The Building Blocks for Net Zero: Our simple guide to CO2e and the GHG Protocol

12 July 2023

In today’s world, where environmental sustainability is a growing concern, organisations are increasingly seeking ways to measure and manage their environmental impact. One of the primary methods used for this purpose is the measurement of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions.

So, here we provide the answers to the most common questions that we get asked when trying to understand the basics of CO2e as the primary metric for measuring environmental impact, along with details of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and its associated scopes.

“Why do we use CO2e as the primary way to measure our environmental impact on the planet?”

“Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. These gasses are produced throughout the lifecycle of manufactured goods and quantifying them gives us a way of measuring environmental impact. There are 7 of these of which Carbon Dioxide (CO2e) is the biggest contributor.

The others include Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons), PFCs (Perfluorocarbons), SF6 (Sulfur hexafluoride), NF3 (Nitrogen trifluoride).

“Ever wondered what the ‘e’ stands for in CO2e?”

“It stands for ‘equivalent’.

Whilst we measure the environmental impact of manufactured goods based primarily on the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that is expended as a result of the energy used across their lifetime, the ‘e’ means that we are including a further 6 Green House Gasses (GHG) in measuring their footprints of which CO2 is the most abundant.”

“What is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and why do I care?”

“The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, is a globally recognised, world-leading standard for corporate accounting and reporting of GHG emissions developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The protocol outlines the processes involved in establishing a successful carbon management programme, from considering the carbon impact of the energy you use in your buildings, to the emissions relating to the products you purchase or services you provide”.

“What are the stages (or phases) of the lifecycle for manufactured goods that we can measure for Environmental Impact?”

“Whilst there is no absolute standard for the lifecycle stages (or phases) of manufactured goods we can broadly categorise these as Manufacturing (or Production), Transportation (or Distribution), Utilisation (or Retention) and Disposal (or Disposition).

Measuring the CO2e impact of each of these phases enables the management of our carbon footprint at a personal and organisational level.

These stages (or phases) are broadly aligned to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol”.

Tell me more about the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Most organisations have adopted the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol as the framework for measuring environmental impact, based on emissions.

The emissions are categorised into Scope 1 (company facilities and vehicles).

Scope 2 (purchased energy) and Scope 3 (15 categories which include C1. Purchased goods and services, C2. Capital Goods (upstream), C10. Processing of sold products, C11. Use of sold products, C12. End-of-life treatment of sold products (downstream)).

And Scope 3 essentially encompasses the carbon lifecycle of your IT assets (other than transportation and in-life use).

Traditionally, the focus has been on measuring and reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and as this has gained traction, the focus over time has become how to measure Scope 3 emissions with the objective of reducing all company carbon emissions over time in a planned and measured fashion.

This initiative has become a focus for many organisations with governmental, legislation, industry sector requirements and consumer pressures all being brought to bear.

In the future, we believe that a global taxation system on CO2e will add to the requirement to accurately measure and manage organisational emissions.

We have developed a tool to help firms do just that! 

COzPro – The Award-Winning Environmental Application is a data-driven solution that enables organisations to measure, model and report their IT carbon footprint at the asset level and support their journey to carbon net zero on a real-time basis.

The app gives a clear view of the current carbon footprint, and future carbon liabilities and validates carbon reduction targets. The dynamic data helps you set carbon goals accurately and drives decisions that support your IT hardware procurement, retention and disposal strategy.

By embracing CO2e measurement, adopting the GHG Protocol, and actively working toward reducing emissions across all scopes, organisations can play a vital role in mitigating climate change and building a more sustainable future.

Remember, every step taken towards reducing environmental impact brings us closer to a greener and more resilient planet for future generations.

To find out more about COzPro – The Award-Winning Environmental Application, or to book a demo, get in touch with one of our sustainability experts.