What does the term “carbon footprint” mean?

Carbon Footprints as a Basis for Emission Reductions

Carbon footprints are the result of an emissions calculations, including for carbon dioxide. It gives a breakdown of what volumes of greenhouse gas emissions are released through an activity, process, or service. A carbon footprint can be specific, for example, for business or production processes in companies. Products can also have a carbon footprint, that provides a sum of the emissions that stem from the manufacture, use, recycling, and disposal of the respective product. A carbon footprint can also calculate many more activities and processes, such as hotel stays, business travel, an event, or the provision of specific services.

Normally, carbon footprints are calculated in what is known as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which includes five other greenhouse gases alongside carbon dioxide, which are named in the Kyoto Protocol. These gases are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), Fluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons and Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). The global warming potential of some of these are significantly higher than that of CO2 – in the case of Methane, by a factor of 21 and in the case of sulphur hexafluoride, by a factor 22,800.

Corporate Carbon Footprints

For companies that want to become committed to sustainability, carbon footprints are a vital instrument for evaluating their climate impact and are therefore a central component of life cycle assessments and sustainability reporting.

Carbon footprints show companies the areas that produce greenhouse gases and where the greatest potential lies for energy savings and efficiency measures. Consequently, carbon footprints are financially important, since target-oriented savings in energy and other resources can sustainably reduce a company’s operational costs.
As part of entrepreneurial strategies for climate and resource protection, carbon footprints also provide the basis for formulating well-founded reduction targets and are therefore an important element of sustainability management.

The External Impacts: Carbon Footprints and Stakeholder Relations

On a corporate level, carbon footprints are an important measure for the further development of commitment to sustainability. Furthermore, it also affects the external impact of companies and how they are perceived by different stakeholders. Customers are increasingly demanding environmentally friendly product and services, and these aspects are making a growing impact on buying decisions. Commitment to sustainability also plays an important role for other stakeholders; investors analyse climate risks in their portfolios, buyers make strict specifications regarding the ecological balance of the delivered goods and shareholders expect compliance with demanding environmental and climate protection standards. Therefore, when it comes to stakeholder relations, active handling of sustainability and transparent communication of the corresponding measures are indispensable for companies today.

More and more companies are starting to make their carbon footprints public and to publish the results as part of the reporting to CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) or another reporting initiative.

CO2-Carbon Footprinting with First Climate

First Climate has many years of experience when it comes to creating professional emissions balances and will be more than happy to assist you in calculating the carbon footprint of your company, products and processes within your supply chain. We calculate carbon footprints according to the international standard, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, as well as ISO-Norm 14064. Compliance with these guidelines not only ensures optimal comparability, but also the resilience and credibility of your carbon footprint.

This also means that we only use verified emission factors from scientifically sound sources such as the GEMIS database (GEMIS = Global Emissions Model of Integrated Systems) of the International Institute for Sustainability Analysis and Strategies to calculate our emissions balances.

Here, you can find more information about our carbon footprint calculation services.

The Framework: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3

Following the ISO-Norm 14064 and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the calculation of a carbon footprint considers emissions from three different areas, known as scopes. Scope 1 counts emissions from the operation and use of the company’s own fleet and the use of self-generated energy. Scope 2 covers the climate impacts of imported energy through electricity, heating and cooling. Under scope 3 fall the carbon emissions from business travel and other purchased services and products.

Depending on the different scopes, market instruments such as renewable energy certificates and emission reduction certificates from climate protection projects can be used to improve the carbon footprint and to underpin commitment to sustainability.



Vincent Erasmy

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