company expense systems hold business travel, loyalty cards capture fuel purchases as well as other data. The information and technology is there to make this happen.
  • Individual carbon emissions can be aligned to community level reduction objectives, whether that community is a business, a Local Authority or any form of organisation. For example, in order for businesses to measure the environmental impact of business-related travel, a real-time personal carbon calculator could be integrated into the expense system – creating a personal carbon portal for staff.
  • Incentives are vital to engaging individuals in climate change initiatives in the future. For example, in the case of business-related travel, if employees did succeed in reducing their carbon footprint and helping their organisation to reduce its footprint, they could perhaps be rewarded with an extra day's leave.

“We would like to thank Atos Origin for its commitment and support in developing, managing and analysing the findings of this groundbreaking trial,” said Matt Prescott, director of the RSA's CarbonLimited project. “It has been an extremely useful pilot and provides us with hard data and learning to educate and explain to organisations and individuals how addressing personal carbon emissions can be implemented and how they can help reach our objective of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.”

“This pilot demonstrates how individuals can be engaged in the response to climate change,” said Michael King, principal consultant at Atos Consulting, the business consulting arm of Atos Origin. “The trial clearly signals the importance of providing individuals with the right information and tools, as well as the critical role of incentives and rewards. Learning from this project will help us to implement similar schemes for organisations.”

About the Carbon Trading Trial
100 volunteers participated in the trial which ran across the UK for five months. When participants in the trial purchased petrol at a BP forecourt, Atos Worldline, a subsidiary of Atos Origin and a market leader in the processing of high-volume electronic transactions, securely managed the real-time transfer of the purchase details to the RSA's CarbonDAQ – a personal carbon trading platform – which then calculated the carbon credits based on fuel grade and volume purchased. Participants were then given a carbon account with a running carbon balance, helping to envisage a world where we account for carbon in the same way that we do for money.

The pilot tested five options for capturing personal carbon emissions and each proved to have advantages and disadvantages:

  • ‘Carbon card': a proposed national card to be issued to all citizens to provide consistent capture and reporting across the UK. This would be likely to require significant new infrastructure across all parts of the fuel purchase transaction process. A new carbon card would also potentially add a third transaction at the point of sale – with an individual paying with a credit card, receiving points on a loyalty card and then giving in a carbon card. This third transaction creates a delay at the point of sale, which would not be welcomed by retailers or consumers. A bid advantage of a carbon card is the potential for carbon ‘brand awareness' – “my carbon card”.
  • Credit and debit cards and pre-pay financial cards - provides large scale current coverage, but the data transmitted from the point of sale does not currently provide granular information on the fuel purchase. For example, if you spend £50 in a fuel station, it is difficult to say whether that was all spent on fuel or other items.
  • Fuel cards – provide granular transaction data, but are not widely used beyond purchases for business travel.
  • Loyalty cards - provide granular transaction data on what is purchased and are widely used by consumers. The degree of change and cost should be lower to adapt these systems to measure and report carbon emissions for individuals.

The trial forms part of the RSA's CarbonLimited project, which is investigating how a future personal carbon trading scheme could work. A full report on the findings of the RSA's CarbonLimited project will be available in December 2008.

About Atos Origin
Atos Origin is an international information technology services company. Its business is turning client vision into results through the application of consulting, systems integration and managed operations. The company's annual revenues are EUR 5.8 billion and it employs 50,000 people in 40 countries. Atos Origin is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic Games and has a client base of international blue-chip companies across all sectors. Atos Origin is quoted on the Paris Eurolist Market and trades as Atos Origin, Atos Worldline and Atos Consulting.

About the RSA
The RSA has built a well deserved reputation for generating new and imaginative ideas to promote social progress. Our aim is to continue to be a force for change by delivering far-reaching and realistic practical solutions that will produce a more prosperous, more just and more environmentally sustainable world. The RSA's aims are delivered through a portfolio of projects and a lecture programme consisting of well over one hundred events a year.

A progressive, wholly independent, multidisciplinary body supported by a professional network of 27,000 Fellows worldwide, the RSA is well-placed to disseminate information and initiatives to the public, industry, commerce and government. www.thersa.org

For more information or a briefing on the points above including more detail about the technologies tested, please contact:
Caroline Crouch
Atos Origin
Tel: +44 77 33 310 086