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Why Your Organization Should Measure Its Carbon Footprint

Updated: Jan 23

Simply put – you can’t manage what you don’t measure! To slow down climate change and to increase your competitive advantage, organizations need to reduce their carbon footprint (otherwise known as their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions).

Why measure GHG emissions?

In 2015, Canada signed the Paris Agreement and committed to holding global average temperature rise to less than 2 oC, and ideally to less then 1.5oC, above pre-industrial temperatures. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 oC emphasized that the global average temperature rise needed to be held to less than 1.5 oC to minimize the chance of passing tipping points that could lead to catastrophic global warming. In keeping with this goal, the IPCC indicated that GHG emissions needed to be reduced by at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. In June 2021, under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, Canada committed to reducing our national emissions by 40-45% by 2030 and to be net zero by 2050.

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement, thousands of large companies have made net zero commitments and are disclosing their GHG emissions and climate risks, often at the requests of their investors. Smaller companies are increasingly coming under pressure to measure and reduce their carbon footprints as larger companies look to reduce their value chain emissions. Furthermore, as mentioned in the 2022 federal budget, major Canadian banks will soon be mandated to disclose their GHG emissions and climate risk, including those of their clients seeking loans. Companies that manage their carbon emissions responsibly can enhance their brand value and make themselves more attractive to potential lenders, investors, customers, and employees and capture cost savings through reduced energy use. So, companies of all sizes need to consider their GHG emissions.

What do we measure?

When we measure greenhouse gases, we typically include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions as material to the organization. The emissions are expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by multiplying the emissions of each of the six greenhouse gases by its global warming potential.

GHG emissions are divided into three categories or scopes – Scope 1, 2, and 3.

Scope 1 emissions refer to direct GHG emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization. Examples include emissions from natural gas used for space or water heating, refrigerant loss, process-generated emissions, and transportation emissions from vehicles owned by the company.

Scope 2 emissions refer to indirect GHG emissions associated with any purchases of electricity or steam.

Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain. Examples include business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal, and transportation and distribution of raw and finished materials to name a few.

How do we measure?

To measure GHG emissions, we follow the widely used Greenhouse Gas Protocol and account for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and Scope 3 emissions as material to the organization. The general process involves identifying the organizational and operational boundaries and emissions sources of the organization, collecting activity data for the various sources (e.g., natural gas usage and electricity usage via utility bills) and calculating the carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is calculated by multiplying the activity data by the appropriate emission factor by the global warming potential to express the carbon footprint in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

How Achieve Sustainability Can Help

Achieve Sustainability can help you determine your baseline carbon footprint. We can also assist you to set emission reduction targets and identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce your emissions over time, which frequently result in cost savings. In addition, we can help and advise with reporting your footprint internally or externally as desired. Reach out today at for a complementary consultation.

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