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Carbon Footprint

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Carbon Footprint

How can I reduce the carbon footprint of my business?

What is a carbon footprint?

I’m going to let you in on a secret, “Carbon Footprint”, is a bit of a misnomer. We talk about Carbon Footprint to keep it simple.  Actually, we are normally talking about the footprint of all the greenhouse gases that we produce. That’s all the gases we produce that add to global warming, or at least the 7 key gases or groups of gases identified in the Kyoto protocol which are generally produced through burning fossil fuels and in various industrial and agricultural processes:

Carbon Dioxide


Nitrous Oxide



Sulphur hexafluoride

Nitrogen trifluoride

You can calculate or measure a Carbon Footprint of:

A company or organisation

A person or family

A product or service or even an event

In principle it’s simply about working out the total amount of all 7 greenhouse gases that the organisation, product or event produces in a given amount of time and then working out how much Carbon Dioxide would create the same warming effect. Then by adding all these up we come up with a single number -called the Carbon Footprint – measured in Carbon Dioxide Equivalents (or CO2e). That allows us to understand the total effect that organisation, product or event has on global warming.

What makes up my carbon footprint?

How do we recognise all of the things we do that release greenhouse gases, and that contribute towards it? 

The most widely used method for calculating the footprint of an organisation goes by the snappy name of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard. This classifies activities that release greenhouse gases into 3 categories called “scopes”. The first of these is all the activities that directly release gases in the facilities and vehicles owned by you, such as:

Burning fossil fuels for heating and

Industrial or agricultural processes that directly release gases

These are called Scope 1 activities.

The second category is the activities that cause greenhouse gases to be released somewhere else but that are directly attributable to your actions, such as:

The electricity you buy that is generate using fossil fuels

Or heat or steam that you may buy in

These are called Scope 2 activities.


The third category is all the activities in your supply chain and the things you do to deliver value to your customers, things like:

The goods and services that you buy or lease

The transportation of those goods to and from your premises

Business travel and hotel stays

The waste generated in your processes and at the end of life of the products you sell

The energy used by the products that you sell or lease to others

The franchises and investments that you control

Maybe even the journeys that your employees and customers make to go to and from your premises

These are called Scope 3 activities. You don’t have direct control over the emission created by these, because their created by facilities and vehicles that are not owned by you, but they are your responsibility because those emissions are created by the activities you do and the choice of materials and suppliers that you make.

So, they are part of your footprint too. It’s easy to brush off and ignore these so called scope 3 activities, because they can be difficult to measure precisely, you may have to estimate them, and you can convince yourself that they are some else’s responsibility. But, as a responsible business citizens we would encourage you to include all of these things in the calculation of your carbon footprint, to do the best you can to understand the total impact of your business on the climate.

  • Region: Europe
  • Country: United Kingdom
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