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What is the carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by the direct or indirect effect of an individual, an organisation, an event or a product.

The concept of carbon footprint goes beyond carbon dioxide (CO2) emission measurement since GHG have been taken into consideration, in order to turn the amount of each gas into equivalent quantities of CO2. This conversion is carried out on the basis of Global Warming Potential (GWP) of each gas.

The GWP of a GHG expresses the effect on global warming caused by a kilogram of GHG during a period of time, usually 100 years, as compared with the effect caused by a kilogram of CO2.

Emissions related to the activities of an organisation can be classified in two groups: direct (emissions from sources owned by the organisation or not controlled by it) and indirect (emissions resulting from activities of the organisation that occur in sources that are not property of the organisation and are not controlled by it).

When making the carbon footprint, it is necessary to define whether the calculation includes the whole organisation or it is only focused in a product (or service) of the organisation. We can distinguish in this way two basic approaches to calculate the carbon footprint:

Corporate carbon footprint

It measures the amount of GHG emitted as a direct or indirect result of the development of activities of an organisation.

Product carbon footprint

It measures the GHG emitted during the shelf life of a product, from raw materials extraction, going through processing, manufacturing and distribution, to the usage stage and the end of shelf life (reuse, recycling or storage in a landfill).