Carbon Footprint: What is it and why is it important to know yours

Confused about your carbon footprint and it's effects? In our blog we break down what it is and why understanding it matters.

Posted on Apr 06, 2022

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A carbon footprint is an essential piece of information for any public sector organisation to understand with ambitions to reach net zero. But what is it and why is it important?

What is a carbon footprint?

When we talk about climate change and use the word footprint, this is a metaphor for the total impact that our carbon emissions are having on the environment, a mark we are creating through our daily activities, much like leaving actual footprints. For example, driving to work or leaving office lighting switched on during the day. We may not think these ordinary business activities will have an impact, but they do. With so many things contributing to a carbon footprint, understanding your organisation’s carbon footprint is a pivotal step in preparing your organisation’s Net Zero targets.

Footprints will show you the way

When you begin to look at your carbon footprint you start to understand the scale of your emissions and how much each different activity or operation you carry out contributes to it. It then allows your organisation to investigate key carbon reduction activities that you could implement to have the biggest positive environmental effect.

We have supported our customers by creating our Review service because we understand how important it is to know your starting point in the process to enable you to take positive steps forward in becoming greener. Our review service can sometimes produce some surprises along the way as well, you may think you know your biggest or smallest emission areas only to discover that they're not the biggest contributing factors.

For example, transportation.

For one customer, initially transportation was considered a small part of their organisation's emissions however, our customer was amazed to discover it was around 20-30% of their overall emissions. Therefore, it is important to look at your data, investigate and find out the real answers rather than base an action plan off assumptions. Your footprint is going to lead to your forecast.

Forecasting for the Future

When we approach forecasting, we provide you with information explaining how your emissions could change in the future if you implemented carbon reduction activities or did nothing. We could assume that your consumption of electricity, gas and fuels stays the same into the future – but how would the emissions associated with those fuels change? This could then involve looking at greener energies and how they would be used and affect your consumption.

Understanding the scope

One of the other essential elements to understand is Scope. Currently there is not a set scope when it comes to defining your carbon footprint and emissions. There are a lot of schemes out there but the scope in terms of what to define in your footprint and net zero plans differs and can be open to interpretation.

The scope of what is involved in reaching your net zero targets can be huge too. There are lots of things to consider from understanding your data, to identifying an action plan and then of course looking into the financial support that is needed to help you achieve those goals.

It is important to talk through your current situation with a decarbonisation expert. We recommend you start your carbon reduction activities with a narrow focus that can widen as action progresses. This is the approach we use with our customers.

Need a helping hand?

Reviewing and understanding your organisation’s emissions is an essential first step. Our Review service has been created to assist you with understanding your current carbon footprint, analysing your existing data and providing a forecast that will help you create a pathway to your net zero goals. To find out more details about our service and how it can help your organisation visit our service page.

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