Why do I need to know my carbon footprint?

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Why do I need to know my carbon footprint?

Tackling climate change is at the top of the global agenda. We all have a role to play collectively as governments, businesses, and individuals. One way to achieve this is by reaching Net Zero.

In 2019 the UK became the world’s first major economy to set a target of being totally Net Zero by 2050.

What is Net-zero? Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out, this can also be referred to as carbon neutral.

A carbon footprint can provide an initial climate risk and opportunities assessment by identifying emissions hotspots across your business. Companies all over the world measure and report their carbon footprint to their stakeholders and use the findings to inform their sustainability actions.

Environmental and carbon reporting and accounting is currently a requirement for larger organisations in the form of ESOS (Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme) and SECR (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting).

KPMG International's Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020 reveals 94 of the UK's top 100 businesses report on sustainability.

Fewer SME's have committed to the same net zero pledge a lack of data and reporting system expense are often the main reasons for the lack of take up. There are multiple benefits for all businesses in understanding and acting to reduce their carbon footprint now.

  • Save money – a deeper understanding of business activities that use a lot of energy enables you to make decisions to be more efficient and reduce consumption. The easiest way to save money on energy usage is by using less.

  • Grow your business – reducing cost will make you more competitive. A bigger opportunity for growth through understanding and reporting on your carbon footprint is supply chain. Reporting will become a bigger need when tendering for large contracts as big companies will look more and more at their supply chain to make reductions. Get ahead of your competitors, win more business – report on your footprint.

  • Staff engagement – more and more employees are looking at the environmental policies of organisations. To to attract and retain the best staff who are looking for a policy and alignment to their own morals organisations should develop a policy and understanding

  • Do your bit – we have a climate emergency, we all as people and businesses have a part to pay in helping our planet and providing a future for future generations.

89% of business agree that demonstrating a low carbon footprint will be essential for their brand by 2025.

How do I measure my footprint?

The first part relates to data, what are you going to report on and do you have data?

To measure the greenhouse gas emissions for your business, you need to take into account the parts of your business which you either own or have control over. This means that you are only measuring emissions which relate to your business operations. To do this, you need to ring fence your business operations and will help identify which greenhouse gases you need to measure. Your boundary will be your entire business.

If you are a business whose structure is more complicated and includes subsidiaries, joint ventures, partnerships or franchises, your boundary will be more complicated to set. You will need to determine which businesses should be included in measuring your total emissions. There are three established approaches to follow to do this. These are explained in more detail in Government’s guidance on how to measure and report your greenhouse gas emissions.

Scope 1 – covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.

Scope 2 – covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company.

Scope 3 - includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company's value chain.

Through what activities does your business release greenhouse gases?

The main activities from your business which release greenhouse gases may include;

  1. Electricity/gas use

  2. Water usage / Waste

  3. Waste disposal/recycling

  4. Business travel

  5. Owned or controlled vehicles

  6. Employee business travel

Collect Data

If you have historically recorded your energy bills and usage, business travel and business waste this should be straight forward. If you have not now is the time as you will need 12 months’ worth of data to start and find your baseline.

Converting your data

In order to translate your greenhouse gas emissions into a Co2 figure, the data obtained needs to be converted using emissions factors. This can be done in two ways;

  1. Manual calculations using the conversion factors published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

  2. Online calculations, there are now multiple calculators online that can aid at varying levels with the calculation process. Different ones, providing varying reports that can support ESOS & SECR or just a Co2 footprint total.

Sustainable Business Services can help your business understand as well as support and manage either of the above process for your business and have reviewed the market and different calculators and can ensure a report and calculation of most value for your organisation.

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