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“We are concerned about our carbon footprint, therefore, we have calculated our carbon footprint and are happy that the impact we are having as a business is low.”

This is something we hear on a daily basis. However, think about this; your carbon footprint has been calculated using the data you have internally. The sentence above nearly always applies to what the Green House Gas Protocol term as scope 1 and 2 emissions. These are calculated from the data you have within the business, for emissions that are under your control and don’t get me wrong it’s a great start, at least you have done something! BUT scope 3 emissions are the next step, if you really want to know what your carbon footprint is you have to include these or in all honesty, your just kidding yourself and kicking the can down the road. Microsoft recently published their carbon footprint, this report included all three scopes as defined by the GHG Protocol and to their surprise and shock, 65% of their carbon emissions sat in their scope 3 emissions. This is not an isolated case, in my experience, all the carbon footprints that I have done have shown emissions in scope 3 range from 60% to a massive 80%.


The GHG Protocol splits scope 3 into 15 categories, 8 upstream categories and 7 downstream categories. Upstream relates to the supply chain into your organisation and downstream relates to the supply chain out of your organisation.

The categories are as follows:
1. Purchased Goods and Services
2. Capital Goods
3. Fuel, Energy and Related Services
4. Transport & Distribution (Upstream)
5. Waste Generated from Operations
6. Business Travel
7. Employee Commuting and Home Working
8. Leased Assets (Upstream)
9. Transport and Distribution (Downstream)
10. Processing of Sold Products
11. Use of Sold Products
12. End of Life Treatment
13. Leased Assets (Downstream)
14. Franchises
15. Investments

These 15 categories have a lot of in-depth meaning as to what should actually be included and not all businesses will have emissions in all 15 categories, but without mapping your value chain how do you know? A carbon footprint is a lot more than just putting numbers into a spread sheet or an online calculator. Business is changing, evolving is probably the best way to describe it, carbon emissions are slowly becoming a major part of business process, just like finance, sales or operations, as of this year if your involved in Government tenders over 5 million in value, without a  carbon footprint and reduction plan your tender will not be considered. This is due to the Governments creation of PPN0621. Even local authorities are asking for an organisation’s carbon plans in  their small tenders and this is only going to become more normal. But it’s not just the public sector that are getting involved with this, major retailers such as Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, just to name a few are all giving their supply chains deadlines to get involved in carbon reduction. The private sector is catching on and fast.

If you are thinking about climate change, reading all the press articles, you may have even followed COP26 last year, now is the time to make a start. Not just on the easy items, your scope 1 and 2,  but do it properly and get into those scope 3 categories, this gives you a meaningful and credible baseline to start the journey to Net Zero, none of us are there yet as the actual definition of Net  Zero means that with current technology, Net Zero is not actually possible, and that’s why 2050 is the UK’s target. The next 28 years will see technology move at pace and it is believed that the technology will become available in time to enable us to keep global warming in line with the Paris agreement and under the magic 1.5 degree increase. When you have completed your footprint and produced a meaningful, achievable carbon reduction plan, set yourself a science-based target so that your organisation can achieve Net Zero by 2050 or before if possible, you will see some amazing things happen, costs will reduce; staff turnover will reduce; top quality people will be attracted to your organisation and your marketing department will really have something to shout  about. More importantly, you will be part of the early adopter community, driving change, creating awareness through your customers and your supply chain and being part of the climate change solution. Without accounting for your scope 3 emissions and committing to a meaningful carbon footprint, change will just not happen. Look at the GHG Protocol’s definition of carbon management:

1. Relevance: Include all relevant emissions.
2. Completeness: Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions need to be accounted for.
3. Consistency: Set KPI’s achieve them and keep doing it.
4. Transparency: Publish it with confidence get your emissions out there and be open.
5. Accuracy: Don’t get it wrong !! Follow a process like PAS2060.

Sound difficult? It really isn’t, yes you will need to devote some time and resources to it, but you do that for sales, operations, finance, and marketing so why not carbon?