Greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 equivalents, carbon footprint, CO2 calculator and footprints. You’ll find in this article why these terms should be familiar to your company. Besides that, the article deals with the carbon footprint and the link to a climate balance.
So, what exactly is a carbon footprint?
The carbon footprint is the result of a carbon accounting, or climate balance. Essentially, it measures the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In particular it measures carbon dioxide, that are released due to the activities of a person, organization, or product.
The carbon footprint is usually measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalents (tCO2e). This has the advantage of including other greenhouse gas emissions in addition to carbon dioxide. Therefore methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons as well as nitrogen trifluoride are also taken into account. The reference value for the calculation is 1. For instance, the CO2 equivalent of methane is 28 (as of 2023). The use of a standardized unit allows the comparison of different GHGs. Thus it is possible to quantify their overall impact on the climate.
All emissions that are directly or indirectly related to the consumption of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) are basically included in the carbon footprint. Therefore, the use of vehicles, heating and cooling systems as well as the production of products are included in the CO2 footprint. However, CO2 is also emitted in other activities that may not so obvious at first glance and must therefore also be taken into account. These include, for example, food or a business trip with hotel accommodation.
Calculation of the carbon footprint
The calculation of the carbon footprint can be used as a tool for companies to determine their climate impact and consequently be used for sustainability reporting. By identifying the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, companies can determine where the greatest potential for reduction and optimization lies. This has ecological benefits but can also bring economic advantages. Through targeted energy and resource savings, businesses can reduce costs in the long term. At the same time, customers are increasingly demanding environmentally friendly products and services. Disclosing the carbon footprint calculation results can provide a competitive advantage.
Improvement: You have made the decision to calculate your company’s carbon footprint and identify areas that have potential for optimization. However, you may find it challenging to know where to start. The carbon footprint is influenced by many factors, and overlooking any one of them can lead to inaccurate results. Additionally, determining the amount of CO2 emitted by certain activities or selecting appropriate units of measurement can also be difficult. It is not recommended to calculate your company’s carbon footprint on your own if you are unfamiliar with the process. However, many people feel the same way. Fortunately, there are many online carbon footprint calculators available to help. However, with so many options to choose from, selecting the best CO2 calculator to meet your needs can also be a challenge – which online CO2 calculator is suitable for you and your needs?
To address this question, we have evaluated three online CO2 calculators that are designed for small and micro businesses and used them to calculate the carbon footprint of our own company. We would like to share our experiences with you.
CO2 Quick Check 2023
First, we tested the “CO2 Quick Check 2023” from the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce. Before starting the test, some important information is summarized, such as the fact that this test records the CO2 emissions of company mobility and energy and provides tips on how to reduce this value. It’s worth noting that the GHG emissions are not given in kg, but rather in virtual trees, for better understanding (1 tree corresponds to 21kg GHGs).
The test required us to enter data about our vehicle fleet (number of vehicles and distance driven), use of public transport (distance traveled), and energy consumption (depending on the energy source, in kWh, L, or m3). After entering this data, the calculator immediately displayed our emissions in virtual trees and suggested that we aim to reduce this amount. Then we could adjust input data, such as replacing petrol cars with electric ones, increasing the use of public transport, or switching to green electricity. The calculator then showed how many virtual trees would be saved with each measure, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint.
Value: 0.861 tonnes of CO2
Positive aspects: only little data is required, quick and easy data entry, concrete measures for reduction are suggested
Negative aspects: only mobility and energy are considered
At this point, it is important to note the potential rebound effect. For instance, replacing fossil fuel vehicles with hybrid or electric ones might lead to more driving or longer distances being covered overall. This may offset the greenhouse gas emissions saved by the vehicle replacement. Therefore, it is essential to consider the rebound effect when planning for measures to reduce carbon footprint.
ecorand CO2 footprint calculator for companies
The second online calculator we tested is the “ecorand CO2 footprint calculator for companies“. At the beginning of the test, it is pointed out that this is an estimate and that the company’s CO2 emissions should be regularly checked and potential savings analysed. Then the data collection begins. We started with the number of employees, the company area, as well as the kilometres travelled by car (with combustion engine) or flights. In the second step we added data about energy sources used (production, warehouse, …) as well as additional emissions, for example from deliveries or company celebrations. The CO2 emissions are then broken down in tonnes per area and as a total value. Finally, compensation measures are proposed, such as planting trees or purchasing CO2 certificates. It is explained that compensating for one tonne of CO2 is equivalent to planting 40 or that one tonne of CO2 currently costs 19 euros.
Value: 8.65 tonnes of CO2
Positive aspects: Additional information on the values for better understanding
Negative aspects: no reduction measures are suggested, only compensation (for example: planting trees or purchasing CO2 certificates); the energy demand is only calculated according to company area and not according to energy source.
The last calculator we tested is the “CO2 Calculator” of the Alliance for Development and Climate Austria. At the beginning, the user is asked to select the category for which they want to calculate the emissions, such as companies, individuals, households, events, etc. The calculator then requests basic information such as country, number of employees, and company size. This is followed by information on the energy used, mobility behaviour, catering, purchased materials and waste. Once all the data has been entered, the calculator presents the total amount of CO2 emissions by the company, broken down by the individual areas. The result is then followed by a presentation of various international projects that promote sustainable development. The calculator suggests investing in these projects to compensate for the emissions.
Value: 3.2 tonnes of C02
Positive aspects: other factors such as catering, material and waste are considered in the calculation.
Some of the information provided is unclear as it lacks units. Only offsetting is proposed (supporting international projects for sustainable development). A Footnote mentions that the most effective climate protection measure is to avoid emissions at the source.
After using the three different calculators, it is evident that the results differ significantly. However, CO2 emissions were calculated from 0.861 tonnes of CO2 to 8.65 tonnes of CO2. This wide variation in results can be attributed to differences in the data collected, the underlying calculations, as well as the reference values used. Therefore the results obtained from free online CO2 calculators, should be interpreted with caution.
Carbon footprint with the ESG Cockpit
In addition to the free web calculators, we tested the “ESG Cockpit“. However, we wanted to verify the results obtained from the previous online calculators. The ESG Cockpit’s carbon footprint module allows an easy and comprehensive tracking of emissions. Whereas the size of the company does not matter. It includes various factors, such as materials, waste, water, biodiversity, wastewater, mobility, transport, compliance, emissions and pollutants, CO2 compensation, environment, and environmental costs in its calculation. The precise description of the respective values makes it clear what information is required. The secondary calculation function allows for automatic conversion of values into the required unit based on stored formulas.
Reasonable & credible results of 1.22 tonnes of CO2-equivalents
By including the different ranges and the transparent calculation, the ESG Cockpit generates reliable results. According to this tool, our company has a carbon footprint of 1.22 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. The tool breaks down emissions into different areas, indicating where and what proportion of total emissions are produced. Additionally, the greenhouse gas emissions are categorized into scopes, which can be further explored here.
If you would like to learn more about calculating your company’s carbon footprint and how to prepare it, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us right away.