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Sustainability simplified: Carbon footprinting for beginners

Welcome to our guide on mastering carbon footprinting, the foundational step for businesses aiming to excel in sustainability. As companies intensify their efforts to minimise environmental impacts, understanding how to accurately calculate and effectively manage your carbon footprint becomes indispensable. This blog will provide a detailed overview of what a carbon footprint is and why it is important to measure it. It will also explain step-by-step how to measure your carbon footprint.

Sustainability simplified_ Carbon footprinting for beginners_Close-up of DGB team member planting a tree seedling_visual 1Close-up of DGB team member planting a tree seedling. Hongera Reforestation Project, DGB.

Today's insights are based on our recent webinar, Understanding Carbon Footprinting for Beginners, hosted by Wienke Schouwink, an experienced Environmental Solutions Manager at DGB Group. With a solid background in sustainability and global business, Wienke has over five years of experience in carbon footprinting, compensation, and aiding companies in achieving their sustainability objectives.

Watch the entire webinar here – Understanding Carbon Footprinting for Beginners

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint quantifies the total greenhouse gas emissions—primarily carbon dioxide (CO2)—generated by your business. This measurement includes both direct emissions from your company’s operations and indirect emissions associated with your business activities, from the electricity you purchase to the services and materials you procure.

Read more: How do carbon footprints work?

Understanding your carbon footprint is vital for several reasons. It serves as a key environmental indicator, allowing your business to evaluate and understand its contribution to global emissions. This assessment is crucial for identifying areas where your environmental impact can be reduced.

Additionally, knowing the size and sources of your carbon footprint aids in setting realistic and impactful reduction and compensation targets, aligning with global efforts for nature conservation. It also provides valuable insights into the efficiency of your operations, highlighting opportunities to optimise energy use and reduce waste.

In today's environmentally conscious market, customers, investors, and regulatory bodies are increasingly demanding transparency in sustainability practices. A well-managed carbon footprint not only improves your corporate image but also strengthens stakeholder trust and satisfaction.

Sustainability simplified_ Carbon footprinting for beginners_Illustration describing what a carbon footprint is_visual 2 (1)Illustration describing what a carbon footprint is.

By accurately measuring and actively managing your carbon footprint, your business not only contributes positively to the environment but also positions itself as a leader in sustainability. This proactive approach is essential for businesses looking to thrive in an eco-conscious economic landscape.

Read more: Unveiling hidden carbon footprints: overlooked emissions sources in business operations

Scopes of emissions

To effectively manage and reduce your carbon footprint, it's essential to understand how carbon emissions are categorised. These categories, known as scopes, help businesses identify different sources of emissions throughout their operations and supply chain. By classifying emissions into three distinct scopes, companies can more accurately target reduction strategies and comply with reporting requirements. Here's how these emissions are divided:

Sustainability simplified_ Carbon footprinting for beginners_Illustration of the 3 scopes of emissions_visual 3 (1)Illustration of the 3 scopes of emissions.

  • Scope 1: These are direct emissions from owned or controlled company assets, like company buildings and vehicles.
  • Scope 2: These are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, heating, and cooling, such as electricity used in your facilities.
  • Scope 3: These are indirect emissions from your company's value chain, including everything from the transportation of goods by your suppliers to business travel conducted by employees. This is the broadest scope of emissions and the most difficult to measure.

Read more: Uncovering the impact of Scope 3 emissions

The role of your carbon footprint in corporate strategy

Understanding your carbon footprint transcends environmental responsibility; it is a strategic necessity that plays a crucial role in the modern business landscape. This understanding enhances operational efficiency by identifying inefficiencies and areas for improvement in resource use, which can lead to significant cost savings and better environmental outcomes. Additionally, a well-managed carbon footprint boosts a company's reputation, as consumers, investors, and business partners increasingly prefer to associate with firms that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

Read more: The power of sustainability: Why investing in sustainability drives faster company growth

Moreover, effectively managing your carbon footprint helps meet the evolving expectations of stakeholders who are now more aware and concerned about environmental issues. It aligns your business practices with the growing global demand for transparency and accountability in environmental matters.

Sustainability simplified_ Carbon footprinting for beginners_DGB team member working in a tree nursery_visual 4DGB team member working in a tree nursery. Hongera Reforestation Project, DGB.

Compliance with emerging regulations, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in Europe, further underscores the importance of carbon footprint management. The CSRD mandates that large listed corporations disclose their emissions and impact, pushing businesses toward greater transparency and encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices across supply chains. This regulatory landscape makes it imperative for companies not just to measure but also to actively manage their carbon emissions to stay compliant and competitive in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

Download DGB’s Carbon Footprint Analysis brochure

How to calculate and address your carbon footprint 

Understanding and managing your company's carbon footprint is a complex but rewarding endeavour. To simplify this process, DGB Group has developed a user-friendly carbon footprint calculator designed to guide you through each step with precision.

Sustainability simplified_ Carbon footprinting for beginners_DGB tool to calculate your carbon footprint_visual 5DGB tool to calculate your carbon footprint.

This tool allows businesses of all sizes to measure their emissions effectively, ensuring that they can take informed steps towards sustainability. Calculating your carbon footprint with DGB’s carbon footprint calculator involves several key steps, each designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of your emissions and offer insights into potential improvements. Here’s how you can measure and address your carbon footprint in 7 steps:

  1. Decide on your scope: Start by determining which parts of your organisation will be evaluated. Choose scopes over which you have the most influence and for which you have data available. This may include specific departments, locations, facilities, or operations. Collecting the necessary data is crucial, which could involve gathering utility bills, fuel consumption records, and travel logs. This foundational step ensures that all relevant emission sources are identified and properly accounted for in the calculation.

  2. Collect data: Once you have your data, enter it into DGB’s CO2 Expert tool together with supporting documentation. In this step, the tool will apply emission factors, which convert the raw data (like gallons of fuel or kilowatt-hours of electricity used) into carbon dioxide equivalents. These factors vary depending on the type of energy consumed and the geographic location, making accurate data entry critical for reliable results.

  3. Calculate your footprint: After entering all data and applying the appropriate emission factors, our tool will calculate your total emissions across Scope 1, Scope 2, and, if applicable, Scope 3. This comprehensive calculation allows businesses to see the full extent of their environmental impact and identify the largest sources of emissions within their operations.

  4. Validate your carbon footprint: Once your carbon footprint is calculated, the next step is to validate the data to ensure accuracy and reliability. To receive your footprint report, we set up a short call and check your data and supporting documentation. Producing an official footprint report provides a validated record of your emissions, which is useful for both internal tracking and external reporting.

  5. Compensate for your carbon footprint: Not all emissions can be immediately reduced due to technical or economic constraints, especially not past emissions that have already been emitted. For these irreducible emissions, companies can purchase carbon units from DGB’s nature-based projects to compensate for their impact. These units support our projects that reduce or remove emissions and help restore the environment, such as reforestation or efficient cookstove projects.

  6. Receive insights: Once you have calculated your carbon footprint and have compensated for your irreducible emissions, you will receive an Impact Report. This report will show the emissions you have compensated for and the positive impact you made. You can use this report to set clear, actionable sustainability goals. This might include targeting specific reductions in energy use, switching to renewable energy sources, or optimising logistics to reduce travel emissions. Setting specific targets helps guide your environmental strategy and provides clear objectives for your business to strive towards.

  7. Share your progress: Transparency in sustainability efforts is key to building trust and maintaining a positive reputation. Your Impact Report will also include a communication package, which you can use to share your carbon footprint findings and progress towards your sustainability goals with stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and the wider community. This not only demonstrates your commitment to environmental responsibility but can also inspire others to take action.

Read more: How to use DGB Group's carbon footprint calculator on your journey to net zero

DGB Group: making your carbon footprint analysis easy

Starting with measuring your carbon footprint is the first step towards a sustainable business practice. At DGB, we are dedicated to assisting companies on their sustainability journey, offering support and guidance every step of the way.

Calculate your carbon footprint today

Take the first step in your sustainability journey by measuring your carbon footprint with us. DGB is here to help you navigate this process, ensuring you can make a significant environmental impact. For more information, watch our webinar or download our brochure, and when you're ready to take action, book a call with us today.

Book a call with one of our experts

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