What is a real Carbon Footprint?

What is a real Carbon Footprint?

You want to do a Carbon Footprint? Here is how to differentiate a "real" Carbon Footprint from a low value GHG Footprint...

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1. What emissions should be included in a company's carbon footprint?

This question is divided into two parts:
a) The greenhouse gases accounted for
b) The scope of the actions accounted for

The first part is very simple: 6 greenhouse gases are taken into account (CO2, N2O, CH4, SF6, HFCs and PFCs). These gases are converted into CO2 equivalents in order to have a universal unit of measurement (in the same way that we would consolidate $ into €).

The scope of the shares counted is much more controversial!

A Bilan Carbone® identifies all direct or indirect emissions linked to a company's activity, which the "specialists" distinguish into 3 scopes:
- Scope 1 - Direct energy emissions: Own consumption of fuels, gas, refrigerant, etc.)
- Scope 2 - Indirect energy emissions: Own consumption of electricity. This emission is indirect because it is the production of electricity that generates greenhouse gas emissions and not its consumption.
- Scope 3: Other emissions related to services or products sold, notably from suppliers (emissions related to the manufacture and transport of products purchased) and customers (emissions related to the use of products sold and their end-of-life).

For most companies, 70-90% of emissions come from scope 3. Hence the importance of distinguishing a "real" Bilan Carbone® that includes this scope 3 from a simple GHG (Greenhouse Gas) assessment that only includes scopes 1 and 2.


2. What scope is required by the various national and international bodies?

Todate, in France, only the GHG assessment (without scope 3) is mandatory for companies with more than 500 employees , but the legislationis changing. The Citizens' Climate Convention proposes several measures to strengthen the usefulness of the Carbon Footprint:
a) Annual obligation (vs. every 4 years today)
b) Extension to scope 3 (making a Carbon Footprint® vs. GHG Footprint mandatory)
c) Conditioning of public aid to the positive evolution of the Carbon Footprint
d) Extension to all companies with more than 50 employees (with accompanying measures)

At the international level, the complete Bilan Carbone® defined by France (through the ABC methodology) is "better" than the international reference methodologies.

Who can do more can do less. A company that has carried out a Bilan Carbone® must be able to extract its carbon reports in all formats: GHG Protocol, CDP, ISO 14069. Traace proposes this extraction directly in the tool, without any new data collection.

3. How are greenhouse gas emissions calculated?

For each emission item, the CO2 equivalent (the official unit of measurement) is calculated by multiplying a raw operational data by a directly associated emission factor.

For example, to calculate the emissions linked to the electricity consumption of the company, we can multiply a raw data "number of kWh of electricity consumed" by an emission factor "weight of CO2 emitted for 1 kWh of electricity".

However,the granularity of the raw data and the emission factor should beadapted to the importance of the emission item. In our example, it would be more interesting to multiply the "number of kWh per electricity source" by the emission factor associated with each of these electricity sources (nuclear, gas, coal, photovoltaic, etc.)

This granularity is essential in order to have actionable levers that will be reflected in the company's future carbon footprint (e.g., increasing the share of electricity from low-emission sources) and to define the data to be collected pragmatically.

The methods being today multiple, it is urgent to impose to carbon accounting requirements comparable to financial accounting. Traace anticipates and applies to its carbon balances the main principles of a reliable and sincere carbon accounting: exhaustiveness of the perimeter (no half-measures), continuity of the methods (evolutions only to bring precision), non-compensation (induced, avoided and financed emissions clearly identified).

4. Is the Bilan Carbone simply a measurement exercise?

A Bilan Carbone® must produce at least 2 deliverables:

Measuring the company's carbon footprint

This is the accounting exercise for emissions, divided into significant items. Most often these figures are accompanied by ratios adapted to the activity and size of the company - essential to decouple the evolution of the carbon footprint from the growth of the company.

The plan to reduce emissions from the company's activities

Hence the importance of having sufficiently precise information on the blocks that count in order to define actionable levers whose results can be measured. These levers must then be piloted by managers to ensure their implementation.

Traace provides "experts on demand" to find new levers to reduce emissions in order to reach the objectives set by the company. More information on this subject in our dedicated article.

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