A Carbon Footprint study quantitatively assesses the Greenhouse Gas emissions arising during a given period. A carbon footprint is measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).
The concept of a carbon footprint has been developed to help to quantify and understand the environmental impact of an organisation, a product or activity. As the full range of environmental impacts can be very broad and difficult to calculate, a footprint simplifies the process by focusing on emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), which have the most significant impact on climate change. Although there are a number of GHGs which help to trap heat in the atmosphere including methane and nitrous oxide, footprints use a standardised unit of measure which is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This simplifies reporting, allowing comparisons over time, and to some extent with other organisations and standards.
The main types of carbon footprint for organisations are:
- Organisational – Emissions from all the activities across an organisation, including buildings’ energy use, industrial processes and company vehicles.
- Value chain – Includes emissions which are outside an organisation’s own operations and represents emissions from both suppliers and consumers.
- Product – Emissions over the whole life of a product or service, from the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing right through to its use and final reuse, recycling or disposal.
The following gives some background to Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which are the key areas covered in a Carbon Footprint study and used in organisational comparison (as defined by the Greehouse Gas GHG Protocol)
Scope 1 – Direct emissions, which are emissions from sources that are owned and controlled by the reporting company. This includes areas such as, the combustion of natural gas for the purposes of heating and food preparation and the Fuel combustion from vehicles owned by the organisation.
Scope 2 – Indirect emissions that are a consequence of the activities of the reporting company, but occur at sources owned or controlled by another company. Scope 2 includes emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, or other sources of energy (e.g. chilled water). As an example, emissions from electricity consumption are not considered to be ‘direct’, as the emissions physically occur at power stations, however, this is considered a central aspect of an organisational carbon footprint, as electricity consumption is within the direct control of the organisation.
There are also other Indirect emissions, classified as Scope 3, which include those factors that have a broader environmental impact than from emissions. Example include; Business travel, Consumption of paper, Waste, Staff Commuting, Transportation etc
The data is often collated from a number of resources including the organisations utility bills, travel expenses, supplier invoices, logistic records and Government Carbon Emission Factors.
A Carbon Footprint is a relatively straight forward process and can identify opportunities for immediate savings.
With the support of Sam Hampton, the Business Resource Efficiency – Network Navigator for Oxfordshire Business Support (OBS), part of the OxLEP, we recently went throught the process to complete our Carbon Footprint Study.
We found the process really useful for identifying opportunities for energy efficiency and cost savings, whilst being surprised on the depth of areas the concluding report covers.
We were delighted to be on par with large organisations in our sector such as Ernst & Young (as measured by Scope 1&2 tCO2e per employee) and much lower than the High Street banks to whom we were compared against in summary.
Sam’s role is to support Low Carbon organisations across Oxfordshire and meet with organisations looking at low carbon options. We are happy to make an introduction to Sam if you feel that you would also benefit from a discussion.
Research shows that accountants are the most common source of support and advice for SMEs in the UK (Source: Open University (2013) Quarterly survey of small business in Great Britain. Vol 29(3))
As more and more SMEs seek to reduce their environmental impact, the experience of evaluating our own carbon footprint allows us to continually build upon our specialist knowledge in the sector of Natural Resources (inc Low Carbon).
With the awareness of the process and the considerations of how an organisation may reduce energy demand, we are able to advise and guide our clients wishing to become more resource efficient.
At CRM, having established a baseline Carbon Footprint, we are now commited to reducing our footprint further in the future, as we continue to be an environmentally conscious business.