How to calculate a carbon footprint for your business

Published 8th February 2017 by Sam Harris

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A carbon footprint is an essential component on the journey towards climate neutrality and is the first building block towards an intelligent sustainability strategy. A carbon footprint can also provide an initial risk screen for your organisation and help you understand the areas of opportunity for your business.Companies all over the world measure and report their carbon footprint to their stakeholders and use the findings to inform their sustainability strategy.

However, if you are at the beginning of your journey you likely have some questions about how to kick off the process.

Where do I start?

First of all, you need to understand what exactly needs to be included inyour footprint. An organisational carbon footprint measures greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all activities across a company, including energy used in buildings, logistics and company owned vehicles. It can also measure indirect emissions from activities outside an organisation’s own operations – the value chain.

Footprints should account for all Scope 1 (direct) emissions and Scope 2 (indirect) emissions from operations, plus all material Scope 3 emissions. By breaking down your emissions into sources, you can hotspot the areas deemed necessary for reductions and use this to identify areas of risk and opportunity for your company.

What information do I need?

The essential data required for your footprint includes:

  • Energy, gas and water –facilities or energy teams usually hold this information but the finance department will also have access to this through invoices.
  • Business travel – This includes staff travel and commuting. Air travel information can be collected from your travel agent or the team responsible for booking travel, whilst employee commuting can be calculated through a staff survey (not everyone will respond to your survey, so don’t be afraid to calculate emissions on average per full time employee).

How do I calculate my footprint?

Next up you will need to select the appropriate emission factor for each emission source in order to calculate the tonnes of CO2 emitted (tCO2e). It’s also important to ensure that your data is for a consistent time period, for example if you are doing an annual footprint then all data must be for the same boundaries. Ultimately, each organisation is different and therefore has differing material emission sources (the largest or most significant to business operations). A small office-based company’s energy use may be dwarfed by its business travel, for example.

Now that you have your data, you will need to select a methodology for your footprint that is most relevant for your organisation and your ambitions. You can choose to conduct a basic footprint using a carbon calculator spreadsheet or you can adopt an internationally recognised standard. The choice you make will depend upon the data that you have collected, as well as what you plan to do with the findings.

By calculating a carbon footprint, businesses can identify the best strategic approach to reducing emissions and setting robust targets, beginning you on your journey to climate neutrality.

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