Carbon and carbon footprinting for SMEs: a simple guide

Jul 21, 2020

By David Weatherall of Future Climate (a Smarter Choices founding partner)

Technology and societal trends have long been driving a climate and sustainability agenda for all UK businesses, large and small. And because we need organisations to succeed for a successful economy, we also need businesses to achieve clean, low carbon growth, the heart of the government’s net-zero strategy for 2050.

Most businesses have multiple ways they can save carbon. Energy efficiency is undoubtedly the first step. Energy efficiency actions can range from something as simple as making sure your staff know how to use your heating controls, to a full upgrade of legacy equipment with new, energy efficient machinery. Energy efficient businesses use less fossil fuel (oil or gas) on site. They also require less electricity, reducing the need for fossil fuel-powered generation at power plants.

Once they’ve made energy efficiency improvements, companies can consider installing renewable energy technologies such as solar panels that further reduce their carbon emissions. The third step for cutting carbon is for organisations to look to their own supply chains to assess how much carbon is associated with their products.

Cutting carbon through energy efficiency and clean energy generation can pay for itself. The government estimates that energy efficiency could save SMEs 30% off their energy bills by 2030. And that’s great news today as, now more than ever, companies need to focus on promoting efficiency in their business to reduce their cost base.

Why should companies calculate and communicate their organisational carbon footprint?

If you’re going to focus on carbon emissions, you’ll need a reference point: the Carbon Trust provides a Carbon Calculator to get you started on your journey. This enables your business to understand where you are now with emissions levels and measure progress in the future. It’s also your first step on a journey towards sustainability – after all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Once your business understands its patterns of carbon emissions, you can start to look for areas that reduce your footprint as well as your energy bills.

Did you know?
A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere by an individual, organisation, event or product, and expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e). Every action that we take – whether it’s an individual buying food and then cooking it, or turning on lights in a warehouse – carries a carbon footprint.


Making your carbon footprint public can also bring benefits to your organisation:

  • Internal communication: many organisations consider engaging their workforce a key point in achieving a reduction in emissions. If you make your staff aware of your intentions and they understand the difference they can make, you stand a better chance of your new efficiency initiatives standing the test of time.
  • Supply chain: Any collective engagement to reduce emissions is going to have a bigger result if you look at your supply chain as a network of suppliers with a network of opportunities to effect change. Additionally, some organisations may be required to have a carbon footprint policy or demonstrate carbon footprint reduction as part of their contractual relationships with suppliers.
  • Brand: a reported carbon footprint can help to differentiate your brand from your competitors by showing your concerns for the impact that your business has on climate change and the environment in general. It can also attract new customers that prefer a brand with a strong ethical standpoint and proven green credentials.

“Quantifying your GHG emission sources will help you understand what impact your organisation is having on climate change.”
Carbon Footprinting Guide by The Carbon Trust

The process of carbon footprinting doesn’t have to be complicated. Organisations differ hugely but your company’s energy data from fuel receipts coupled with your energy bills will supply you with 90% of the information you need. And the sooner organisations get on board with implementing energy efficiency improvements, the easier their journey to net zero.

Make the Smarter Choice

Smarter Choices is a government-funded consortium that targets UK SMEs. It offers a straightforward, end-to-end service to identify energy saving potential and implement a guaranteed energy, carbon and cost-saving solution without upfront investment. Calculating your carbon footprint starts with understanding your energy consumption. Smarter Choices can offer free onsite energy audits to review your energy consumption, and provide independent advice on the energy efficiency measures feasible for your site. This could be anything from low energy lighting, solar panels, a new heating and ventilation system, to an overall building energy management system.

Smarter Choices currently offers free energy assessments, monitoring equipment and account manager support to help develop and test the service. Contact us on or 0207 721 5031 to see how Smarter Choices can help you to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.