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The Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership

Calculating the carbon emissions of the First International Conference on Responsible Leadership

By Eben le Roux

Posted on 11 June 2010

Phil Mirvis and Brad Googens from Boston, being interviewed by Portia Shai.
Phil Mirvis and Brad Googens from Boston, being interviewed by Portia Shai.

Participants in the recent international conference at the Centre for Responsible Leadership (from the 18th to the 20th of May, 2010), would remember being "detained" for a little while upon their arrival. They were asked to answer a few simple questions regarding their points of departure, means of transportation, the length of time they were staying at the conference and their hotels, as well as the means in which they were commuting to the conference every day. This was part of our efforts to capture information to help give us an indication of the amount of carbon we were emitting during the conference.

A total of 56 delegates took part in this survey, and we discovered, to our horror, that the footprint originating from only this small group of delegates (out of the total amount of about 150 delegates), already amounted to an astonishing 60 tonnes of CO2. This would imply that if all delegates were of the caliber of the ones who were surveyed, the total emissions from the delegates would be in the vicinity 180 tonnes of CO2.

However, prior to the conference, the Centre for Responsible Leadership took measures to attempt to neutralise the impact, by planting 200 trees at schools in the Pretoria/Tshwane region. According to, a tree is able to offset 1 tonne of CO2 over a lifetime of 100 years. In other words, our efforts would amount to 200 tonnes of CO2 being captured over the next 100 years, to make up for the emissions during the conference. So let us hope that the trees survive!

It was evident from the survey outcomes that most of the emissions (87%) were associated with flights to the conference, as well as additional trips that delegates took after the conference (7%). We do not have a full picture of all the emissions that resulted from the conference, such as the energy use associated with the food production / supply chain, and waste disposal. However, this overview of carbon emissions provides us with a valuable understanding of how to minimise the carbon footprint of future conferences, or similar ventures that we undertake. We are thankful to all the delegates that took part in the carbon survey, and the students that facilitated the process.

Sarah Teye interviewing one of the attendees.

Neeltjie du Plessis and Frances O’Brien being interviewed by Portia Shai.



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