There are a few different reasons that your company may be talking about assessing its carbon footprint, and one is not better than another. Your company may see the strategic benefit of lowering energy costs and look to carbon footprinting as a stepping stone towards this goal. Or, you may be tasked with an environmental stewardship role with a company that wants to act as a leader in environmental protection and progress.
When you have a clear picture of your organization’s carbon footprint, you may be able to better assess what energy conservation and management steps you should prioritize for the future.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
No matter what the reason you want to find out what your carbon footprint looks like, you need to start with an understanding of what a carbon footprint is. Around 65% of greenhouse gas emissions are CO2, which is why the carbon footprint is one of the most common yardsticks used to measure a company’s contribution to pollution.
A carbon footprint is the measurement of the total amount of all greenhouse gases used to support the activities of an individual or business. A carbon footprint measurement includes all the energy used at your offices, warehouses, and storefronts as well as the energy used for shipments, employee travel (including commuting), waste disposal, and other factors depending on the type of business.
Typically, carbon footprints are measured in tons of CO2 over the span of a year.
Carbon footprints can be measured for individuals, households, businesses or virtually any other organization. If energy is required at any level of existence, then a carbon footprint exists and can be assessed for that organization.
The top reason to measure your organization’s carbon footprint is so you can reduce it through energy management, making your business run more efficiently.
Determining Your Company’s Carbon Footprint
There are a few different ways to determine what your company’s carbon footprint looks like, the right route will depend largely on the size of your company, your available energy management budget, and your industry. Keep in mind that different types of assessment utilize different calculation standards. The most common standard is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (also known as the GHG Protocol), but your industry might have separate guidelines.
A number of sites offer free carbon footprint calculators which can be useful if you are a smaller business with limited resources. These types of calculators vary in their level of detail and therefor in their usefulness, but if you are looking for a baseline carbon use level, perhaps to get a bigger budget commitment, then these types of tools can be useful.
Paid Carbon Footprint Assessment
Certain energy consultants can run a custom carbon footprint assessment for your company. The cost of these types of assessments can vary wildly depending on the consultant’s level of expertise, the size of your company, and the level of detail you require.
Some industries have specific guidelines that apply to your carbon use. For example, the National Retail Federation has its own protocol for measuring energy use and moving towards improved efficiency.
Carbon Footprint vs. Commercial Energy Audit
A carbon footprint assessment can give a reasonable overview of energy use. However, this type of assessment does not include recommendations or concrete actions that will help you to improve your company’s energy use. That is left up to you and potentially an energy consultant that you hire
A commercial energy audit is not the same as a carbon footprint assessment. Rather than examine all energy use in your operations, these types of audits focus in on your facility and can get extremely detailed in determining where you are expending energy. Like a carbon footprint assessment, a commercial energy audit does not specifically include guidance towards the changes you should make for a more energy efficient and strategically positioned facility.
While having a clear picture of your organization’s carbon footprint can be a useful step towards comprehensive energy management, ultimately is a tiny sliver of what you need to do to truly find clarity and strategic advantage with energy management.