Everything you need to know about carbon footprint. From what it is and how to calculate to key reduction considerations.
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint refers to the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a business operation over a prior 12-month period. It will define the boundaries, scope, and locations that are evaluated within the business.
How do I calculate my carbon footprint?
To calculate a carbon footprint, emissions are calculated using published carbon emission conversion factors specific to the UK or other countries.
This can be done using tools such as spreadsheets, carbon calculators, or with the help of an external consultant.
These conversion factors determine the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)* gases emitted per unit of fuel, energy, water, waste, and other elements.
The emissions are grouped into three scopes of emission:
Scope 1: Direct Emissions, which include activities owned and controlled by the organisation, such as fuel combustion, owned vehicle miles, and gases used in manufacturing.
Scope 2: Energy Indirect Emissions, which consist of the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam, and cooling.
Scope 3: Other Indirect Emissions, which originate from sources outside the organisation's ownership or control, such as water usage and disposal, waste disposal, incoming freight, materials purchased, business travel, and leased assets etc.
Once the carbon footprint is calculated, an emissions intensity ratio can be established to determine the baseline emissions per unit of operation, such as XXX tonnes CO2e emissions per 1000 man-hours, number of widgets, or turnover, whichever reflects varying business levels year on year.
Calculations and reporting can be done following established guidelines such as the ISO standard ISO 14064-1 for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals at the organisational level, or BSI standard PAS 2060 for claims of carbon neutrality.
The outputs from calculating the carbon footprint will provide a clear understanding of the business's emissions, identification of the highest emitting areas, and the operations emissions intensity metric.
These insights provide opportunities for reduction in the short, medium, and long terms.
How can I reduce my carbon footprint?
To reduce your carbon footprint, several opportunities can be considered dependent on your building ownership etc.:
Review vehicle emissions and transport practices to consider changes in vehicle types, fuels, schedules, frequencies, and shipment consolidation.
Consider purchasing electricity from guaranteed renewable sources to eliminate electricity emissions.
Explore more sustainable heating and lighting solutions, such as heat pumps, solar panels, and storage batteries.
Evaluate water usage and disposal to identify areas for savings.
Ensure sustainable options are used for waste disposal.
If applicable, assess material sources, transport, and product design to reduce emissions.
Review business travel practices to prioritise sustainable options.
What are the benefits of a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint will clearly give you an understanding of the carbon emissions of your business operations.
You will understand where your highest emissions occur, promoting action the changes can be made.
Delivers an opportunity for reduced costs as well as reduced carbon emissions.
Allows you to declare your carbon status in tenders, and annual returns making your offering a more attractive proposition.
Will satisfy client demands for sustainable vendors.
Will enable your full review of products and service emissions prompting a close look at where improvements can be made.
Will present a sustainable business profile for your staff attracting employees.
Will present a sustainable profile for investors.
All of these actions can enable you to develop your business carbon management plan that communicates the organisation's strategy and commitment to reducing carbon emissions, which should be declared in annual returns, tenders, and shared with employees.
Opportunities during your journey to lower emissions
As you begin the process of carbon reduction, you may wish to consider carbon offsetting as an option. This involves purchasing carbon credits that offset your business's emissions, making you a carbon-neutral entity.
Carbon offsetting credits should not be considered an alternative to reduce emissions, but as a means of supporting global carbon emissions reduction, while you work on your journey to net zero
For more detailed information on any of these points, we offer a free no obligation 30-minute consultation on Carbon Footprint Assessments. Call us, book a meeting or request a call back!
*Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a term that collectively describes the main greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, including Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), and Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3), which are the significant contributors to global warming