Measuring greenhouse gas emissions

Once you have determined the goals of your company's greenhouse gas management program, the next step is often to perform an emissions inventory, which will provide information about the emissions generated by your business.

This involves:

  • identifying the major emissions sources (for example, energy consumption by buildings, and emissions from company vehicles and air travel)
  • quantifying those emissions, usually in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)

Although most businesses will have somewhat different emissions sources (for example, a single office would have a different emissions profile from a retailer), there is much common ground, and the same basic accounting approach is used for all types and sizes of businesses.

Why carry out an emissions inventory?

There are several reasons to consider performing an emissions inventory as part of an overall greenhouse gas management plan.

  • An emissions inventory highlights the business activities that emit the most GHGs, and helps determine the best opportunities for reductions.
  • The inventory establishes a benchmark for tracking future performance in reducing emissions.
  • Inventory allows you to assess how you will be affected by potential market and regulatory changes that put a price on GHG emissions.
  • If your company is ready to pursue carbon neutral initiatives, the emissions inventory will provide the total amount of emissions that need to be addressed through direct reductions and the purchase of carbon offsets.

The primary steps involved in performing an emissions inventory are as follows:

  1. Establishing an emissions boundary (deciding which emission sources will be included in the inventory)
  2. Collecting activity data
  3. Calculating emissions
  4. Ensuring that quality control measures are in place

ISO standards for GHG management

The ISO 14064 Greenhouse Gases is a voluntary, 3-part series of auditable standards that are compatible with the GHG Protocol. Developed and approved by more than 50 countries, ISO 14064 has been approved as national standards of Canada.

Source: Canadian Standards Association website

Example - Streamlining the inventory process

Over time, creative ways can be found to make the data collection system faster and more efficient. For example, if employees fly frequently, one option is to work with the accounting department to devise a system to capture flight data as trips are booked. Another option is to arrange to have the company travel agent keep a log of air travel for the business including distances for each flight.

Learn more
For more information about carrying out an emissions inventory, read the Doing Business in a New Climate guide (PDF, 5.72 MB).

Source: David Suzuki Foundation website