Calculating Carbon Footprints

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8 steps that businesses can use to calculate their carbon footprint

Calculating a business’s carbon footprint involves assessing and quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its activities.

The specific methodology can vary depending on the industry and the level of detail desired, but here are the general steps typically involved in calculating a business’s carbon footprint.


Calculating carbon footprints steps

1. Scope definition

Determine the scope of the carbon footprint assessment. There are three commonly recognized scopes:

    • Scope 1: Direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the business, such as onsite fuel combustion and company-owned vehicles.
    • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat, or steam.
    • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions that occur along the value chain, including activities like business travel, transportation of goods, and outsourced activities.

2.Data collection 

Gather relevant data on energy consumption, fuel usage, and other activities across the business. This may include utility bills, fuel receipts, transportation records, and other operational data.

3.Emission factors

Determine emission factors specific to the business’s activities. Emission factors provide the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of activity or energy use. They can be obtained from various sources such as government agencies, industry associations, or established databases.



Multiply the activity data (e.g., energy use, fuel consumption) by the corresponding emission factors to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each activity. Perform calculations separately for each scope (Scope 1, 2, and 3) to account for different emission sources.



Convert the emissions from each greenhouse gas (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) into a common unit, typically carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This step involves applying global warming potentials (GWPs) that express the relative impact of each gas compared to carbon dioxide.



Sum up the emissions from all relevant activities within each scope to obtain a total carbon footprint for the business. This total can be expressed in absolute emissions (metric tons of CO2e) or normalised by a suitable metric, such as revenue or production output, to provide intensity measures.



It is advisable to have the carbon footprint assessment verified by an independent third party to ensure accuracy and credibility.



Communicate the results of the carbon footprint assessment in a transparent and standardised manner. This may involve preparing a comprehensive report, disclosing the findings in sustainability reports, or sharing the information with relevant stakeholders.


It’s important to note that calculating a carbon footprint is a complex task, and businesses may seek the assistance of sustainability consultants or specialised software tools to streamline the process and ensure accuracy.


Furthermore, carbon footprint assessments can be expanded to include other environmental impacts beyond greenhouse gas emissions, such as water usage or waste generation, depending on the organisation’s goals and priorities.


To view how businesses calculate their carbon footprint, try VAI.


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