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What is my carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the measurement of the total greenhouse gas emissions released directly and indirectly from the activities of an individual, company or organisation or for a specific product or service.

Calculating your carbon footprint enables you to identify and quantify your key sources of emissions and understand how you contribute to global emissions. This will help to pinpoint the opportunities to reduce carbon emissions within your organisation, allowing you to plan and implement carbon reduction plans, reduce emissions from current and future activities, offset current emissions and monitor your progress.

The three common carbon footprint boundaries

Operational carbon footprint

An operational carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions from all the direct and indirect operational activities of the organisation. This includes electricity and other fuel used in buildings, industrial processes and fuel used in company-owned vehicles.

These emissions are known as scope one and scope two emissions – with those from electricity being the ‘scope two’ emissions. An operational footprint also includes some scope three emissions, such as business travel, employee commuting, waste management and water supply.

This is the boundary that we use in One Two Zero, where we empower you to calculate your business’ carbon footprint, start your net zero journey and become ‘operational carbon neutral’.

Supply chain carbon footprint

A supply chain footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions released from the reporting organisation’s supply chain due to its activities. These are often referred to as the reporting organisation’s scope three emissions.

The reporting organisation may choose to focus only on its upstream emissions, from material source to its use by the organisation (‘cradle to gate’) or its entire value chain (‘cradle to grave’).

Product or service carbon footprint

A product carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole life of a product or service, from the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing, through to emissions associated with the use and end-of-life of a particular product. This is sometimes known as ‘cradle to grave’ or ’full life cycle analysis’.

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Where do emissions come from?

Emissions occur principally from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, gas leaks from industrial processes or equipment (such as refrigeration and air conditioning) and from chemical reactions.

In the great majority of cases, the closer your organisation is to the actual emissions released, the easier it is to quantify, measure and reduce those emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions have been arranged into three groups or ‘scopes’, based on their proximity to an organisation’s core activities:

Scope one

direct – fuel burned in an organisation’s vehicles, generators, machinery and buildings.

Scope two

indirect energy – emissions from purchase and use of electricity, steam, heating and cooling.

Scope three

indirect value chain – any other emissions an organisation causes to be released based on purchased goods and services and produced goods and services.

Are there any reporting guidelines?

The GHG Protocol Corporate Reporting and Accounting Standard developed by the World Resources Institute is the most widely used and internationally-recognised standard for corporate footprinting of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) publishes annual emissions conversion factors and general guidance principles to help UK businesses and organisations measure and report greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the 2013 DEFRA reporting guidelines and GHG Protocol Corporate Reporting and Accounting Standard, company footprints must include scope one and scope two emissions. There is more flexibility when choosing which scope three emissions to measure and report, and organisations can tailor this, transparently, to reflect environmental and commercial strategy and goals.

An organisation’s approach is likely to depend on the data which is readily available, the time and budget you have for footprinting, what you intend to use the footprint for, what you would like to monitor and where you can make the biggest reductions. Organisations commonly include waste sent to landfill, water usage and employee business travel; all scope three emissions, traceable by the reporting company. Including these emissions along with scope one and two is referred to as an organisation’s ‘operational emissions’.  This is what we focus on in One Two Zero.

Make me carbon neutral

BSI PAS 2060 – declaring carbon neutrality

The British Standards Institution has set out its own internationally-applicable specification for demonstrating carbon neutrality. This is a robust and well-adopted methodology for carbon neutrality and has the additional requirements of a strategic approach to annual reductions and effective climate change mitigation measures.

Plannet Zero follows this advice and has created the One Two Zero programme to give organisations expert guidance on their low carbon strategy and confidence in declaring operational carbon neutrality along the way.

How to start

Define your reporting boundary

A first step is to set a clear and realistic boundary around what is and is not included in your reporting. A boundary determines which emission sources will be calculated. An operational boundary includes the full range of emissions from activities under your operational control, all scope one and two emissions and those scope three emissions caused directly by your operations’ actions, for example commuting, waste and water usage.

For some organisations, emissions within scope three may be the largest proportion of total emissions. Calculating your scope three emissions, gives a more complete understanding of your organisation’s total impact on climate change. However, it is widely acknowledged that scope three emissions can be difficult to measure and calculate.

One Two Zero has been designed to address this and focuses on operational carbon neutrality which includes your operational scope three emissions within your reporting boundary. One Two Zero focuses on the emissions that an organisation can best address: its operational footprint. You can focus on what you can affect – and by influencing your supply chain, by leading and recommending, you can affect your wider scope three emissions too.

One Two Zero means each company becomes empowered to calculate its carbon footprint, affect what it can affect and offset its current balance. As each company in a supply chain steps up and takes responsibility, more emission reductions can be achieved, as the company which can address the reductions is the one taking the action. Together, we achieve more. And we achieve it more quickly, efficiently and cost-effective, with those emitting and able to make changes to emissions paying for those changes. Together we move towards net zero.

Make me carbon neutral

Contact Plannet Zero today for help calculating your carbon footprint

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