Thursday, June 5, 2008

A GHG footprint is your baseline measurement

I was speaking with the owner of a successful progressive business. His company is environmentally conscious and plays an active role in the sustainable community here in Portland. Founded in 2001, they have been steadily building their business. Our discussion turned to triple-bottom line accounting and he acknowledged their business didn’t have many, if any, non-financial measurements. Like most individuals and organizations, they didn’t know their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint.

A GHG footprint analysis is a measurement of an organization’s direct and indirect GHG emissions. Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming through the greenhouse effect. They include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, CFCs and water vapor. A GHG report will measure an entity’s direct and indirect emissions of the various gases, and then convert the data to CO2 equivalents. The final result is the tons of CO2 equivalents released over the year. This is a number to be managed.

As the old saying goes, “What gets measured get’s managed”. The GHG reduction process is a 1, 2, 3 process beginning with measuring emissions, then reducing and finally, offsetting the GHG emissions that can’t be eliminated. The first step in this process is the measurement. Every business should begin this measurement process now. Businesses can download free tools to get started at Individuals might want to start here:

Performing a GHG inventory will allow you to understand the source of your emissions. I was on a team who performed the first GHG inventory for the Bainbridge Graduate Institute ( and it was eye opening to see that well over half the annual emissions was from air travel by a small percentage of students, faculty and staff. We wouldn’t have known this without performing the footprint analysis.

For a great list of the Top 10 things businesses can do to reduce their emissions you can start here:

Individuals can start here for a similar list:

Having done a GHG inventory, I can assure you they aren’t that hard. There are experts who can help if you don’t have the time or skills. I actually offer reduced rates for this type of work because I want to help.

The process will engage your employees and could help you develop a competitive advantage. Customers, especially in the green community, will increasingly be asking about your footprint. I predict it won’t be long before a business that doesn’t know its footprint will be in the same boat as a company that doesn’t recycle – unattractive to customers, employees, regulators and the community.

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