A carbon footprint is a measure of the impacts of an activity on global warming by calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of these activities, usually stated as a ‘CO2e’, or carbon dioxide equivalent. This is done to show all key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) expressed as a common unit, allowing easy comparison across organisations, industries and countries.
Emissions are defined under three categories, or ‘Scopes’ – Scope 1, 2 and 3.
Scope 1 – All Direct Emissions
From the activities of an organisation or under their control. This includes fuel combustion on site, from owned vehicles and fugitive emissions.
Examples include fleet vehicles, gas emissions from boilers and air-conditioning refrigerant leaks.
Scope 2 – Indirect Emissions
From electricity purchased and used by the organisation. Emissions will be created during the production of the energy and eventually used by the organisation.
Includes electricity from energy supplier to power computers, heating and cooling.
Scope 3 – All Other Indirect Emissions
From activities of the organisation, but occur from sources that they do not own or control. This is usually the largest share of the carbon footprint, especially for office-based companies, covering emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water.
Examples include plane travel, shipping of goods and waste disposal.
The Scopes therefore help to systematically define different emission areas for a corporation, and are also a useful tool that is widely utilised in reporting.
They have been issued by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) as per the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, which is a global initiative to allow for standardised emissions calculating and reporting for corporations and businesses. This framework provides a set of annually updated emissions factors, which can be used as a tool to calculate specific emissions under each of the three scopes, to generate a corporation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. This is published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and can be found here.
This information can subsequently be used in business strategy to tackle specific areas in order to reduce emissions where possible, from specific sources or areas, and be more efficient. Targets can be set in order to define this.
During carbon footprint, the scopes assist to define the sources of pollutants within each organisation, helpful for targeting areas of future improvement. There are some developed and easy to use programs that will produce a comprehensive carbon footprint report for your business.
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