This lesson underscores the importance of quantifying and evaluating greenhouse gas emissions, guiding organizations through the steps of carbon accounting, data collection, standardization, and selecting a baseline to establish a foundation for emissions reduction efforts
You can not manage what you can not measure.
Quantifying and evaluating the scale of your existing GHG emissions is essential within your organization’s specific industry or geographic region. Both components set the stage for identifying potential emissions reduction opportunities.
Let’s walk through how an organization would assess its emissions and choose a baseline. Quadial Inc. will serve as an example throughout these steps.
Step 1: Carbon Accounting and GHG Inventories
Carbon accounting measures the quantity of GHG emissions a company or organization emits to assess its environmental impact. It categorizes emissions into direct (scope 1) and indirect (scope 2 and 3) and helps organizations understand their carbon footprint. This also helps organizations make informed decisions about emission reductions and mitigate climate change. Businesses, governments, and individuals use carbon accounting to estimate their emissions and track progress in sustainability efforts.
Conduct a GHG inventory by identifying, measuring, and quantifying the emissions of various GHGs. Quadial Inc.’s GHG inventory accounts for the scope type, such as scope 1, 2, or 3; as well as the emissions source, such as energy consumption, transportation, land use, industrial processes, and waste management.
Step 2: Data Collection, Standardization, and Cleansing
Sourcing high-quality data is crucial for accurately assessing your emissions. Quadial Inc. begins collecting information on energy use, fuel consumption, production levels, activity data, and any other relevant factors contributing to its GHG emissions, such as internal records, energy bills, fuel consumption data, industry-specific databases, and government sources.
At this stage, cleaning your data by processing and converting it into standardized units for emissions calculation is also important. Use emission factor sets and/or Global Warming Potentials (GWP) to consistently measure the myriad emissions that make up your organization’s current emissions.
Since Quadial Inc. is in its nascent stages of decarbonization, the organization’s sustainability leaders enlist the help of Persefoni to continue their decarbonization journey by automating its calculations.
Additionally, organizations must ensure the quality and accuracy of their data by applying data validation techniques and quality control processes to verify its accuracy, completeness, and consistency. After calculating its initial carbon footprint, Quadial Inc. works with a third-party auditor for external validation.
Step 3: Baselines
Selecting a baseline is integral in calculating your organization’s emissions. It identifies a point against which future emissions reductions are measured and reflects the inventory for a specific period. In other words, it measures your organization’s current environmental impact.
If your organizational structure changes significantly over time, consider rebaselining, also known as recalculating base year emissions.
Rebaselining is vital to continue making consistent and relevant comparisons over time and occurs when there are:
Furthermore, for organizations that don’t have an official reporting or disclosure goal and are looking to establish a baseline, it is better to use available data (even if it is lower quality) rather than forgo calculating a baseline entirely. Baselining with estimate-grade data (such as spend data) is acceptable if the data quality improves over time.
For example, Quadial Inc. can choose any year as a baseline if there is comprehensive and reliable data. Quadial Inc. selects 2015 as its baseline year, even though it only began to keep digital records in recent years.