Green House Gas Emissions (GHG)
GHG are emissions from gases that cause climate change. Although the most well-known is Carbon Dioxide (CO2), your carbon footprint is actually made up of seven main greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Different activities release different gases into the atmosphere. For example, food waste emits methane while hydrofluorocarbons (HFCS) are a group of chemicals used during air-conditioning.
Different activities produce different gases. For carbon accounting purposes, greenhouse gases are converted into CO2 equivalents for easier reporting and comparison. We refer to your business carbon footprint as ‘tCO2e’, which is short for ‘tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent’.
COP stands for Conference of the Parties. It is the process the UN use to bring together countries of the world to talk about climate change and agree on what to do about it. The annual United Nations Climate Summit is attended by world leaders to discuss and agree on how to address the climate emergency. This year is COP27, which means there have been 27 previous meetings.
The most significant climate summit was COP21 in Paris (back in 2015), where world leaders made a commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, with a sustained effort to keep it within 1.5 degrees C. Net zero targets align with this commitment.
Science-based targets calculate how much and how quickly businesses need to reduce emissions to meet the UK’s goal of net zero. Targets are considered ‘science based’ if they align with the latest climate science and comply with the requirements of a 1.5c temperature limit. Typically, they require you to set interim and final targets, with a clear reduction plan in place to deliver on your commitment.
Net Zero is a target set by businesses and countries with the aim of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5c. Put simply, net zero means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, through investment in carbon removal solutions. To achieve Net Zero, businesses need to take ownership of their value chain emissions and create a plan for deep and rapid emission reductions. Businesses can set their own net-zero target dates, with ambitious organisations aiming to be Net Zero by 2035.
Value Chain Emissions
Best practice reporting involves businesses taking responsibility for the emissions in their value chain. The value chain is all the activities that a business employs to create a product or service. It moves beyond supply chain emissions to incorporate all the emissions from internal and external stakeholder activity that contributes to the value of your business offering. Examples include employee commuting, business travel, investments, and the full lifecycle of material products from mining to recycling or disposal.
A single carbon offset credit certifies that 1 tonne of CO2e has been avoided or reduced through the work of an international environmental project. Projects such as rainforest protection, fuel-efficient cookstoves, and renewable energy sell these avoided emission units to companies and individuals via verification schemes such as Gold Standard in the support of international, verified emission reduction projects. Claiming to become carbon neutral is a voluntary act that channels support for carbon reduction initiatives outside their value chain. It also allows any business that uses you as their supplier to claim zero emissions for your contribution to their carbon footprint.
Companies can apply to be credited as Carbon Neutral on an annual basis. To claim carbon neutrality, a business needs to measure its annual carbon footprint (normally in tonnes of CO2e) and invest an equal value of carbon offsets.
You’ll hear the term mitigation regularly within sustainability, but it can have quite different meanings depending on the context. Although it is often used by businesses to describe activities relating to a claim of carbon neutrality such as offsetting, the term mitigation really means doing anything that reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Whether that’s choosing to commute by bus rather than car, switching to a renewable tariff or financing the preservation of peat bogs in the UK. They all make a difference.
Carbon Removal/Sequestration/Carbon Sinks
All these terms mean the same thing. Simply, a process where more carbon is removed from the atmosphere than is emitted. Currently, the most common forms of carbon removal are nature-based solutions such as Tree Planting or Peat Restoration.
Scopes 1, 2 and 3
Carbon Footprint measures are categorised into three scopes: 1,2 and 3. These scopes help you discover and report on the main sources of your organisation’s emissions.
Scope 1 – Direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company eg gas boilers, fuel in company cars. Your scope 1 figure represents the amount of gas your company uses.
Scope 2 – Emissions from purchased electricity, heat, and steam. Your scope 2 figure represents that amount of electricity that your organisation uses.
Scope 3 – All other indirect emissions from the activities of the organisation e.g. business travel, commuting, procurement of goods and services and waste. Your scope 3 figure is made up of the scope 1 and 2 emissions of your suppliers and all other GHG emissions from your value chain. Scope 3 can account for over 80% of a business’s carbon footprint. We measure all three scopes, so you can understand the full impact of your business activities.
ESG is an acronym that stands for Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance. ESG is a framework used for assessing the impact of the sustainability and ethical practices of a company. It helps stakeholders (historically investors) assess how a business manages risks and opportunities in the three key areas of Environmental, Social and Governance. An example of environmental criteria is an assessment of emissions and the use of natural resources. Social is how an organisation impacts its community, the gender and diversity policies it has and the impact business operations have on the people in its supply chain. Governance refers to how a company is led and managed, its standards and its structure.