What is a ‘Carbon Footprint’? How Do You Calculate it?


Everyone’s heard of the term ‘Carbon Footprint’ (perhaps accompanied with a slight sense of guilt), but what does it actually mean? And why should you care?

Carbon footprint – the quantity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation, or community.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

An organisational carbon footprint is an essential first step on the journey towards net zero. It allows you to quantify the carbon impact of your operations, define future emission reduction targets, and offset your unavoidable emissions.

By pinpointing emission hotspots, it also helps you to identify risk and opportunity in your value chain where reduction efforts need to be focused. The findings will inform your sustainability strategy, as well as stakeholders and customers. However, if it’s just the start of your journey you’re probably wondering how to kick things off.

Where to start

Carbon footprints capture GHG emissions outputs on an annual basis. A plethora of data sets will need to be gathered from a host of sources, including energy, gas, water, travel, logistics, operations, and suppliers.

Accuracy is key, which is why all carbon footprints completed by Alfa Energy are calculated in accordance with internationally recognised standards such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the ISO 14064. Clients can also opt conduct a basic footprint analysis using a carbon calculator spreadsheet.

First off, you will need to set the boundaries of your footprint. Ideally, measurements should include all Scope 1 direct and Scope 2 indirect emissions from your own operations, as well as all material Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions from activities outside an organisation’s own operations). Scope 3 emissions may account for a significant proportion of a company’s carbon footprint – up to 90%.

They include emissions arising from the use of sold products, but also upstream activities including raw material and agricultural production. That’s why some companies first choose to focus on staff travel and commuting, and waste, and tackle the rest later.

We help you select a methodology for your footprint that is most relevant for your organisation and your ambitions. This includes selecting the appropriate emission factor for each emission source to calculate the tonnes of CO2 emitted (tCO2e). It’s important to ensure your data is for a consistent period. You’ll also need to think about how to structure your data, so it can be easily compared to future activity. Ultimately, each company has differing material emission sources. To help with the data collection, we provide you with a questionnaire, enabling you to collect and submit all relevant data.

Once the data analysis is done, out pops a comprehensive emissions report, downloadable from our VISION portal. We can also benchmark your company against others in your industry.

In Summary

Calculating your ‘carbon footprint’ allows your business to identify the best strategic approach to reducing emissions and setting robust targets, beginning you on your journey towards net-zero. It is an essential building block in the formation of any sustainability strategy; as such, it must be accurate and appropriate.

Working with Alfa Energy to calculate your carbon footprint, you can expect:

  • An experienced sustainability management consultant
  • Support in data collection process
  • Detailed footprint calculation report
  • Recommendations on next steps for your carbon management or net zero journey
  • An energy reduction strategy
  • Carbon offset recommendations to help you become carbon neutral

To find out more about our carbon reporting and wider sustainability solutions, please get in touch.

Alfa Energy Group

Alfa Energy Group, an Edison Energy company, is an international energy, sustainability and technology consultant partner with 250 employees over 3 international locations. For over 25 years, Alfa has been servicing its clients’ needs through energy and water management, sustainability, and compliance consulting, and an intuitive ecosystem of user-driven energy, water, and carbon management software platforms. With coveted awards, an international industry-wide recognition, and clever simple solutions, today Alfa is partnering with clients to establish and deliver pivotal net zero strategies. Through smart energy management, the expertise and diligence of its people, transparent processes, and data management, Alfa continues to lead through its recognised gold standard of service delivery.