Calculating a carbon footprint for your business


You cannot manage what you cannot 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.


The carbon footprint process


There are a few different methodologies used to calculate the carbon footprint of a business. The two most popular are the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and ISO 14064. In both methodologies, one of the first things you need to do is set your organisational boundaries. The organisational boundaries essentially dictate what share of responsibility the organisation will take for emissions from certain areas of the business’s structure. This is particularly relevant to subsidiaries, parent companies, partially owned operations, and joint ventures.

The next crucial step in the business carbon footprint process is to identify which emission sources you are going to measure. In both the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and ISO 14064 methodologies, measuring scope 1 and 2 emissions is mandatory, while scope 3 is recommended but optional. You can learn more about the three scopes here.

scope 1, 2, 3 diagram

Once emission sources have been identified, the data for each must be collected. This data is referred to as activity data. For certain sources, collecting this data will be as simple as referencing invoices. However, some sources will be more complicated and may not be able to be measured in your first footprint, as they cannot be collected retroactively.

Calculating the business carbon footprint requires the data from your emission sources (activity data) and emission factors, which are also referred to as conversion factors. Emission factors are produced annually by organisations such as DEFRA and allow you to convert your activity data into tonnes of CO2e (tCO2e). CO2e refers to carbon dioxide and equivalents and is the standard unit of measurement for greenhouse gasses. This is because the different greenhouse gasses cause different levels of damage to our planet (these impacts are referred to as global warming potentials [GWP]) and therefore a standard unit of measurement is needed to equate their impacts.

Example carbon footprint report

When the calculations are complete and have been verified, the carbon footprint is best presented through a report. A business carbon footprint report will usually include graphics, tables, and diagrams depicting how the footprint is split between different aspects of the business’s operations. Some frameworks, such as our Environmental Business Operations Framework, provide benchmarking data in carbon footprint reports, which allows you to compare your footprint to those of other businesses in your industry.

Calculating a carbon footprint for your business is the most crucial step in your sustainability journey. Get started now with our Environmental Business Operations Framework.


written by sylvie



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