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Carbon accounting: The ultimate guide for understanding your carbon footprint

In an era defined by heightened environmental awareness and the urgent need to address climate change, understanding the impact of human activities on our planet has never been more critical. At the heart of this understanding lies measuring and quantifying the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, directly or indirectly, as a result of activities.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of carbon accounting — from exploring the causes of climate change, to shedding light on how carbon footprinting works. Whether you're new to the concept of carbon accounting, or seeking to enhance your understanding, this guide is your companion on the path to a greener, more sustainable future.

Below is what we cover - feel free to skip to a section most useful to you, or go ahead and read the whole thing:

The science behind carbon emissions

What are greenhouse gases?

Climate change is a global challenge with far-reaching consequences for our planet and all its inhabitants. At the heart of this issue lies the concept of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which play a pivotal role in shaping the Earth's climate. While these gases are essential for maintaining a habitable temperature on our planet, human activities have significantly increased their concentration in the atmosphere, leading to accelerated global warming and its associated impacts.

GHGs are naturally occurring or human-made gases that trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere. They act as a "blanket" by allowing sunlight to pass through the atmosphere and reach the Earth's surface. When the planet absorbs this solar energy, it radiates heat back into space as infrared radiation. GHGs absorb and re-radiate some of this heat, preventing it from escaping into space and keeping the Earth's surface warmer than it would be without them. This natural greenhouse effect is essential for maintaining a stable and habitable climate.

The key GHGs are:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2): CO2 is the most prevalent and well-known GHG. It is released primarily through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation, and other land-use changes.

  • Methane (CH4): Methane is a potent GHG with a significantly higher heat-trapping capacity than CO2, but its atmospheric concentration is much lower. It is produced by various natural processes (e.g., wetlands) and human activities such as agriculture (e.g., enteric fermentation in livestock) and waste management.

  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O): N2O is another potent GHG that is primarily released from agricultural activities, industrial processes, and the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.

  • Fluorinated Gases: This group includes hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which are human-made gases used in various industrial applications, refrigeration, and air conditioning.

If you want to learn more, check out our article: What are the different greenhouse gases?

The impact of greenhouse gases on climate change

While the natural greenhouse effect is crucial for life on Earth, human activities have disturbed this balance by releasing vast amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. The result is an enhanced greenhouse effect, leading to global warming and climate change. The key impacts of this phenomenon include:

  • Rising temperatures: Increasing concentrations of GHGs result in the trapping of more heat, causing a rise in global temperatures. This, in turn, leads to more frequent and intense heatwaves, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels.

  • Extreme weather events: Climate change intensifies extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires. These events disrupt ecosystems, threaten communities, and have severe economic consequences.

  • Ocean acidification: Excess CO2 is absorbed by the world's oceans, causing ocean acidification. This harms marine life, especially organisms like corals and shell-forming animals that rely on calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons.

  • Disruption of ecosystems: Changes in temperature and weather patterns can disturb ecosystems, affecting wildlife, plant life, and biodiversity. Some species may struggle to adapt, leading to potential extinctions.

  • Water resources: Climate change affects precipitation patterns, leading to alterations in water availability, impacting agriculture, drinking water, and energy production.

How can the world mitigate greenhouse gases?

Wind turbines in the mountains

To address climate change, it is crucial to reduce GHG emissions. This requires collective efforts from governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. Some effective strategies include:

  • Transitioning to renewable energy: Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power can significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Energy efficiency: Improving energy efficiency in industries, buildings, and transportation can reduce emissions and lower energy consumption.

  • Sustainable agriculture: Implementing sustainable farming practices and reducing the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers can mitigate methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Forest conservation and reforestation: Protecting existing forests and restoring degraded areas can increase carbon sequestration, offsetting some of CO2 emissions.

If you want to learn more, check out our article: Understanding the carbon cycle and carbon budgets

What is carbon accounting?

Why is carbon accounting important?

Carbon accounting is a systematic approach of measuring, recording, and reporting the carbon emissions and carbon sequestration activities of an entity, be it an individual, product, organisation, or nation. It involves identifying sources of GHG emissions (such as fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and industrial processes) and capturing information on the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent released into the atmosphere.

Carbon accounting, now more than ever, is important for several reasons:

  • Setting emissions reduction targets: Carbon accounting provides the necessary data to set achievable emission reduction targets. It is difficult – nearly impossible – for countries, businesses, or individuals to establish realistic and measurable goals to curb carbon pollution without a clear understanding of current emissions and their sources.

  • Monitoring progress: Regular carbon accounting allows for the tracking of progress towards meeting emission reduction targets. It enables entities to identify areas where emissions are being effectively reduced and areas where additional efforts are needed.

  • Ensuring accountability: By holding entities accountable for their emissions, carbon accounting fosters responsibility and transparency. Publicly reporting carbon footprints encourages organisations to adopt sustainable practices and commit to climate-friendly operations.

  • Supporting policy decisions: Policymakers heavily rely on carbon accounting data to design effective climate change policies and regulations. These policies, in turn, can incentivise the adoption of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable practices.

  • Fostering climate finance: Carbon accounting plays a critical role in climate finance mechanisms, such as carbon markets and climate funds. Investors, governments, and organisations often assess carbon footprints before funding or investing in projects, rewarding those with lower emissions and carbon sequestration initiatives.

  • Enhancing adaptation strategies: Carbon accounting also assists in understanding the vulnerability of different regions to climate change impacts. This knowledge is vital in developing appropriate adaptation strategies to protect communities and ecosystems from the adverse effects of a changing climate.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint represents the total amount of GHGs released into the atmosphere directly or indirectly due to human activities. This measurement encompasses the emissions produced through the consumption of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and manufacturing, as well as emissions associated with products, services, and supply chains.

Carbon footprints are usually expressed in terms of CO2-equivalent (CO2e), which combines the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, relative to CO2 over a specific time frame.

The primary goal of carbon accounting is to track and quantify carbon footprints accurately. By employing standardised methodologies and data collection practices, carbon accounting enables organisations and individuals to gain insights into their environmental impact and take targeted actions to reduce emissions.

Not sure where to start? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to start carbon accounting.

How does carbon accounting work?

Carbon accounting involves a series of steps to accurately measure and manage carbon footprints. The process typically follows a structured approach to ensure consistency and reliability in reporting emissions. Here are the key steps involved in carbon accounting:

  1. Scope definition: The first step in carbon accounting is to define the scope of the assessment. This includes determining the boundaries of the analysis, such as whether it will focus on a specific organisation, a product, a project, or a whole supply chain. Additionally, the time frame of the assessment (e.g., annual, quarterly) and the GHGs to be included in the analysis (e.g., CO2, CH4, N2O, etc.) are specified during this phase.

  2. Data collection: Accurate data collection is crucial for reliable carbon accounting. Data is gathered from various sources, including energy consumption records, fuel usage, production processes, transportation activities, waste generation, and other relevant sources of emissions. The data collected should be as comprehensive and precise as possible to ensure the credibility of the results.

  3. Emission calculation: Using standardised emission factors and conversion factors, the collected data is converted into CO2e. Emission factors are specific to different activities and represent the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of activity (e.g., kilograms of CO2 per litre of gasoline burned). Conversion factors are used to express emissions of other GHGs in terms of CO2e based on their global warming potential.

  4. Emission allocation: In cases where carbon accounting involves multiple entities or processes, emission allocation is necessary. This step involves attributing emissions to specific sources or activities. For example, in a supply chain analysis, emissions associated with different stages of the product lifecycle may need to be allocated to individual suppliers or manufacturing processes.

  5. Verification and quality assurance: To enhance the credibility of the results, many organisations choose to undergo external verification by independent auditors. Verification involves checking the accuracy and completeness of the data, ensuring that the calculations are performed correctly, and verifying that the methodologies used comply with recognised standards.

  6. Reporting: Once the emissions have been calculated and verified, the results are compiled into a comprehensive report. This report typically includes a summary of the emissions inventory, the methodology used, the scope of the analysis, and any relevant insights or findings.

  7. Setting reduction targets and action planning: Based on the results of the carbon accounting, entities can set emission reduction targets and develop action plans to achieve those targets. The identified emission hotspots and opportunities for emissions reduction can guide the development of strategies to improve energy efficiency, adopt renewable energy sources, optimise operations, and implement sustainable practices.

  8. Monitoring and updating: Carbon accounting is an iterative process. Regular monitoring of emissions and progress towards reduction targets allows for adjustments to be made to the action plans. As data collection and emission factors improve, periodic updates to the carbon accounting process ensure that the most accurate and up-to-date information is used.

A diagram showing scopes of emissions

If you are looking to begin, or build on, your organisation’s carbon accounting, reach out to our expert team. It can seem overwhelming and daunting at first, but we are here to support you through the process, every step of the way.

The benefits of carbon accounting

Carbon accounting offers numerous benefits, encompassing environmental, economic, and social aspects. By providing organisations and individuals with a clear understanding of their carbon footprints, carbon accounting facilitates informed decision-making and the implementation of targeted strategies to reduce emissions.

Environmental benefits of carbon accounting

  • Mitigating climate change: The primary environmental benefit of carbon accounting lies in its contribution to mitigating climate change. By quantifying emissions and identifying their sources, organisations can develop effective reduction strategies to curb the release of GHGs into the atmosphere. This leads to a more sustainable and stable climate system, with reduced risks of extreme weather events and other climate-related impacts.

  • Encouraging sustainable practices: Carbon accounting encourages the adoption of sustainable practices that aim to minimise emissions. Organisations can prioritise energy efficiency, renewable energy use, waste reduction, and sustainable transportation options. Emphasising sustainable practices not only reduces carbon footprints but also fosters an environmentally conscious culture within companies and communities.

  • Supporting conservation efforts: Through carbon accounting, businesses and governments can assess the carbon sequestration potential of forests and other ecosystems. This data enables the protection and restoration of vital carbon sinks, such as forests, wetlands, and mangroves, which play a critical role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Economic benefits of carbon accounting

  • Cost savings: Carbon accounting often reveals areas of inefficiency and waste within organisations. By identifying energy-intensive processes and equipment, companies can implement energy-saving measures, leading to cost reductions in energy consumption and operational expenses.

  • Improved resource management: Carbon accounting encourages resource optimisation and waste reduction. By closely monitoring carbon-intensive processes, businesses can identify opportunities to streamline operations, reduce resource consumption, and minimise waste generation, resulting in cost savings and increased competitiveness.

  • Access to green finance and markets: With increasing interest in sustainable practices, carbon accounting allows organisations to access green financing and carbon markets. Companies with verified emissions reductions can earn carbon credits, which can be traded or sold, creating an additional revenue stream.

Social benefits of carbon accounting

  • Stakeholder engagement: Carbon accounting enhances transparency and accountability. Organisations that engage in carbon accounting demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change and reducing their environmental impact. This fosters trust among stakeholders, including customers, investors, employees, and the local community.

  • Positive brand image: Adopting carbon accounting practices and implementing emission reduction initiatives can enhance a company's brand image. Consumers increasingly seek environmentally responsible products and services, and businesses that actively measure and manage their carbon footprints are seen as more socially responsible and forward-thinking.

  • Job creation and innovation: The transition to a low-carbon economy requires new technologies and innovative solutions. Carbon accounting stimulates investments in clean technologies and green innovation, driving economic growth and creating job opportunities in sustainable sectors.

In a world increasingly focused on sustainability, embracing carbon accounting is not only a responsible choice but also a transformative step toward a more sustainable and resilient future.

If you want to learn more, check out our article: Five reasons why manufacturers need to reduce their carbon footprint

Understanding carbon accounting methods and tools

Why are carbon accounting standards and frameworks important?

Carbon accounting protocols and standards play a crucial role in ensuring consistency and credibility in emission reporting across organizations and sectors. These guidelines provide a systematic framework for calculating and verifying carbon footprints, allowing businesses, governments, and individuals to assess their environmental impact accurately. They offer several key benefits:

  • Consistency: By providing a standardised methodology for emission calculation, carbon accounting protocols ensure consistency in data collection, reporting, and analysis. This consistency is vital for comparing emissions across different entities and industries.

  • Credibility: Following recognised carbon accounting protocols enhances the credibility of emission reports. The use of established methodologies and data collection practices instils confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the reported data.

  • Transparency: Carbon accounting standards promote transparency in emission reporting. Organisations that adhere to these standards can confidently disclose their carbon footprints to stakeholders, investors, and the public, contributing to greater accountability.

  • Facilitating decision-making: Accurate emission data obtained through standardised protocols enables informed decision-making. Businesses and governments can identify emission hotspots, set reduction targets, and develop effective strategies to mitigate their impact on the environment.

  • Benchmarking and best practices: Carbon accounting protocols allow entities to benchmark their performance against industry peers and best practices. This benchmarking aids in identifying areas for improvement and adopting emission reduction strategies employed by industry leaders.

Key carbon accounting standards and frameworks

  • The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP): The GHGP, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is one of the most widely used carbon accounting frameworks. It provides standards for calculating and reporting GHG emissions, including Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions.

  • ISO 14064: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed the ISO 14064 series to provide guidelines for greenhouse gas accounting and verification. It consists of three parts: Part 1 addresses the principles and requirements for carbon accounting at the organisational level, Part 2 provides guidance for emission reduction projects, and Part 3 focuses on the verification of GHG assertions.

  • The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): The CDP is a global non-profit organisation that runs a carbon reporting platform for businesses and cities. The CDP's framework helps organisations disclose their environmental impact, including carbon emissions, water usage, and climate-related risks and opportunities.

  • Science-Based Targets (SBT): SBT is an initiative led by the Science Based Targets initiative, in partnership with the UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF. It provides a framework for businesses to set science-based emission reduction targets, aligning their efforts with the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Key carbon reporting regulations

  • Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR): The SECR is a mandatory reporting framework in the UK that requires large companies to disclose their energy consumption, GHG emissions, and energy efficiency measures in their annual reports. It applies to unquoted companies that meet certain criteria, such as exceeding specific thresholds for energy usage or turnover.

  • Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD): The NFRD is a directive that requires certain large companies in the EU to disclose non-financial information, including environmental performance and GHG emissions, in their management reports. It aims to enhance corporate transparency and sustainability reporting.

  • Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): TCFD is an international initiative established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to develop recommendations for companies to disclose climate-related financial information. The TCFD aims to help businesses and investors better assess and manage climate-related risks and opportunities. Its recommendations encourage organisations to disclose information on governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics related to climate change, providing a framework for more transparent and informed decision-making in a rapidly changing climate landscape. For more information, check out our article on: What are the TCFD reporting requirements UK?

  • Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD): CSRD is an initiative by the European Union (EU) to enhance sustainability reporting and disclosure requirements for companies operating within the EU. The CSRD builds on the existing NFRD and aims to strengthen the quality and consistency of sustainability-related information disclosed by companies. All large enterprises that carry out business in the EU, including those based outside of the EU, will need to disclose their carbon footprint starting in 2024, covering Scope 3.

How to collect carbon emissions data

The data collection for carbon accounting is a systematic process by which organisations gather and compile data on their GHGs emissions and other carbon-related activities.

Data collection for Scope 1 emissions involves the consumption of fossil fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and refrigerants. This information can be obtained from energy bills, fuel consumption records, and other relevant sources. To collect data for Scope 2 emissions, businesses may use utility bills and invoices to determine the amount of electricity and heat consumed. Conversion factors are then used to convert energy consumption into CO2e emissions. As Scope 3 emissions cover a wide range of indirect emissions, collecting data can be challenging due to the involvement of various stakeholders. Businesses may use surveys, supplier questionnaires, and industry data to estimate Scope 3 emissions.

For more information, check out our article: What are Scopes 1, 2 and 3?

Companies may utilise various methods to ensure the reliability of data, such as regular meter readings, automated monitoring systems, and third-party verification. Building in consistency in data collection is essential for reliable year-to-year comparisons and tracking emission reduction progress.

For larger organisations with multiple departments, coordinating data collection can be challenging. Effective internal communication and collaboration are essential to ensure that all relevant data sources are considered and that emission data from different departments are consolidated into a comprehensive inventory.

Many organisations use specialised carbon accounting software and tools to facilitate data collection, emission calculations, and reporting. These software solutions streamline the data collection process, reducing manual errors and saving time. Carbon accounting software can integrate with various data sources and automate emission calculations based on predefined emission factors.

What are the benefits of carbon accounting software?

xtonnes carbon accounting software

To simplify and streamline the complex task of carbon accounting, specialised carbon accounting software has emerged. Helpful features of these products include automatic emissions calculations, comprehensive scope coverage, customised reporting aligning to industry standards, and scenario analysis enabling organisations to assess the potential impact of various strategies before implementing them.

The benefits of carbon accounting software include:

  • Efficiency and time savings: Carbon accounting software automates data collection and emission calculations, reducing manual effort and saving time. This efficiency allows organisations to focus more on implementing emission reduction strategies and sustainability initiatives.

  • Improved accuracy: By minimising manual data entry and calculation errors, carbon accounting software enhances the accuracy of emission reporting. Reliable data ensures credible sustainability disclosures and helps organisations make data-driven decisions.

  • Enhanced data transparency: Carbon accounting software centralises emission data and provides a transparent view of a company's environmental performance. This transparency helps build trust with stakeholders, investors, and customers who value sustainability efforts.

  • Cost savings: By identifying energy-intensive processes and inefficiencies, carbon accounting software can help businesses reduce energy consumption and operational costs. Optimisation of resource use contributes to long-term cost savings.

  • Compliance and reporting: Carbon accounting software ensures organisations meet regulatory reporting requirements and comply with voluntary sustainability frameworks such as the CDP or the TCFD. It simplifies the process of preparing and submitting accurate emission reports.

  • Sustainability strategy development: Detailed emission data and scenario analysis enable organisations to develop targeted sustainability strategies. Carbon accounting software assists in setting emission reduction targets and implementing actions to achieve them effectively.

If you would like to see these benefits for yourself, book a demo with one of our team, who can show you around our software and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

How to set carbon reduction targets

What are carbon reduction targets?

Carbon reduction targets are specific and measurable goals set by individuals, businesses, organisations, or governments to reduce their GHG emissions and overall carbon footprint. These targets are essential in the fight against climate change and play a crucial role in mitigating its adverse effects. By setting carbon reduction targets, entities commit to taking concrete actions to limit their contribution to global warming and align with broader climate goals.

Key characteristics of carbon reduction targets include:

  • Specificity: Carbon reduction targets are clear and precise, stating the amount or percentage of GHG emissions that the entity aims to reduce over a specified period.

  • Measurability: These targets are based on quantifiable metrics, allowing organisations to track progress and assess the effectiveness of emission reduction efforts.

  • Time-bound: Carbon reduction targets are set for a defined timeframe, such as one year, five years, or more. Time-bound targets provide a sense of urgency and help maintain accountability.

  • Alignment with Climate Goals: Effective carbon reduction targets align with global climate goals, such as those outlined in the Paris Agreement.

  • Scope coverage: Targets may include various emission scopes, such as Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

  • Ambition: Ambitious carbon reduction targets go beyond business-as-usual scenarios and challenge entities to take significant steps towards sustainability.

Considerations for setting carbon reduction targets

  • Assessing baseline emissions: The first step in setting carbon reduction targets is to assess baseline emissions. This involves calculating the organisation's total GHG emissions, including Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. An accurate baseline is essential for measuring progress and identifying areas for improvement.

  • Being Science-based: To set effective carbon reduction targets, organisations should consider aligning their efforts with global climate goals. Setting SBTs, which are aligned with climate science, ensures that emissions reductions are in line with these goals.

  • Short, medium, and long-term targets: Carbon reduction targets should ideally include short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Short-term targets provide immediate actions to kickstart emission reduction efforts, medium-term targets demonstrate progress, and long-term targets outline a clear vision for a low-carbon future.

  • Aligning with the rest of your strategy: Targets should run alongside your operations and should be integrated into wider organisational goals. This means including carbon management as a core business objective, allocating it sufficient budget, and considering it as part of the decision making process.

  • Sector-specific approaches: Different industries have varying carbon footprints and emission reduction challenges. Adopting sector-specific approaches can help tailor carbon reduction targets to the unique characteristics of each industry. Collaborating with industry peers and participating in sector-specific initiatives can facilitate the exchange of best practices and innovative solutions.

  • Transparency and reporting: Transparency in target-setting and reporting is crucial for accountability and credibility. Organisations should publicly disclose their carbon reduction targets, progress, and strategies for achieving them. Regular reporting allows stakeholders, investors, and the public to assess an organisation's commitment to sustainability.

For more information about setting targets, check out our article: What is the SBTi?

Renewable energy technologies

Carbon accounting best practices

How to overcome challenges with carbon data collection and reporting

By adopting carbon accounting best practices, businesses can make informed decisions, set emission reduction targets, and contribute to the global effort to combat climate change. However, data collection and reporting can present challenges.

Here are some carbon accounting best practices and strategies to help overcome obstacles in data collection and reporting:

  • Establish clear objectives: Organisations should define clear objectives for their carbon accounting and emission reduction efforts. Having a well-defined purpose will guide data collection, reporting, and the overall carbon accounting process. Whether it is to comply with regulations, enhance sustainability, or demonstrate commitment to stakeholders, clear objectives are essential.

  • Engage stakeholders: Involving stakeholders from different departments and levels of the organisation is crucial for successful carbon accounting. Collaborate with relevant teams, such as operations, finance, and sustainability, to ensure comprehensive data collection. Engaged stakeholders are more likely to contribute valuable insights and support emission reduction initiatives.

  • Develop a data collection plan: Creating a structured data collection plan is vital to overcome challenges in gathering accurate and comprehensive emission data. Identify relevant data sources, establish data collection methods, and define responsibilities for data gathering. A robust plan helps streamline the process and reduces the risk of missing essential data points.

  • Use technology and software: Leverage carbon accounting software and digital tools to simplify data collection and reporting. Specialised software can integrate with various data sources, automate calculations, and generate standardised reports, saving time and reducing errors.

  • Include Scope 3 emissions: Addressing Scope 3 emissions is a best practice for comprehensive carbon accounting. Collaborate with supply chain partners and stakeholders to collect data on Scope 3 emissions, as they can often make up a significant portion of an organisation's total carbon footprint. For more information about the different Scope 3 categories, check out our article: What are the 15 Scope 3 categories?

  • Regular data verification: Conduct regular data verification and quality checks to ensure the accuracy and reliability of collected data. Verification can be done through internal audits or external verification services, enhancing the credibility of reported emissions data.

  • Transparency in reporting: Transparency is crucial in carbon reporting. Be transparent in disclosing emission data, methodologies, and progress towards reduction targets. Publicly sharing emission reports showcases an organisation's commitment to sustainability and fosters accountability.

  • Address data gaps and uncertainties: Data gaps and uncertainties may arise during data collection, particularly for Scope 3 emissions and third-party data. Acknowledge and address these gaps, using estimates and assumptions based on industry standards and best practices when necessary.

  • Continuous improvement: Carbon accounting is an ongoing process. Continuously review and improve data collection methodologies, reporting practices, and emission reduction strategies based on feedback and changing circumstances. Regularly update emission inventories to reflect organisational changes and improvements.

Why engage stakeholders with carbon accounting?

To achieve meaningful and lasting emission reductions, engaging stakeholders is a crucial step in the carbon management process. Stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, suppliers, and communities, play a vital role in driving sustainable practices and supporting emission reduction efforts.

Stakeholder engagement in carbon management offers numerous benefits:

  • Access to valuable insights: Stakeholders possess valuable insights into an organisation's operations, supply chain, and overall impact. By involving them in carbon accounting, organisations can gain a better understanding of their emission sources, identify improvement opportunities, and develop targeted strategies.

  • Enhancing credibility and accountability: Transparently involving stakeholders in carbon management enhances an organisation's credibility and fosters a culture of accountability. Publicly demonstrating a commitment to sustainability builds trust with stakeholders, including customers, investors, and the public.

  • Driving innovation and collaboration: Stakeholders from different backgrounds and expertise bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to carbon accounting efforts. Collaborative approaches often result in more comprehensive and effective emission reduction initiatives.

  • Leveraging resources and support: Engaged stakeholders are more likely to support and contribute resources to carbon management efforts. Financial support, access to expertise, and technology adoption can accelerate the implementation of sustainable practices.

How to engage stakeholders with carbon accounting

  • Identify stakeholder groups: Start by identifying stakeholders relevant to your organisation's carbon accounting objectives. This may include employees, customers, investors, suppliers, local communities, and industry peers. Understanding their interests and concerns is critical for tailoring engagement strategies.

  • Prioritise stakeholders within groups: Identify not only the most important groups that you will need to engage with, but also prioritise within the group – for example by impact (people or organisations you interact with the most, transact with the most or rely upon the most) and ease (people or organisations who are typically open and easy to deal with)

  • Create a clear communication plan: Develop a clear and concise communication plan that outlines your carbon management goals, progress, and the importance of stakeholder involvement. Regularly communicate updates and achievements to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.

  • Seek input and feedback: Actively seek input and feedback from stakeholders on carbon management initiatives. Surveys, workshops, and focus groups are effective methods to gather valuable insights and perspectives.

  • Set shared goals: Engage stakeholders in the process of setting carbon reduction goals. Establish ambitious, shared targets that align with climate science and stakeholder expectations. Collaboratively developing goals fosters ownership and commitment to achieving them.

  • Involve supply chain partners: Collaborate with supply chain partners to address Scope 3 emissions. Engage suppliers in emission reduction efforts and encourage them to set their own sustainability targets.

  • Provide education and training: Raise awareness and build capacity by providing education and training on carbon management. Empower stakeholders with knowledge and tools to contribute to emission reduction initiatives.

  • Recognise and reward: Recognise and reward stakeholders' contributions to carbon management efforts. Publicly acknowledge sustainability champions, and consider incentive programs for employees and suppliers who actively support emission reduction initiatives.


As the impacts of climate change become increasingly evident, the need for robust carbon accounting becomes more apparent. The information derived from carbon accounting is essential for setting emission reduction targets, tracking progress, fostering accountability, and guiding the formulation of effective climate policies and adaptation strategies.

For more information about how we can help future-proof your organisation and support you in your carbon accounting journey, reach out to one of our team. Our goal is to build your capacity, through our expertise and in-depth data analytics, so you can decarbonise with confidence.

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