This blog post was originally posted by Scope 5

One of the key indicators, if not, “The” key indicator of your organization’s efforts towards being a more sustainable organization is your annual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions report. This Carbon Footprint is a measurement of the GHG emissions from the various sources within your organization’s operations. Sources include the stationary and mobile combustion of fossil fuels, as well as any process or fugitive emissions. Emissions incurred indirectly, through the combustion of fossil fuels used to generate the electricity your organization consumes are also included. Once you have created your GHG inventory, and gathered the data for a 12 month period, you are ready to report.

Reporting internally to your organization is a first step. If the inventory is of sufficient detail, you will see what areas of operations are energy hogs, and what parts are efficient. Understanding your carbon footprint reveals information about your operations, allowing for better decision-making. Yet, reporting just internally may not be enough.

Any one organization is in relationship with other organizations and entities; the supply chain, your municipality, the federal government, your industry/business sector, your own employees, and generally, our world as a whole. Sustainable operations are inherently more transparent, because through this type of disclosure we want to share our work towards good stewardship, being more participatory within our communities. Reporting our GHG inventories externally demonstrates that we as an organization understand our responsibility to the whole. So we pull together our GHG inventories, and over time, our sustainability story develops. Shareholders will want to know how much money is being saved by efficiency efforts, while everyone else wants to know the extent of your environmental stewardship.

There are several options on where and how to report. Where we report will also determine the rigor and methodologies we use to develop our GHG inventories. If your GHG inventory for any one facility is greater than 25,000 Mt of CO2e*, and you are in the U.S., the EPA has most likely already contacted you about reporting, as you will fall under the EPA Mandatory Reporting Rule. If you are in Canada, several provinces have their own regulatory frameworks (British Colombia, Québec, Ontario, Alberta). Even if you are not currently subject to mandatory reporting, to prepare for future regulatory programs or other disclosure requirements, it is prudent to start to your own reporting. Whether subjected to mandatory reporting or not, you can also disclose to voluntary registries, as you wish.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a popular and relatively easy way to get your information out there. CDP provides guidelines and a questionnaire to step through your reporting. The actual methodology you use to develop and report your GHG inventory is wide open. You can use ISO 14064-1, WRI/WBCSD GHG protocol corporate standard, or other standards and guidelines as there is no standardization in CDP reporting. You can even use your own methodologies for reporting, as long as your provide an explanation with your CDP report.

Choosing to report to CDP gives you great flexibility, and you are joining a growing community of companies who are sharing this type of disclosure. Yet, because of the openness of the CDP process, the relative “truthiness” of a CDP disclosure could be debated. To hedge this, CDP scores your report. To gain higher points in your CDP score, you have the option to have your GHG inventory verified by an independent 3rd party.

Reporting to The Climate Registry (TCR) may be the most demanding of voluntary GHG inventory reporting. TCR is respected because of the depth of instruction their protocols go into. Beyond the general reporting protocol, there are TCR protocols for specialized sectors, including local government, oil and gas, and the electric power sector. TCR requires independent 3rd party verification from an accredited verification body. The verification step, of course, is an added expense. Yet, this step assures your GHG report has the highest integrity, and as a company you may even become a Climate Leader. You may not be able to successfully compete in the Climate Leadership Awards program, when just reporting internally or to CDP, only.

The carbon landscape, regulatory and voluntary, can be confusing and daunting to navigate. Yet reporting your GHG emissions allows your organization to put a stake in the ground, where you are now participating in the global carbon system, and working towards a positive future.

*CO2e is a unit for comparing the radiative forcing (Global Warming Potential) of a GHG to carbon dioxide.