How companies calculate their greenhouse gas emissions #449


More and more companies are calculating their carbon footprint, but depending on the method and scope chosen, the result in tons of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the resulting reduction targets may vary.

Given the scale of the task of reducing emissions and the risks of “greenwashing” by companies, experts stress the importance of knowing the steps involved in the calculation.

Preliminary steps

The calculation of an emissions report can be a legal or commercial obligation, or a voluntary process. While waiting for a universal standard to be developed, there are three main methodologies: the GHG Protocol (United States), the Bilan Carbone® (France) and the ISO 14067 standard (international).

They classify emissions by item: those directly linked to the company’s activities (on-site combustion, vehicle fleet, etc. – Scope 1 according to the GHG Protocol) and to the production of the energy it consumes (electricity, heat/cold – Scope 2). And those indirectly linked to production, upstream (purchase of goods and services, transport, fixed assets, business travel, investments) and downstream (waste, use and end of life of products, franchises, etc.): scope 3.
The first step is to study the sectoral guides to identify the main emission items and decide whether to call on the services of a research firm,” Fanny Fleuriot, carbon accounting coordinator at the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), told AFP. Carbon accounting firms are springing up like mushrooms because of the high demand. The cost can range from a few hundred euros for an SME to several hundred thousand euros.

“We start with a scoping meeting to understand the company’s business model,” explains Amélie Klein, carbon quantification expert at EcoAct. Companies define the year that will be used as the basis for their reduction targets – often the year of their first assessment – and the scope. The legal obligations only concern scopes 1 and 2, but for Fanny Fleuriot, “limiting oneself to them means missing out on 70% of one’s impact,” as scope 3 often represents the majority of emissions.

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