Guiding Principles for Carbon Disclosure

Dan Olson

Reporting your company’s carbon emissions can be a tricky process. Whereas some large emitters are required to disclose their emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or regional greenhouse gas accounting programs, the vast majority of business owners in the US have no disclosure requirements, making carbon accounting and disclosure a voluntary effort. If your company falls into this category, you have more flexibility with what to report and how. With that flexibility, however, comes many more decisions and choices about how to best implement a carbon-reporting program.

A resource to draw heavily on as you decide how to approach your reporting effort is The Greenhouse Gas Protocol ― the most widely used emissions reporting standard developed by the World Resources Institute in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Protocol lists five accounting and reporting principles that should guide your reporting efforts:

  1. Relevance: Ensure the GHG inventory appropriately reflects the GHG emissions of the company and serves the decision-making needs of users―both internal and external to the company.
  2. Completeness: Account for and report on all GHG emission sources and activities within the chosen inventory boundary. Disclose and justify any specific exclusions.
  3. Consistency: Use consistent methodologies to allow for meaningful comparisons of emissions over time. Transparently document any changes to the data, inventory boundary, methods, or any other relevant factors in the time series.
  4. Transparency: Address all relevant issues in a factual and coherent manner, based on a clear audit trail. Disclose any relevant assumptions and make appropriate references to the accounting and calculation methodologies and data sources used.
  5. Accuracy: Ensure that the quantification of GHG emissions is systematically neither over nor under actual emissions, as far as can be judged, and that uncertainties are reduced as much as practicable. Achieve sufficient accuracy to enable users to make decisions with reasonable assurance as to the integrity of the reported information.

While each of these principles is important, if I were to pick a ‘favorite,’ it would be the principle of Transparency. While all companies strive for completeness and accuracy, reporting is a process of change and continual improvement. By being fully transparent about your organization’s assumptions, omissions, and inclusions, stakeholders will benefit from a clear line of sight into your process and consequent results.

Ecova’s Carbon Management team can help you identify opportunites and reduce and report your GHG emissions.

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