The threat of global climate change brings significant risks to businesses everywhere. The best way to tackle climate change, and protect your organization from the potential impacts, is to minimize your own carbon emissions.
First, you need to know how much greenhouse gas your business creates – so how should you measure your corporate emissions?
Why Should You Measure Your Business Carbon Footprint?
The first step is to understand why you’re measuring your carbon footprint. The regulatory requirements for mandatory carbon reporting, for example, will set a clear framework for what you measure and how you report it.
On the other hand, if your aim is to establish a benchmark against which to measure future reductions, or to make your emissions public in an annual report, then you have greater freedom to determine your own parameters.
Understand your motivation for measuring emissions before you decide what to measure and the level of detail and accuracy required. Make sure the methodology is replicable so that it can be carried out consistently for future comparison.
Which Greenhouse Gases Should You Measure?
Although emissions are usually referred to in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) or simply ‘carbon’, there are a number of other greenhouse gases that should be included in your measurements.
The six Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases that should be included are: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
For simplicity, the other gases are converted to carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), taking into account their relative impact on global warming. This allows your entire footprint to be expressed as a single quantity in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).
How Can You Identify Emission Sources Throughout The Business?
Emissions fall into one of three internationally-recognized categories, known as scopes.
Scope 1 emissions – also known as direct emissions – are the easiest to identify and measure because they come from premises that you own or operate and that are under your direct control. They include fossil fuels used in onsite manufacturing or processing and in company vehicles.
All other emissions are referred to as indirect, and are split into two categories.
Scope 2 emissions come from the energy you buy and consume, including electricity and heat, while scope 3 emissions result from the goods and services you buy or outsource, employee commuting and business travel, waste, water and the whole lifecycle emissions of products or services that you sell.
Your business sector, size and geographic location will affect which types of emissions are most important for you.
To help you start collecting data, try a good online carbon calculator that can guide you through the process of identifying and measuring your business emissions using standard calculation methods for common business activities.
Once You Have Measured Your Carbon Emissions, What’s Next?
Knowing the size of your carbon footprint means you can report the data and begin to reduce your emissions year to year.
Customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders all have an interest in the environmental performance of your company. Increasingly, they are demanding that businesses take responsibility for their contribution towards climate change. Measuring and reporting your emissions is the first step towards demonstrating your commitment to environmental sustainability.
The size of your carbon footprint also helps you calculate how many tonnes of carbon to offset. Offsetting neutralizes your emissions by reducing or avoiding carbon emissions elsewhere and, by investing in progressive offset projects you can also improve the social, economic and environmental conditions in local communities.