Blog & News


Resize for Blog

Carbon Footprint: The Essential Tool for a Clearer View

1 November 2022 | By Laura Schmitt

Reducing your waste, your electricity consumption, using public transportation, eating less meat; it’s hard to navigate through all these eco-responsible actions. Whether you’re a citizen, a city, or a company, it’s not easy to know what to focus on first when you begin your eco-friendly journey. Before choosing the best option, we must already be aware of the area in which we pollute the most, and there’s nothing like a carbon footprint to clear it up!

Greenhouse Gas throughout the supply chain

We all know about certain sources of greenhouse gas emissions, such as car exhausts, natural gas consumption, or factory chimneys. But did you know that they’re actually present in the entire life cycle of the products we use? The grocery store down the street from you produces emissions by consuming electricity, but it also has to deliver its products, which are themselves manufactured in factories, then used by consumers before being thrown away. All these invisible steps are also responsible for a large part of greenhouse gases, which are called indirect emissions.

Resize for Blog2

What does a carbon footprint look like exactly?

This is where the carbon footprint comes in handy. At what stage does my grocery store emit the most and therefore what should I target to reduce its emissions?

It’s impossible to answer this question without making a complete assessment of the company’s direct and indirect emissions. Organizations such as the GHG Protocol and ADEME have therefore set up a procedure to help companies calculate their emissions by dividing them into three categories, or what are called scopes:

Scope 1 covers the company’s direct emissions, such as chemical processes and other facilities, or company vehicles.

Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from energy consumption, such as electricity, heating and cooling.

Scope 3 includes all the company’s other indirect emissions. These include, for example, emissions from the transportation of goods and employees, emissions from the production chain of the products sold by the company, their use and their end of life.

A simple carbon footprint is limited to scopes 1 and 2. However, scope 3 emissions can represent a very large part of the company’s emissions.

Scope 3, opening the can of worms!

The first carbon assessments, which were limited to scopes 1 and 2, missed many emission categories, which did not allow for the development of the most relevant reduction actions. Take for example the traditional debate between combustion and electric vehicles.

Resize for Blog4

Photo credits : © Mathieu B. Morin

For a manufacturer of combustion cars, its simple carbon footprint would probably point to the emissions linked to the electrical consumption of the buildings and machines it takes to make them (scope 2). The recommendations for action would then be on energy saving, insulation or utilizing renewable energy. The observation would be the same for a manufacturer of electric vehicles, the manufacturing processes being more or less comparative.

It’s only when scope 3 is taken into account that we start to see key differences between the two types of cars and to be able to compare their technologies. For internal combustion vehicles, it’s the use in itself, and therefore the emissions linked to fuel consumption that skyrockets the carbon score. And the longer and more intensively the vehicle is used, the greater its carbon footprint.

In the case of electric vehicles, it’s the opposite! It’s the manufacturing process, especially the extraction of rare metals, as well as the end of life (of these same rare metals in the batteries!) that are sources of emissions. On the other hand, the more intensively the car is used, the lower the carbon footprint per kilometre driven and the more the technology can be considered as “clean” compared to traditional vehicles. For electric vehicles, the decrease will be achieved by recycling batteries, which is the objective of local companies, and by increasing the use and longevity of each vehicle, for example through car sharing.

So, to the question we keep circling back to: “Is it actually good for the planet to ride electric?” only a complete carbon footprint can answer that, or a life cycle analysis in the case of products! And it won’t look like “this option is less polluting than the other” but rather “this option is preferable after… and only if…”. Little hint: our renewable energy mix is on our side! The precise answer here!

Resize for Blog3

Your turn to play!

And voilà, now you know all about carbon footprints! Don’t hesitate to check on your local merchants, your usual grocery store or… your favourite outdoor brand! Some of them are taking a closer look at the emissions generated by their activity in order to promote the sustainable practice of outdoor sports! This is the case of the Quebec-based company SAIL, which we are helping to carry out its very first complete carbon assessment!

So go check on the first brand that comes to your mind and see where they’re at with their carbon footprint!

Want to know everything about the carbon footprint protocol? Visit the GHG Protocol website to learn more about the international standards.

Project Manager Intern – GHG assessment

Laura Schmitt

Passionate about travel and landscapes, Laura has turned her love for nature into a motivation for environmental protection. Originally from France, she came to Quebec to do a master's degree in environmental engineering and wants to help organizations, companies and cities to act for the good of our planet. Always in search of new adventures, it is not uncommon to hear her talk about her road trips or her next hike.

View all posts...

Related posts :

Contact us

Earth Day Canada

5818, boulevard Saint-Laurent
Montréal (Québec) H2T 1T3 Canada

Phone : (514) 728-0116
Toll free : 1 800 424-8758
Fax : (514) 303-0248