Green businesses and the need to demonstrate more environmental working practices are an increasing requirement from stakeholders, investors and customers. Coupled with rising energy costs and government legislation aimed at migrating Irish businesses to a net-zero economy, it can pay to know how much energy your organisation uses and its carbon footprint.
Using a carbon footprint calculator is the first step for many businesses to combat climate change.
What is a carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint measures the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released due to your organisation’s activities.
To determine your carbon footprint involves measuring different types of emissions, known as ‘scopes’.
The GHG Protocol has defined three scopes of emissions. The scopes correlate to who is responsible for the emissions and how much control they have in changing those emissions.
Scope 1 – covers emissions from sources that an organisation owns or controls directly, such as the amount of purchased energy and emissions from company vehicles.
Scope 2 – are emissions that an organisation causes indirectly when the energy it purchases and uses is produced.
Scope 3 – relates to the indirect emissions that an organisation is responsible for in its value chain. For example, emissions from customers using your products or from your organisation purchasing materials from suppliers.
Typically, Scope 3 accounts for the majority of a business’s emissions and is the trickiest when calculating your carbon footprint activity.
Read our guide to five ways to build a sustainable supply chain.
Carbon footprint calculators – what are the benefits of calculating your carbon footprint?
Calculating your carbon footprint activity is one of the first steps towards reducing your emissions.
It is hard to introduce and track your efforts to reduce carbon emissions without knowing your carbon footprint.
Calculating your carbon footprint is not only good for the environment, but it can also benefit your business.
Some of the benefits include:
- Reduced costs – by identifying business activities that use lots of energy, you can make changes and reduce energy costs.
- Boosts reputation – being aware of the environment can increase your reputation, drawing positive attention from customers and employees.
- Attracts customers – some customers are more willing to buy products and services from companies making an effort to be greener. One survey indicates that 25% of Irish consumers are influenced by a business’s environmental actions when purchasing products or services. This includes a company’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
Your organisation doesn’t need to tackle climate change alone.
The Irish government offers funding to help companies reduce their carbon footprint.
The Green Transition Fund provides support in many ways, including:
- An €1800 grant to help set up a sustainability action plan.
- An 80% grant, up to a total of €5000, towards the hiring cost of a green service provider to undertake an in-company assignment.
Read our guide to going green – sustainability challenges for businesses and how to overcome them.
Why use a carbon footprint calculator
Like many countries, Ireland is exposed to the effects of climate change. Since the 1980s, each consecutive decade has been warmer than any previous decade since 1850.
Since 1994, the sea surface temperature in Ireland has increased by roughly 0.6°C per decade, a figure unseen in records dating back to 150 years.
To tackle climate change, the Irish Government released the Climate Action Plan 2021. The plan sets out the roadmap to meeting its target of halving Ireland’s emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050.
As well as tackling carbon emissions – carbon is a significant greenhouse gas (GHG) driving climate change – it can make financial sense, too.
Read our guide to how your business can benefit from green credentials and ISO 14001.
How to use a carbon footprint calculator
Calculating scope 1 and 2 emissions
To calculate your carbon footprint, you will need to collect data on your organisation’s energy usage over a specific period, typically a year.
This data should include utility bills such as gas, electricity and water. Travel data such as train and plane tickets should be included, as well as fuel receipts from business vehicles.
To calculate scope 1 and 2 emissions, you must convert your data into suitable units. Your data should be converted to the following:
- Gas and electricity should be recorded in kilowatt-hours (kwh), usually visible on your utility bills.
- Car travel is measured in kilometres.
- Water is cubic metres and should be on your utility bill.
- Air, boat and rail travel is measured in kilometres per passenger (pkm) – a simple example to calculate pkm is if two employees make a 2,000-kilometre round trip, the pkm sum would be 4,000.
To work out your GHG emissions from these figures, you can use a corporate carbon footprint calculator or manually calculate the data. Using a carbon footprint calculator is usually easier.
Input the above figures into an online calculator such as The Carbon Footprint calculator here. This will reveal your total greenhouse gas emissions for scopes 1 and 2.
If you prefer to calculate the data manually, you must find the correct emission factor for each emission source, such as electricity, gas and water. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has a helpful conversion factor table for emissions.
To work out the greenhouse gas emissions for each source, use this carbon footprint calculator formula:
Your data x Emission factor = Greenhouse gas emissions
Calculating scope 3 emissions
Calculating scope 3 emissions is more challenging, as they are often created outside the organisation’s view, somewhere in the value chain.
For an accurate sum of your business’s carbon footprint, it is important to calculate your scope 3 emissions, as these often account for the majority of overall emissions.
There are 15 categories of scope 3 emissions recognised by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that your company should consider when calculating its carbon footprint. These include emissions from employees commuting, capital goods and waste made from business operations.
To calculate your scope 3 emissions, you could use a carbon footprint calculator or hire an environmental agent.
Your company’s overall carbon footprint is calculated by adding the total emissions from all three scopes.
Set targets for reducing your carbon footprint
After calculating your organisation’s carbon footprint, the next step is to use this data to set targets and create plans for reducing your carbon footprint. You can set Science-based targets (SBTs) for each Scope to help reduce your carbon footprint.
The data can help the business understand the direction it needs to take. For example, if your data reveals scope 2 emissions from business travel are exceptionally high, you might consider moving business meetings virtually instead of in person.
Set your targets with a time frame in mind so that you can track your efforts. An example target might be to switch to a 100% renewable energy tariff within the next year or to replace the company’s petrol vehicles with electric ones within the next three years.
Monitor your carbon footprint
Monitoring your carbon footprint lets you see if you are on track to meet your targets and whether you need to adjust your carbon footprint plan.
Communicate your carbon footprint progress with your employees and stakeholders. This increases engagement and can motivate employees to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint.
Calculate your carbon footprint annually with a business carbon footprint calculator to help monitor the progress of reducing your carbon footprint over time.