Here at Impacti, we recommend tackling your carbon footprint calculation in four steps. We've developed the guide below based on the experience of our founders - since way back in the early days of 2008 - advising +500 offices in +140 countries to manage their carbon footprint and achieve climate neutral goals. This simple guide is designed to help you calculate a carbon footprint aligned with leading GHG accounting methodologies.
The first question to ask is "What's the scope of my carbon footprint?". To answer this, think about the business activities that generate GHG emissions. Do you power your offices with electricity? Do you use fuel in company cars? Do you travel to conduct business? How do your employees commute to work?
Here it's useful to think about these "emission sources" as Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, groupings set out in the GHG Protocol. Most companies get started by measuring all Scope 1 and 2 emissions and the most significant Scope 3 emission sources.
Some examples of Scope 3 emissions include business travel, employee commute, emissions from the products you sell as well as the materials you source. It’s important to include Scope 3 emissions as they typically cause most of a company’s carbon footprint (often more than 80%!). Even when these activities are outside of your direct control, you can influence them by adjusting your own operations. It's a challenge to measure all Scope 3 emissions especially when you're first starting. You can first focus on getting quality data to calculate your most significant emission sources and expand the scope of your carbon footprint with time.
Sounds complex? Just start small, with your main Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and sources that you control. And then expand from there over time.
Once you've decided what activities to measure, it's time to gather the data. When you first start, you may discover that you don’t have the best data at hand to make accurate calculations of all your GHG emissions. The GHG Protocol sets out three levels of data quality:
The ultimate goal is to get actual measured data for all your emission sources to get the most accurate carbon footprint calculation. But don’t worry, no business has accurate data for all their emission sources. Many methods exist for you to make reasonable estimates for now and then put in place measures to get better data for future carbon footprints.
Next, it's time to plug in the numbers and see the emission results. Here's where you can turn to GHG accounting methodologies like the GHG Protocol and ISO 14064-1. You'll also need to find out the emission factors that apply to your specific business operations. Once you've pulled all that together, the magic happens - your data turns into useful business intelligence and insights that can help you climate-proof your business in smart ways. What can you learn from your data?
Many companies at this stage decide to set climate targets. Doing so can show that your business is committed to making real change. Such targets can take many forms:
Make sure to choose a baseline year - the year 0 - from which you'll measure improvements. With all this set up, you're now ready to design initiatives to green your operations in strategic ways that contribute to your climate goals and tackle your carbon hotspots.
Finally, you're ready to get recognized for your climate actions. At this point, you can purchase certified carbon offsets to offset your carbon footprint. Remember however that offsetting should be used to compensate for unavoidable carbon emissions - the priority is to take actions that reduce emissions.
Companies are sharing their carbon footprint results in many ways - on their websites, staff newsletters, annual reports and marketing materials. You may be able to attract new investors or secure contracts from buyers who reward climate champions. And you can join the growing number of business partnerships like the SME Climate Hub or quality for certifications like the Climate Neutral certification to stand out in the market.
It's important to use a reputable carbon accounting methodology and be consistent in the way you calculate your carbon footprint every year so that you can make comparable and trustworthy claims on your achievement. That's why it's essential to use a carbon footprint solution with an up-to-date methodology and allows storage of multiple years of carbon data.
Here at Impacti, we've developed a SaaS technology solution designed especially for small and medium businesses to make climate action simple. Sign up now to get instant access or book a demo with our CARBON experts to learn more.