Carbon Footprinting – the Lowdown
A carbon footprint provides the measure of the direct and indirect impacts of an activity on anthropogenic global warming. This is determined by calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of these activities, usually stated as a ‘CO2e’, or carbon dioxide equivalent. This means that all the key greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) can be expressed as a common unit, allowing, for instance for the ease of inter and intra industry comparison and understanding.
Emissions are usually defined under three categories, or ‘Scopes’ – Scope 1, 2 and 3.
- Scope 1 emissions are all direct – they are emitted from the organisation themselves, and by any sources that they own or control, for instance from combustion by equipment they own.
- Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by the organisation
- Scope 3 emissions incorporate all other indirect emissions that result from activities performed by the organisation, from sources that they do not own or control. This incorporates any emissions from, for example, business travel, or goods or services purchased by the company. Scope 3 usually covers the largest share of the carbon footprint of most organisations.
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.
Green Element use the GHG Protocol emission factors to calculate our clients’ carbon footprints. By evaluating energy use activities across a business, we can capture the necessary data and calculate direct and indirect emissions, identifying key high-emission areas and providing assistance and solutions to tackle these.
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