How to become a net zero business

How to calculate your business carbon footprint


A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by your business activities.

Carbon footprints are used by businesses which have mandatory reporting requirements under carbon emissions trading and reporting schemes. They are also used voluntarily to show climate awareness and action by businesses.

Calculating your carbon footprint is the most important first step to becoming a net zero business. It allows your business to set baselines for your emissions reduction targets, and then to accurately measure progress against those targets.

How to calculate a business carbon footprint

There are five key steps to follow to calculate your organisational footprint. These are:

  1. Decide on the method to follow – a consistent method will help to ensure an accurate result.
  2. Define the organisational and operational boundaries – the operational boundary determines which emission sources you will quantify, so it's important to be realistic when choosing it.
  3. Collate the data – you'll need to collate consumption data for all the emission sources within your chosen boundary.
  4. Apply emissions factors – find the latest emissions factors on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.
  5. Verify the results – this is optional, but it adds credibility to your calculation.

If you have taken action to reduce your carbon footprint you may want to verify this. This is optional, but independent certification will add credibility to your reduction claims.

Find carbon footprint calculators

The SME Climate Hub has created a free Business Carbon Calculator. You can use it to estimate your full carbon footprint and find quick actions to reduce emissions from your business.

The Carbon Trust have produced a downloadable guide to carbon footprints, and how should you measure, calculate, and communicate them – find out more (registration required).

Other tools are available on the market, and your business may benefit from the expertise of contracting a specialist carbon footprinting service.