How to calculate a basic carbon footprint

Peterborough PECT created the a national environmental accreditation scheme “Investors in the Environment” in 2010 to bridge the enormous gap between businesses and effective environmental management. One aspect of this course covers how to calculate a basic carbon footprint.

What is a carbon footprint?

A corporate carbon footprint describes the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released by an organisation. Greenhouse gases are those gases that contribute to climate change. The term “carbon” is often used loosely as a general abbreviation for greenhouse gases. However, it is important to recognise whether it is being used simply as an abbreviation for carbon dioxide (CO2) or as a reference to carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2e) which includes all 6 gases listed below.

These include the main six as described in the Kyoto Protocol: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), although additional gases can be reported if desired.

Why would my business want to know its carbon footprint?

Calculating your carbon footprint and producing a GHG report can have a range of benefits, including:

  • Demonstrating your level of environmental performance
  • Reviewing performance over time
  • Comparing or “benchmarking” against other organisations
  • Helping set targets for GHG reduction
  • Reducing energy and resource consumption and costs
  • Protecting against future energy and commodity prices
  • Improving your organisation’s reputation
  • Reducing risks associated with climate change

GHG reporting is also becoming increasingly required by stakeholders including customers, shareholders, investors and regulators. Many businesses are required to report their emissions for example through Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) requirements.

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