Carbon Footprint: All you need to know
The carbon footprint is an environmental indicator that measures the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by an organization, company or individual. The term “carbon footprint” refers specifically to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when energy is consumed, but it is also used to refer to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
As awareness of the effects of climate change on our planet has grown, so has concern about our carbon footprint. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind how our daily activities affect the environment and how we can reduce it.
What is the Carbon Footprint?
The carbon footprint is a tool for quantifying and understanding the impact of our daily activities on climate change. The carbon footprint is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which is the amount of carbon dioxide needed to produce the same global warming effect as other greenhouse gases.
The most common greenhouse gases measured in carbon footprints are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), among others. These gases are emitted through various activities, such as energy production, transport, agriculture and industry.
Types of Carbon Footprint measurement in companies
There are several types of carbon footprint measurement in companies, which can vary depending on the scope and complexity of the measurement. Some of the most common types are:
- Scope 1 Carbon Footprint: refers to a company’s direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as the burning of fossil fuels in its facilities, the use of refrigerant gases and the emission of GHGs in production processes.
- Scope 2 Carbon Footprint: refers to the indirect GHG emissions associated with the production of energy that a company consumes, such as electricity purchased from the grid or thermal power generation.
- Scope 3 Carbon Footprint: refers to the indirect GHG emissions generated throughout a company’s supply chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the final use and disposal of the product by the end consumer.
- Product Carbon Footprint: refers to the GHG emissions associated with the production and use of a specific product, from the extraction of raw materials to its final disposal. This measurement is useful for assessing the environmental efficiency of a company’s products.
- Organizational Carbon Footprint: refers to the measurement of all GHG emissions of a company, including scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
Each type of measurement has its own methodology and complexity, and can be useful for different purposes. A company looking to reduce its environmental impact should consider measuring all of these types in order to identify key emission reduction areas.
What is the Carbon Footprint registry?
Carbon Footprint registration is a process by which a company or organisation keeps an up-to-date record of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including measuring, monitoring and reporting the results. This registry allows the company or organisation to identify its sources of GHG emissions and set targets to reduce them.
It is generally carried out in accordance with internationally recognised standards and methodologies, such as ISO 14064 or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol of the GHG Protocol. These standards provide guidance for the measurement, monitoring and reporting of GHG emissions, and ensure that information is consistent, reliable and comparable.
Carbon Footprint registration can also be an important step towards environmental stewardship and corporate social responsibility. By tracking its GHG emissions and setting reduction targets, a company can improve its energy efficiency and profitability, reduce its environmental impact, and demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and climate change.
It is aimed at promoting the sustainable management of companies, encouraging them to reduce their environmental impact and adopt more responsible and respectful business practices with the environment.
In some countries, such as Spain, companies of a certain size are required to register their carbon footprint in an official registry in order to carry out certain activities, such as public tenders. In addition, the carbon footprint registry can be a valuable tool for companies to measure their environmental performance and improve their practices.
What types are there?
There are different types of Carbon Footprint records, which can be classified in various ways depending on the focus and purpose of the record. Here are some of the more common types:
Record of the Corporate Carbon Footprint: focuses on the measurement and management of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a company, considering all its operations and activities.
Product Carbon Footprint Registry: focuses on the measurement and management of GHG emissions associated with the production, distribution and use of a specific product.
Registration of the Carbon Footprint of Events: focuses on the measurement and management of GHG emissions associated with specific events, such as conferences, festivals, concerts, among others.
Municipal Carbon Footprint Registry: focuses on the measurement and management of GHG emissions of a city or municipality, considering all its activities and services, such as transportation, energy , waste management, among others.
Supply Chain Carbon Footprint Registry: focuses on measuring and managing GHG emissions associated with supply chain activities, including raw materials extraction raw materials, production, transportation and final disposal of the product.
Voluntary Carbon Footprint Registration: refers to the measurement and management of GHG emissions of a company or organization on a voluntary basis, not necessarily under legal or regulatory mandate.
Who should register?
Registration in a Carbon Footprint registry is not always mandatory, as it depends on the country and jurisdiction in which the company or organization is located, as well as the applicable regulations and standards. However, more and more companies and organizations are opting to voluntarily enroll in a Carbon Footprint registry, as part of their efforts to manage their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve their environmental performance.
Globally, there are several Carbon Footprint registration programs and standards that companies can consider signing up for, including:
Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Program : This is an international initiative that provides a reporting system for GHG emissions and climate-related risks for companies and cities.
ISO 14064 Standard: It is an international standard that establishes the principles and requirements for the measurement, monitoring and management of GHG emissions.
GHG Protocol Greenhouse Gas Protocol: It is a widely used methodology for measuring and reporting GHG emissions, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Council World Business for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
European Union Carbon Footprint Registry (EU ETS): It is a mandatory emissions trading system for companies that operate in the European Union and have GHG emissions that exceed a certain threshold.
In summary, although registration in a Carbon Footprint registry is not always mandatory, many companies and organizations are choosing to do so voluntarily to improve their environmental management and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. Companies and organizations can consider different Carbon Footprint recording programs and standards according to their needs and objectives.
Which are the requirements?
The requirements to carry out the carbon footprint registration vary according to the country or region where it is carried out. However, some requirements that are usually requested are listed below:
Measurement of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: The company or organization must measure its GHG emissions using a methodology recognized by the program or standard to which it enrolls. For example, the ISO 14064 standard requires companies to measure and report their GHG emissions from all relevant sources, including energy, transport and production.
GHG emissions reporting: The company or organization must present a detailed report of its GHG emissions, using a specific format and structure that is recognized by the program or standard in the to sign up
Management of GHG emissions: The company or organization must demonstrate that it has a GHG emissions management plan and that it is implementing measures to reduce them. For example, ISO 14064 requires companies to set emission reduction targets and develop plans to achieve them.
External verification: In some programs or standards, companies or organizations are required to obtain external verification of their GHG emissions and Carbon Footprint report from an independent third party . This helps ensure that the data and the report are accurate and reliable.
Emissions Reduction Commitment: Companies must also demonstrate a commitment to continuously reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and track the actions they are taking to reduce them.
It is important to note that requirements may vary and it is advisable to check the specific requirements of the country or region where the carbon footprint registration is performed.
How does a company obtain a Carbon Footprint Certificate?
In Spain, the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge is in charge of managing registration and obtaining the Carbon Footprint Certificate. The process to obtain the certificate involves the following steps:
- Carry out the measurement of the Carbon Footprint: The company must measure its greenhouse gas emissions following the criteria established by the Ministry.
- Verify the measurement: The measurement of the Carbon Footprint must be verified by an accredited entity that issues a verification report.
- Register in the National Carbon Footprint Registry: The company must register in the National Carbon Footprint Registry, which is a public registry that includes all companies that have measured their Carbon Footprint.
- Request the certificate: Once the company has carried out the measurement, has verified the measurement and has registered in the registry, it can request the Carbon Footprint Certificate from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge .
It is important to highlight that, in Spain, obtaining the certificate is not mandatory, but it can be an added value for the company, since it shows its commitment to the environment and the fight against climate change. In addition, some companies may require their suppliers to obtain the Carbon Footprint certificate as part of their sustainability policies.
Differences between Carbon Footprint and Ecological Footprint?
The Carbon Footprint and the Ecological Footprint are two different measures used to assess the environmental impact of a company, organization or individual, but they focus on different aspects of environmental impact.
The Carbon Footprint specifically measures the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a human activity, such as the production of goods or services, energy use, transportation, and other processes. The Carbon Footprint is expressed in tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) and is used to assess the contribution of an activity or company to climate change.
On the other hand, the Ecological Footprint is a broader measure that considers multiple environmental factors, such as energy consumed, water used, land occupied, and natural resources consumed by human activity. . The Ecological Footprint also takes into account the regeneration capacity of ecosystems , assessing whether an activity or company is consuming resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate.
While the Carbon Footprint focuses primarily on GHG emissions and their impact on climate change, the Ecological Footprint takes into account a broader range of environmental impacts and is a more comprehensive measure of impact. total environmental impact of an activity or company.
In short, the Carbon Footprint measures greenhouse gas emissions, while the Ecological Footprint measures a broader range of environmental impacts, including the consumption of natural resources and the regenerative capacity of ecosystems.
How to calculate the Carbon Footprint?
Calculating the Carbon Footprint involves measuring the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from a specific activity, such as the production of goods or services, energy use, transport, among others. The calculation may vary depending on the specific activity and methodologies used, but the following are the general steps to calculate the Carbon Footprint:
- Define the scope: The scope of the Carbon Footprint calculation must be defined, i.e. what GHG emissions will be measured. This can include direct emissions (e.g. from the combustion of fossil fuels) and indirect emissions (e.g. from the production of electricity used in an activity).
- Collect data: Data relevant to the GHG emissions defined in the scope must be collected. This may include energy consumption data, fuel consumption data, transport data, among others. This data can be provided by utility bills, accounting records, research studies and other sources.
- Calculating GHG emissions: With the data collected, the amount of GHG emissions resulting from the activity can be calculated. For this, emission factors are used to convert consumption data into GHG emissions. Emission factors can be provided by government agencies, industry databases, or by conducting direct measurements.
- Convert to CO2 equivalents: To compare different types of GHG emissions, they can be converted to CO2 equivalents. For example, conversion factors can be used that establish how much methane or nitrous oxide emissions have the same impact on climate change as one tonne of CO2.
- Evaluate the result: Once the GHG emissions have been calculated and converted to CO2 equivalents, the result can be evaluated and the necessary measures to reduce the Carbon Footprint can be determined.
It is important to note that the calculation can be complex and requires specialist knowledge. It is advisable to seek expert advice or use online tools that simplify the process. In addition, there are several standards and protocols available to guide the calculation of the Carbon Footprint, including the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and ISO 14064.