Carbon Management

Carbon neutrality calculations

Carbon neutrality is not just about reducing emissions; it's about creating a sustainable future that balances economic development with environmental preservation and social well-being. It's a comprehensive effort that requires innovation, collaboration, and commitment across all levels of society and governance - but it can be achieved quoickyl through various methods.  

Methods of calculation vary depending on the organization undergoing assessment, and it’s notoriously complex. Here, we explore carbon footprint calculations in detail.

Why carbon neutrality matters

Carbon neutrality matters for several reasons, primarily due to its significance in combating climate change and promoting a sustainable future, which is the biggest reason that the globe is rushing towards it. Even a slight increase in the global temperature can lead to catastrophic effects on ecosystems, weather patterns, and sea levels.

The 1.5-degree Celsius temperature target, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, is a critical threshold; staying below this limit significantly reduces the risk of extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, and irreversible environmental damage, thus protecting communities worldwide from the devastating impacts of climate change. Achieving carbon neutrality represents a strategic advantage for businesses, leading to:

  • Significant cost reductions through enhanced energy efficiency and the adoption of renewable energy sources. 
  • Strengthen a company's brand value and market position, appealing to an increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer base and investor community. 
  • Access new markets and revenue opportunities, ensuring long-term growth and competitiveness

Still wondering what carbon neutral means? Our guide can help. 

The difference between carbon neutral and net zero

The terms "carbon neutral" and "net zero" are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings, especially in the context of addressing climate change. 

With carbon neutrality, any CO2 emissions are balanced out by an equivalent amount of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere, often through carbon offsetting activities - we’ll get into that later in this article. 

Net Zero means that a company, sector, or country does not add new greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at all, aiming to completely eliminate or offset all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, not just carbon dioxide. 

Learn more about the difference between carbon neutral and net zero

How are carbon footprints calculated?

Measuring carbon neutrality involves a multi-step process that quantifies the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a company, product, service, or activity is responsible for, and then balancing these emissions with equivalent carbon reductions or offsets.

Some methods focus exclusively on calculating the carbon footprint related to CO2 emissions, not accounting for all greenhouse gases. However, for a comprehensive understanding of an entity's impact on climate change, considering all greenhouse gases through broader methods like the GHG Protocol is generally recommended - C02 is still included in these calculations. There are a few different ways of calculating carbon footprints, but to give a few examples:

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) is a comprehensive global framework for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains, and mitigation actions. It works by providing standardized tools and methods to calculate and report emissions, enabling organizations to identify emission sources, measure their carbon footprint accurately, and develop strategies for emission reduction in line with global standards.

Learn more about the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) plays a significant role in the pursuit of carbon neutrality. By providing a detailed analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with all stages of a product's life cycle, LCA helps businesses and policymakers identify where and how emissions can be reduced. This comprehensive approach ensures that efforts to lower carbon emissions are targeted effectively across the entire production and consumption process, not just at specific points.

Reduction strategies

Adopting robust reduction strategies is paramount for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. These strategies encompass a wide range of actions aimed at decreasing both direct and indirect emissions across all sectors of an economy. From transitioning to renewable energy sources and enhancing energy efficiency in buildings and transport, to implementing sustainable agricultural practices and fostering a circular economy, reduction efforts are crucial.

Every organization’s journey to carbon neutrality will look different - the size of the supply chain can have a huge impact, as can the core products offered by businesses. However, the steps towards reducing carbon output often fdo follow the same pattern; assess, reduce, offset and verify. 

Assessing emissions

Assessing emissions is a crucial first step for organizations aiming to understand and reduce their environmental impact. Data on energy consumption, transportation, and waste management, among other activities, is collected and analyzed. Using established methodologies such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, emissions are quantified by applying specific emission factors, converting activity data into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). 

This comprehensive assessment allows organizations to pinpoint key areas where emissions reduction is possible, formulating strategies to address them effectively. 

Emission reduction strategies

Once emissions have been calculated, the next step is to take steps towards reducing the emissions flagged in the audit. This can take a number of directions, for example:

  • Energy efficiency - for example, upgrading to LED lighting; installing programmable thermostats to better control heating and cooling; optimizing manufacturing processes to consume less energy; and investing in energy-efficient appliances and equipment. 
  • Renewable energy - this can include alternative energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar power, or Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
  • Sustainability in supply chains - a few examples include procurement of eco-friendly and certified materials (e.g. FSC-certified wood, organic cotton), efficient logistics and transportation and product design with end-of-life in mind.

Carbon offsets

Carbon offsets are a form of trade that allows individuals and companies to compensate for their carbon dioxide emissions by investing in environmental projects elsewhere. There are a number of terms closely associated with offseting; let's explore a few: 

Carbon capture and storage

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology designed to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes.

Learn more about CCS

Carbon credits

Carbon credits represent a market-based mechanism designed to incentivize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. One carbon credit typically equals one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) either removed from the atmosphere or prevented from being emitted.

Learn more about carbon credits

Carbon removal

Carbon removal encompasses a range of technologies and natural processes aimed at extracting carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere and securely storing it or utilizing it in such a way that it does not contribute to global warming.

Criticisms of carbon offsets

Carbon offsets have faced criticism for a variety of reasons, primarily concerning their efficacy and reliability in combating climate change. One significant critique is the distinction between avoided emissions and actual removals of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Avoided emissions projects, such as those preventing deforestation or investing in renewable energy, are often criticized for their potential to overestimate benefits and for the difficulty in proving that the emissions would have occurred without the offset project. This contrasts with removals, which involve direct actions to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, such as reforestation or carbon capture and storage technologies.


Ensuring the accuracy and integrity of emissions calculations, reduction efforts, and carbon offsets is critical for credible climate action. Independent verification by third parties, such as accredited environmental auditors or certification bodies, is essential to validate that these measures meet established standards and methodologies. This process scrutinizes:

  •  The accuracy of emissions reporting
  • The effectiveness of reduction strategies 
  • The legitimacy of any carbon offset projects engaged

Once verified, reporting these findings publicly, in alignment with recognized standards such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol or ISO 14064, enhances transparency and builds trust among stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulatory bodies. 

Public disclosure also demonstrates a company's commitment to data accountability in its climate actions, setting a benchmark for industry best practices and contributing to the collective effort against global warming. This approach not only reinforces the environmental credibility of the organization but also encourages broader participation in sustainable and responsible business practices across sectors.

How Minimum can help

Minimum can help organizations to understand their existing carbon output, and create plans to mitigate climate related risks in the future.  Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organization and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. 

Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.