Sustainability/Analysis/

Green Glossary: Carbon accounting

You've probably heard of carbon accounting. But do you know what it actually means?

By Sarah Drumm

The Green Glossary features in Sifted’s weekly Sustain newsletter. We take a sustainability term or phrase and give a brief explanation on what it means, and how startups are connected to it.

What is carbon accounting?

Carbon accounting is the process of measuring the carbon emissions related to a product, service or organisation as a whole. Startups that talk about their carbon footprint — and their carbon offsets — will have been through this process.

What does it involve?

It is possible for companies to map out their supply chains and ask suppliers if they know how much carbon is being emitted along the way, but that’s not necessarily the easiest — or most accurate — way to do it. A lot of businesses commission a third-party to conduct something called a “life-cycle assessment”.

Sounds expensive.

Yup. A life-cycle assessment can cost as much as $10k per product and take up to six months to complete. Some startups are trying to develop tools that aim to simplify the process and bring costs down — such as Climatiq in Germany, which is currently operating in early access mode, and CarbonCloud, which focuses on food products, in Sweden. Because carbon footprint is a difficult thing to measure, there are no automated, one-size-fits-all solutions.

Where can I read more?

Doconomy’s 2030 Calculator can provide rough carbon footprint estimates. Travel startup Much Better Adventures has written about how it calculated its own carbon footprint. Grist takes a look at what to do with your carbon accounting data (hint: don’t just offset it).

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