How to calculate your company’s carbon footprint

Is your company ready to take climate action and work towards net zero emissions? Before you dive straight into reducing and offsetting your carbon emissions, there’s one preliminary step you should take. To decarbonize your company, you must first understand how much carbon you’re emitting from different sources. In other words, step one on your climate journey should be measuring your company’s carbon footprint.

This blog post is designed to give you a deeper understanding of your company’s carbon footprint and how to calculate it. Let’s get started with the basics.

What types of emissions should you include when measuring your carbon footprint?

Businesses emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in a number of ways, from powering buildings to transporting supplies and products. When you add up all of the emissions your company generates – that’s what we call your “carbon footprint.”

When measuring your company’s carbon footprint, you should consider the following three scopes of emissions:

Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 encompasses direct emissions from fuel combustion in company-owned equipment such as furnaces, boilers, vehicles, etc. Scope 1 also includes any fugitive emissions such as the Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) released by refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from the electricity your company purchases from a utility provider.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 consists of all other indirect emissions that are associated with your company’s activities. Scope 3 emissions are produced by assets that are not owned by your company. This includes emissions generated across your supply chain, as well as employee travel and waste disposal.

Specific emissions sources can vary drastically from one company to the next. Below are some examples of what scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions might look like for different types of travel companies.

Infographic of tourism industry tour operator carbon footprint including scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions
Infographic of hotel carbon footprint including scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions
Infographic of tourism industry dive shop carbon footprint including scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions

Typically, carbon footprints capture the emissions that a company generates on an annual basis. Alternatively, companies may wish to calculate the carbon footprint of a specific product, service, or event. For instance, a tour operator might calculate the carbon footprint for each of their trip itineraries, while a hotel might calculate the carbon footprint per guest night.

It can be difficult, or practically impossible, to calculate the carbon footprint of every single activity across your supply chain. Don’t worry about being 100% accurate and comprehensive. It’s most important to account for the largest emission sources for your business and those that you have more control over.

For outbound tour operators, it’s helpful to think about the different activities that make up your visitor journeys. In general, flights account for the majority of trip emissions followed by accommodations and other transportation.

For hotels, the focus should be on electricity consumption, heating, cooling, and transportation. Hotels should also account for some of the scope 3 emissions that they have more control over. This includes employee travel, waste, and laundry.

Click here to learn more about the carbon footprint of travel.

How to calculate your carbon footprint

To calculate your footprint, you’ll need some information about your business activities. Which data you’ll need and where you’ll get it depends on the types of emissions you are measuring. For instance, you can get electricity consumption and waste disposal data from your utility bills. For transportation, you’ll need records of flight itineraries, miles driven, or fuel consumption. Download one of our carbon footprint assessment data collection templates to get started.

Once you’ve collected all the necessary data, you are ready to calculate your carbon footprint. There are a few different ways for how you can go about this:

  1. Crunch the numbers yourself using internationally-recognized emissions factors and greenhouse gas accounting standards
  2. Use an online carbon footprint calculator
  3. Use our Tour Footprinting Tool to get the footprint of a single itinerary
  4. Hire a company, such as Sustainable Travel International, to calculate your footprint for you via a carbon footprint assessment

Unless you have an in-house carbon management team, we recommend the last of these options. When you work with a company that specializes in carbon footprint measurement, you can rest assured that your emissions are being accurately calculated. It also provides more flexibility to tailor your carbon footprint to your unique business model.  You can learn more about our carbon measurement solutions for companies here.

What comes next after you’ve calculated your company’s carbon footprint?

Once you’ve determined your carbon footprint, the next step is to analyze the results and take action.

Any good carbon footprint report will tell you more than just your total footprint. It should also break down your carbon footprint by the different sources. Of course, the level of detail in your reporting will depend on the actual data that you provided. For companies with buildings and facilities, it is helpful to utilize smart energy management systems that monitor energy consumption from different activities.

You can use your carbon footprint results to pinpoint the main emissions culprits and identify opportunities for reduction. For instance, if your main source of emissions is lighting, then you should think about installing LED bulbs or automated lighting controls. Or if domestic flights account for a large portion of your tour emissions, consider replacing them with a train or bus ride instead.

But cutting emissions takes time and you won’t erase your carbon footprint overnight. In the meantime, you can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions that you’re still generating. One of the simplest ways to go about this is to calculate and offset your company’s total carbon footprint on an annual basis. You can also calculate the carbon footprint for each product and include the cost of carbon offsets in your prices. For instance, a tour operator might build $16 into the price of each ticket to cover the cost of offsetting that trip.

Click here to find out more about launching a carbon offset program for your business. 

Calculating your carbon footprint shouldn’t just be a one-time endeavor. Your company should calculate its carbon footprint on an annual basis. Doing so will allow you to see how your carbon footprint is changing (hopefully shrinking!) year after year.

We encourage companies to hold themselves accountable and provide transparency by publishing their carbon footprint. This could be as simple as writing a blog post each year that discloses your carbon footprint and provides an update on the progress you’ve made towards your climate goals. Another idea is to add carbon footprint “labels” to your website that state the carbon footprint of the different tours, hotel rooms, flights, etc. that your customer can book. When you pair this carbon label with reduction activities and an offsetting program it will show your customers that your company is taking responsibility for its environmental impact. Click here to learn more about our climate solutions for businesses. 

We hope this article proves helpful as you progress along your climate journey. If you have any questions about calculating your carbon footprint or would like to request a carbon footprint assessment we encourage you to reach out.

Explore our Business Carbon Measurement Solutions

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