Carbon accounting

Personal disclosure information, also known as carbon accounting or carbon foot-printing, has become an extremely important part of corporate social responsibility reports (CSR). Some figures say that more than 70% of the Fortune 500 companies report their carbon emissions as part of their CSR. While European supply companies are forced to disclosure their fuel-mix and subsequent carbon emissions to an end-user, a corporation is not forced to disclose what emissions they are responsible for. This means that these 70% of Fortune 500 companies report their emissions voluntarily.  In order to help and encourage these companies to report the Green House Gas Protocol (GHG-P) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) have helped to define criteria, methodologies and  surveys for corporations to use in their carbon accounting activities. 

The GHG-P has defined three ways in which a company can emit or be responsible for the emission of green house gases. These three ways are defined as scopes

Scope 1 originates from direct emissions from onsite sources.  Think on-site power production or natural gas usage.

Scope 2 comes from the indirect emissions resulting from the onsite use of energy.  This is most often associated with electricity since it is produced and has emissions off-site but is consumed emission-free on-site.  Scope 2 is seen as being a ‘slice’ of scope 1. This calculation allows one to know if they are responsible for emissions somewhere else.

Scope 3 are all other indirect emissions.  These can come from employee travel or off-site conferences just as an example.

Where electricity tracking becomes important is with the scope 2 emissions. Both the GHG-P and the Carbon Disclosure Project promote the use of reliable tracking systems as a way of proving that on-site electricity consumption originated from a specific off-site electricity production source.  In Europe this is the only method that can be used to prove that your organization was the only consumer of a specific electricity production.  Guarantee of Origin certificates are the primary method for scope 2 carbon accounting among European corporations.