What is it?
According to Mike Berners-Lee (carbon counting guru) a carbon footprint is:
“the sum total of all the greenhouse gas emissions that had to take place in order for a product to be produced or for an activity to take place1.”
In total, there are 6 greenhouse gases your product, service or organisation could be emitting and these are converted into carbon dioxide equivalent CO2e2 to make comparison possible.
Carbon footprinting is an attempt to work these out and add them up to understand your company’s “footprint” on the earth. It’s a key step in any sustainability journey.
There are different types of carbon footprint (A guide: Carbon footprinting for businesses)
- The organisational footprint (or scopes 1 and 2) looks at the emissions generated by activities within your organisation like the electricity to power the office, any company vehicles etc.
- The supply chain footprint (or scope 3) includes the supply chain and a product footprint looks across the entire value chain up to and including end disposal of product.
Is carbon footprinting for me?
A small to medium sized business might want to measure and/or reduce their footprint to meet:
- Industry or client expectations.
- …or just because it’s the right thing to do.
It often has the happy effect of reducing costs too.
Calculating a carbon footprint is complex and resource intensive. All emissions, both direct (on-site, internal) and indirect (off-site, external) are taken into account. This is a really detailed process.
Estimates are inevitable but the tools are getting better and more user friendly and in the words of Berners-Lee:
“usually its good enough to have a broad idea”
Where do I start?
Pick your battles, have a sense of perspective, be honest and talk about it.
A broad idea of different carbon costs lets you focus on where you can have the biggest impact. There’s little point painstakingly reducing your digital footprint while flying all over the place.
How do I start?
A broad idea can be achieved with some targeted professional development such as Carbon Literacy Training, particularly when coupled with a set of in-house workshops to embed the training and make a start on your carbon reduction plan.
If you want, or need, to go further then it’s time to look at the different tools available.
There’s an assumption here that, as an SME, there is little appetite to start digging through the GHG protocol yourself.
Different tools are good for different industries, complexity and available resource.
Certified B Corp, Compare your Footprint, offers tried and tested high quality carbon footprint software, free to use for companies with a turnover less than £300k.
No matter the route you take, it is important that you, honestly, talk about your approach internally and externally.
Celebrate your wins but be honest about the challenges and carefully balance reduction pledge ambition with capability and capacity.
For more information please contact Kirsty Lewin, one of our Business Advisors. Her knowledge, experience and ideas can help your company thrive in a wellbeing economy, and find joy in a sustainable future.