The three main aspects of a businesss carbon footprint are: energy
consumption, transport and use of goods and services.
Energy consumption includes electricity and heating at the companys offices
and it may also entail energy consumption elsewhere.
As to transport, there is a carbon footprint from commuting
and business travel, and in addition the transport of goods to customers.
For businesses selling physical goods transport can be the bulk of the
The use of goods and services from other companies contributes to a companys
carbon footprint. However, this invites the question: who is responsible for
the carbon footprint in a commercial transaction, the company providing
the service or the company receiving it?
For example, a manufacturer produces goods and sells them to a retailer.
The retailer in turn sells them to end consumer. How do we apportion
the carbon footprint of the process? At each stage a carbon footprint
has been created.
If we take the view that the consumer is responsible then the provider
has no carbon footprint. Its the principle of “selling on”
the carbon footprint. On the other hand if the provider is responsible,
then the consumer has no carbon footprint. This second approach is more
likely to be consistently applied because not all consumers will offset.
If we adopt the principle that the consumer expects the goods to be “zero
footprint” at the point of sale then offsetting will be more
The answer is not set in stone. The reasonable approach is that we all
participate is generating the carbon footprint of the process. There is then
a potential for double-counting: both the provider and consumer may offset
for the same carbon footprint. To avoid this, the provider should declare if the
product has been offset or not.
Double-counting can add to cost but it is certainly doubly beneficial
to the environment. It is a form of super-offsetting.
By offsetting the same emissions twice, instead of bringing the emissions
balance to zero we actually capture carbon from the atmosphere.