Carbon calculators are estimating the impact caused by organizations on the atmosphere, simplifying the adoption of mitigation measures.
Everyone is responsible for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere, whether an individual or a company. Routine activities consume energy, which in most cases results in the generation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), as well as our transportation, often fueled by fossil fuels. In the case of companies, it is possible to calculate the volume of carbon emissions.
The concept of carbon footprint is a methodology developed for companies, associations, and individuals to understand the impact of their activities on the atmosphere. In practice, it represents the total volume of GHGs generated by organizational activities. Of course, the industry sector and specific activities influence this.
For example, a technology services company has a lower impact related to an oil or transportation company. However, that doesn’t mean that a service-focused company does not contribute to atmospheric damage, through energy consumption, printing, travel for client meetings, and other factors.
The Impact of carbon footprints
Uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases has one of its effects as climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2021, climate change is a significant factor in the global poverty increase. Especially in the most vulnerable regions, such as coastal, arid, and semi-arid areas, as well as communities dependent on natural resources.
The report highlights that climate change is exacerbating existing inequalities, expanding the vulnerability of already marginalized populations, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
How to calculate the GHG emissions of my company
Before learning how to calculate, the company must understand what needs to be estimated. Carbon calculators, such as the GHG Protocol, generally use generic methods to project the overall operation. And they need to be generic since they serve multiple sectors and businesses.
To facilitate mapping and management, the GHG Protocol establishes three scopes of emissions:
Scope 1: These are the direct emissions of GHGs resulting from the organization’s activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in its facilities, emissions from production processes, and organization-owned vehicles, among others.
Scope 2: That relates to the indirect emissions of GHGs associated with the organization’s electricity consumption. They generate in the production of electricity consumed by the organization, typically outside its facilities.
Scope 3: These are the indirect emissions of GHGs associated with the organization’s activities but occur outside its boundaries, in other companies, and in the supply chain. They include, for example, the production of raw materials, transportation of products and services, use and disposal of products, and others.
Sounds complicated? Let’s take the first steps more simply. Evaluate the materiality, and what is most important for your business and other stakeholders. Start calculating from that point.
For example, in the case of a transportation company: the materiality lies in cargo transportation. How about focusing on offsetting the monthly diesel consumption? To convert diesel consumption into carbon, you need to know the carbon content of the diesel, which can vary depending on the fuel quality. In general, the carbon content of diesel ranges from 85% to 87%.
The formula to convert diesel consumption into carbon is as follows:
Carbon = Diesel Consumption x Carbon Content
For example, if a truck consumes 100 liters of diesel with a carbon content of 86%, the amount of emitted carbon would be:
Carbon = 100 liters x 0.86 (carbon content of diesel)
Carbon = 86 kg
That means burning 100 liters of diesel emits approximately 86 kg of carbon into the atmosphere.
Now that I have the inventory, how can I offset it?
Tree planting is still the most efficient and economically viable way to offset GHG emissions. However, it’s not enough to plant trees; proper management, concern for the surrounding ecosystem, and the life cycle are necessary to ensure maximum carbon sequestration.
To do so, select initiatives and projects specialized in this area, which can demonstrate their experience and transparently showcase their work and results.