Understanding Carbon Emissions: Calculating Your Footprint

Whether it’s to comply with reporting requirements, identify potential savings in carbon-intensive operations, or to get ahead in the green economy, measuring the environmental impact of your products and services is vital.

But how do you go about calculating the entire carbon footprint of your business, from your raw materials and supply chain right through to your finished products and end-of-life disposal?

Why Is It Important to Calculate Your Business Carbon Emissions?

Understanding your company’s carbon footprint is an important step towards improving your corporate sustainability.

Once you have identified and measured your carbon emissions, you are well positioned to set reduction targets and benefit from the associated cost savings.

Successfully cutting greenhouse gas emissions is also a great way to demonstrate your green credentials to customers, staff and other stakeholders. By going further and gaining a low carbon certification or becoming carbon neutral, your company can gain recognition as a global sustainability leader.

What Should Be Included in Your Footprint?

A company-wide carbon footprint should include greenhouse gas emissions from all of your business activities.

Most organizations begin with sources of direct emissions, such as fossil fuels used in onsite manufacturing or processing and in company vehicles. Direct carbon emissions are also known as Scope 1, and are the simplest to calculate because they come from facilities that you own or operate and that are under your direct control.

As well as direct emissions, you should measure indirect emissions from the energy you buy – also known as Scope 2 emissions – plus goods and services that you buy, employee commuting and business travel, waste, water usage and the whole lifecycle emissions of products or services that you sell, which are known as Scope 3 emissions.

Your carbon footprint should include all six of the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

How Do You Calculate Your Business Footprint?

Identify the material emissions sources for your organization – that is to say, the largest or most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Every business is different: manufacturing processes may cause the majority of a chemical company’s emissions, whereas an office-based services provider may need to focus on business travel, for example.

Collect data from the most appropriate departments within the organization, such as purchasing, finance, and energy teams. Energy bills and gas and diesel invoices often contain all the information necessary to quantify your total annual fossil fuel consumption.

When the data has been collated, you’ll need to apply the correct conversion factor to each source to calculate how many tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) have been emitted. This enables you to account for the different greenhouse gases, relative to a unit of carbon dioxide, according to their 100-year global warming potential.

Although this might sound daunting, online carbon footprint calculators – such as NativeEnergy’s business carbon footprint calculator – can help, with automated calculations for a wide range of emissions sources.

Once You’ve Calculated Your Carbon Footprint, What’s Next?

The most important reason for calculating your business carbon footprint is to establish a baseline from which to set targets to reduce your environmental impact.

Once you know how many tonnes you emit annually, and where they come from, you can begin to tackle the major sources, focusing your effort and investment where it will have the greatest benefit.

For emissions sources that are harder to cut, carbon offsetting is the answer. For every tonne of CO2e, NativeEnergy can help you invest in a progressive offsetting project that will neutralize your emissions and deliver social, environmental and economic benefits to local communities.

Find out more about calculating your business carbon footprint, and offsetting your emissions, by contacting us by phone at  800-924-6826 or by email at [email protected].