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What is my carbon footprint?

Understanding your business’s carbon footprint is the first and most important step of your sustainability journey. Driving a company car, heating or cooling your building and using coal or diesel to power electricity or generators all contribute.

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created by your organisation in the process of its operations across a specified reporting period. Footprints are typically expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (tCO2e) to better reflect the impact that emissions have on global heating. For example, one tonne of methane emitted is equivalent to 28 tonnes of carbon dioxide in terms of its impact on global warming, so it would be expressed as 28 tCO2e.

When measuring a carbon footprint, Scopes 1, 2, and 3 are used to categorise emissions. They differentiate between indirect and direct emission sources, which helps to improve accuracy and transparency in the footprinting process and enables organisations to set clear goals and targets for improvement.

Scope 1 emissions are the direct result of activities that occur from owned or controlled sources. Some examples of Scope 1 emission activities include:

  • Driving a company-owned vehicle to and from clients
  • Burning coal onsite to generate electricity
  • Using diesel to power onsite generators
  • Fugitive emissions (refrigerant leaks) from air conditioning units

Scope 2 emissions occur as a result of the consumption of energy and are usually understood as the purchases of electricity, heat, or steam directly from a third-party supplier (i.e., purchased energy).

Scope 3 emissions cover all other indirect emissions that are not included in Scope 2. As Scope 3 measurement is not typically mandatory, most companies elect to measure only the Scope 3 categories most relevant to their operations. There are 15 Scope 3 categories:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Capital goods
  • Fuel and energy-related activities
  • Upstream transportation and distribution
  • Waste generated in operations
  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Upstream leased assets
  • Downstream transport and distribution
  • Processing of sold products
  • Use of sold products
  • End-of-life treatment of sold products
  • Downstream leased assets
  • Franchises
  • Investments

You can learn more about Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions here.

In our work with corporate footprinting, we see emissions from a variety of sources. The footprint for any particular organisation will be dependent on a variety of factors including what sustainability measures they have in place, which Scope 3 categories they elect to measure, and what sector of business they are in. Below is an example of what the footprint of a small-to-medium-sized office-based organisation might look like.

In this example, the company has a staff of 50 people and is measuring emissions from a one-year period. They have four company vehicles that each use 20 litres of petrol per week; two air-conditioning units in their office, both of which leaked 1kg of r410a refrigerant in the reporting period; and they used 100,000 kWh of purchased electricity. They decided to measure their Scope 3 emissions from their business travel and employee commuting. For business travel they had a total of 12 long-haul business class flights and 22 domestic economy flights; spent 28 nights in hotels; and travelled 200km by taxi. For employee commuting, 35 employees travelled daily using petrol cars, 5 walked, 5 took the bus, and 5 cycled.

Why measure your carbon footprint?

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so if calculating a carbon footprint for your business isn’t on your list of priorities already, it should be.

An understanding of your business’s carbon footprint is the first and most important step of your sustainability journey. Having this information leads to successful carbon reduction outcomes because it allows you to:

  • Identify which aspects of your operations are having the largest impact on the environment and can have the most significant effect on your overall footprint if reduced.
  • Create highly impactful action plans to reduce your output in these crucial areas.
  • Set quantitative targets for reduction against which progress can be tracked.
  • Review outcomes of action plans and adjust measures accordingly.

Furthermore, governments and industries across the world are implementing new regulations that require organisations to make climate-related disclosures. It won’t be long until all businesses are required to disclose their carbon footprint and provide climate-related reporting. Considering this, getting ahead of the game and starting to measure and improve sustainability should be a focus for all businesses right now.  

How to measure your carbon footprint

FutureTrack is the perfect tool for measuring, managing, minimising, benchmarking, and reporting your carbon footprint. FutureTrack’s fully guided measurement tool allows you to accurately calculate emissions from sources in Scopes 1, 2, and 3, with no prior knowledge or experience needed.

To request a free demo of FutureTrack and start your journey to net zero, click here.

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