Calculating a company’s carbon footprint is currently of rising interest. The reason behind this is the growing concern of global warming, sky-rocketing greenhouse gas emissions and depletion of biodiversity that are pushing the Earth’s natural resources and human well-being to its limits. As scientists, governments and organizations are urging people to change their habits towards a more climate-friendly lifestyle, companies are also willing to make a change.
Reducing company’s emissions is inevitable, but in order to do that companies need to know their emissions first. Counting the direct and indirect emissions and converting those into carbon dioxide equivalents is an easy way of understanding your company’s impact on climate. The negative effect is called carbon footprint – the smaller the size, the better. However, a positive, carbon-reducing effect called carbon handprint can be counted as well.
Where to begin?
Before calculating your company’s carbon footprint, you need to consider why you want to calculate it and how it is connected to your company’s overall sustainability strategy. When moving to a more sustainable business model it is important to check your business values and strategies first. Try to identify the responsibility aspects and impacts of the value chain and then evaluate the climate risks to the value chain. Furthermore, a materiality assessment and the climate impacts related to it may be important to carry out, too.
Depending on the company, the role of environmental policy, emission targets and sustainability goals may be different. Prioritizing your company’s environmental plans and actions adds value, transparency and credibility to the company’s operations, from the customer’s point of view.
After identifying the potential climate impacts of your business, use carbon footprint calculations to identify the most important climate aspects that you can influence. Set ambitious, scheduled, and measurable goals. Take practical action to achieve goals and ensure they are followed up.
Reducing your company’s carbon footprint by cutting down the emissions is the primary practice but, if necessary, you can compensate for the emissions you are not able to control. Puro.earth is an excellent place for this. Remember to communicate the results to your customers and stakeholders as it adds value and credibility to your company’s work.
How is a carbon footprint calculation done?
After setting up an overall sustainability strategy for your company and deciding how to include your company’s carbon footprint into the strategy, the next step is to decide how thoroughly you want it to be done. Carbon footprint calculations can be done on many different levels, depending on your company’s ambitions to truly have a sustainable business.
When calculating carbon footprint, it is common to talk about Scope 1, 2 and 3. But before looking into what these mean, let’s take an overview of what things you need to take into consideration when starting your carbon footprint calculations.
First, decide which parts of the value chain you want to include in the calculation. The minimum is to count your in-house emissions that your company is directly emitting, or emissions indirectly emitted by energy consumption, for example. You can also count the other emissions that are indirectly related to your own activities but those are difficult to control.
Second, decide at which accuracy level the calculation will be made. It is possible to use average emission factors to evaluate the general level of total energy consumption, for example, but more accurate and site-specific data reveals more detailed and company specific information.
Third, consider why the carbon footprint calculation is needed as this affects the level of accuracy required. Identifying relevant emissions sources, setting goals, and noticing stakeholder needs are factors affecting the carbon footprint calculation.
The actual calculation is usually based on the most widely used international accounting tool, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Greenhouse gas emissions are categorized into three groups that are commonly called “scopes”. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from your company’s owned or controlled sources, such as fuel combustion, vehicles, and fugitive emissions. Scope 2 consists of purchased electricity, heat and steam used for heating and cooling that produce indirect emissions. All the other indirect emissions occurring in your company’s value chain are covered in Scope 3. Those can be anything from business travel to purchased goods and services, waste disposal and employee commuting.
From a company’s perspective Scope 1 and 2 are the easiest to control. However, much of the greenhouse gas emissions and many cost reduction opportunities lie outside your company’s own operations. Therefore, taking Scope 3 emissions into account enables energy efficiency of products to be improved, suppliers to be more engaged in implementing sustainability initiatives, and many resource and energy risks of the supply chain to be identified.
What is next and where to get help?
There is a strive for more sustainable business and lifestyle and the change is needed now. To get the maximal value out of the work – calculations, measures, compensation, and communication – it is important to have a well thought action plan. If you have never done carbon dioxide calculations before, it is essential to consult experts to make sure everything is done right. It is important to make sure that the company that is going to help you have a deep understanding of sustainability and environmental impacts of businesses. This way you can make sure that the consultancy company knows how everything is connected and how the footprint can be minimized throughout the company operations.
Ecobio Oy is an environmental consultancy company with over 30 years of experience. With several years of experience and a steady foothold in the field, Ecobio experts have a deep knowledge of carbon footprint calculation and other climate and environmental impact assessments. With the help of our experts you can make sure that every aspect of your business is properly assessed, always with the customers and authorities’ goals, ambitions and demands in mind. We help you balance business and nature.
This blog post has been written by experts from Ecobio, a Puro.earth ecosystem partner. Text: Mai Kärppä, Environmental Consultant, and Caisa Lindblom, Marketing Planner.
For contact information, visit Ecobio's partner page