Footprint / GHG Inventory


What is considered “green” or not has always had, and will always have, different meanings depending on a particular point of view as well as the point in time. At the beginning of the green movement, issues such as forest conservation, protection of wildlife and recycling were the focal points. However this has evolved to encompass more comprehensive strategies which we now understand are required to enable meaningful change. These strategies include more holistic approaches to sustainability, biodiversity and climate change. One of the most interesting things in recent years has been the realisation that these strategies make good business sense and result in positive impacts. Examples of these positive impacts include better yields due to crop diversity, lower energy costs due to energy savings, and lower risks and costs associated with having a smaller carbon footprint.

A fundamental key to effectively managing your business risk and cost in an increasingly carbon-constrained world is an understanding of your organization’s carbon footprint, which covers all greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions generated by all human direct or indirect activities within the boundaries of direct (Scope 1) or indirect control (Scope 2) of your organisation. In order to calculate your carbon footprint, an analysis of your organization’s GHG inventory is essential.

What is a “Carbon Footprint”?

A “carbon footprint” represents a measure of the total amount of GHG emissions that are directly and indirectly caused by an activity, organisation or is accumulated over the lifecycle of a product (Product footprint). The carbon footprint captures activities of individuals, communities, companies, processes, or industry sectors and takes into account all direct and indirect GHG emissions. A carbon footprint can be broken down into two parts, the primary footprint and the secondary footprint.

  1. The primary footprint is the sum of direct GHG emissions and includes activities such as energy consumption and transportation.
  2. The secondary footprint is the sum of indirect GHG emissions from the entire lifecycle of products used by an individual or organization.

Although carbon footprints are reported in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions, they actually represent a measure of total GHG emissions. GHGs that are regulated include CO2, nitrous oxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride. CO2 is used as the reference gas against which the other GHGs are measured and the impact of all GHGs is measured in terms of equivalency to the impact of CO2 by way of global warming potentials. For example, methane is a far more potent GHG than CO2, so one metric tonne of methane is measured as 21 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e.

The accurate calculation of an organization’s carbon footprint is important in ensuring that GHG emissions are not under-counted or double-counted, particularly where emission reductions will be used in carbon trading and carbon off-setting transactions. A careful review of a organization’s methodology for calculating its carbon footprint will play a significant role in reducing the risks inherent in carbon trading and carbon off-setting, as well as ensure the credibility of carbon transactions.

GHG Inventories

A GHG inventory is a breakdown of emissions by activity for an organization, expressed in terms of CO2e. GHG inventories provide the basis for (i) identifying organizational, geographic, temporal and operational GHG inventory boundaries, (ii) identifying all direct and indirect emissions sources, and (iii) determining appropriate methods to calculate emissions through protocols.

The effective accounting and management of carbon requires unambiguous, verifiable specifications. This will ensure that a tonne of carbon can be consistently calculated. To that end, an internationally agreed upon standard for measuring, reporting and verifying GHG emissions was introduced in 2006 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and is referred to as ISO 14064.

ISO 14064 Standard

ISO 14064 consists of three standards, which provide guidance at the organizational and project levels, as well as for validation and verification:

  • ISO 14064-1 specifies the requirements for designing and developing GHG inventories.
  • ISO 14064-2 sets out requirements for quantifying, monitoring and reporting emission reductions and removal enhancements from GHG projects.
  • ISO 14064-3 sets out guidance for conducting GHG information validation and verification.

What GHG Accounting Can Do For You

GHG Accounting Services Ltd. (GHG Accounting) provides specialized GHG consulting and accounting services, including (i) emissions reporting and footprint inventory quantification, (ii) emissions reduction project planning, and (iii) quantification, documentation and carbon offset credit registration.

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