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Carbon Footprinting

Undertaking an assessment of an organisation’s carbon footprint can be a simple or complex task, depending on the level of detail adopted. Virtually all initial discussions hinge on the definition of what exactly is a carbon footprint and this inevitably leads on to a list of items that are included and ones that are excluded.

For example, how does one deal with employee business travel or even commuting to work? In addition, how far down the supply chain should one go? So, it is clear that an assessment must follow a standard practice or come with a list of qualifications. In addition, the procedure followed must be structured, auditable and achievable.

For most organisations, calculating a ‘basic’ footprint is fairly easy. This is likely to cover direct emissions only, such as on-site fuel and electricity usage and use of transport which is owned by the organisation. It will exclude indirect emissions, such as emissions from waste or the supply chain. A ‘full’ carbon footprint, involving indirect emissions, is obviously more complex. For example, the supply chain emissions analysis of a simple product would include the emissions resulting from raw materials, product manufacturing, sales, distribution, storage, its eventual disposal and possible recycling. Carbon Footprinting

Irrespective of the choices made, a structured approach is required and would include:

  • A definition of the methodology used
  • A clear description of the scope of the assessment
  • The collection of emissions data
  • The calculation of the footprint.
  • The possible verification of results.
  • The possible disclosure of the footprint

Some organisations define their own method for the calculation but it is more acceptable to use a standard methodology such as the ones outlined in the GHG Protocol or ISO 14064. These methodologies provide detailed guidance on corporate emissions reporting.

Once a footprint has been calculated, it is likely that steps need to be taken to manage it. This may include a strategy to minimise this and to offset what's left to achieve carbon neutrality.

It is likely that future legislation will require that every product or service will eventually have its carbon footprint clearly labelled.


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