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What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is a quantitative measure of the greenhouse gases (GHG’s) released as a result of an activity.  There are six GHG’s that, if released into the atmosphere, will contribute to changes in our climate. CO2 is the most common GHG and is released when fossil fuels are burnt (e.g. gas, coal, oil, diesel). These gases can be measured collectively and converted into CO2e – carbon dioxide equivalence, thus giving a standard measure for a carbon footprint that can encompass all GHG’s.  Electricity can also be converted into CO2e emissions by calculating how much fossil fuel was burnt in the power station/generation facility to generate the power.

A company’s corporate carbon footprint is based on their direct activities e.g. fossil fuels used to generate energy or for business transport, emissions from waste, refrigerant leakage and process gases.  The emissions from electricity are treated as indirect emissions.  Some companies also choose to look at the emissions throughout their supply chain, e.g. from distribution activities, raw material manufacturing and consumer use and disposal.

A carbon footprint may be required for a number of reasons, amongst these are:

• To comply with legislation such as those companies in the EU (Carbon) Emissions Trading Scheme.
• To give a measure of business sustainability as part of corporate responsibility.
• To comply with customer or investor requests.
• To set and achieve reduction targets.

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