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Blog Post 29 September 2021

How to measure your organisation’s carbon footprint

Have you thought about measuring your organisation’s carbon footprint? It might be worth doing if you’re looking to become more sustainable or reach net zero.

Around 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions are attributed to commercial businesses, and this is one of many areas that will need to be improved if the UK is going to reach its 2050 net zero target.

Some of the largest corporations have already made bold environmental commitments and according to a survey by Edie, four in 10 SMEs are unsure how to prepare for net zero due to lack of in-house expertise and costs of carbon accounting and new technologies. If you need expertise, contact us about out Sustainability Strategy service.

Why should you measure your business carbon footprint?

It’s important to reduce business emissions, not only for the UK to achieve net zero, but also to appease eco-conscious customers who are increasingly purchasing from brands that have good sustainability credentials and eco-friendly policies. According to research carried out by Energy Saving Trust, 87% of UK adults are either extremely concerned or somewhat concerned about climate change.

By showcasing how you’re playing your part in addressing the climate emergency, you can attract these customers to your brand and influence them to achieve more sustainable lifestyles. It also offers you an opportunity to identify areas ripe for both cost and carbon savings, which can help create a benchmark for future sustainability actions or a complete sustainability strategy.

A couple is working on laptop with bills and paperwork

What is a business carbon footprint?

There are a few websites and apps which can measure your personal carbon footprint, but what exactly does this mean? A carbon footprint measures the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an individual, organisation or community. In this case, we’ll be looking at your business carbon footprint, which as you can imagine, is a little bit bigger.

Carbon dioxide isn’t the only emission that needs to be looked at, but for simplicity, the below emissions are usually converted to CO2 or equivalent to produce a carbon footprint, as per the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the EU).

GHG emissions are divided into different scopes depending on how ‘direct’ they are:

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from your business. This includes emissions from combustion of fuels from furnaces and vehicles, as well as emissions from chemical production.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the consumption of purchased energy from utility providers that an organisation does not own. This includes electricity, heating, steam and cooling.
  • Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions not included in scope 2. This includes anything that is linked to your organisation’s operations that are not controlled or owned, such as your entire supply chain, business and employee travel, waste generated, purchased materials and goods, office technology, assets, investments, as well as consumer use of your products and services. Basically, everything that isn’t included in scope one and two.

For most organisations, scope 3 emissions represent the largest GHG impact. To conduct a full emissions inventory, you’ll need to reduce carbon emissions in all three scopes.

Reporting and reducing carbon emissions can be incredibly time-consuming and requires expertise. We offer a sustainability strategy service that can help you reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions across your organisation.

How do you start working out your business carbon footprint?

Wherever you might be on your sustainability journey, you’ll need to have clearly defined targets. Once you have those, crack open that spreadsheet and pull together the data.

You should start by creating an emissions inventory for your organisation, listing every operation, service and product from most emissions to least emissions. By collecting this energy and carbon emissions data, you’ll be able to identify the worst offenders. It’s worth remembering that just because something doesn’t use a lot of energy, it doesn’t always mean it emits lower emissions.

Some of the biggest emitting areas are listed below. They can be calculated using their respective bills or by requesting information from your service providers:

  • transport fleets
  • fuel for vehicles
  • manufacturing
  • staff travel
  • electricity
  • gas and oil
  • office equipment
  • air conditioning maintenance
  • specialist equipment maintenance
  • water
  • waste

Once you’ve done your research and inputted your data into a spreadsheet, you can start calculating. The UK Government has a handy Greenhouse gas conversion factors document you can use to get started.

Generally, the equation you want to end up with is:

‘Total energy consumption (fuel, electricity) x Emission Factors (fuel, electricity) = carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)’

Next steps

There are several tools available online to help you calculate your business carbon footprint. The UK Government launched a new UK Business Climate Hub to help SMEs halve their emissions by 2030, bringing them in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero target.

We recommend getting in touch with us for further advice on reducing carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable.

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Last updated: 4 October 2021