Business carbon footprint: the perfect guide for 2022

Would you like to conduct a carbon assessment for your company? Or do you just want to find out more about the carbon footprint? 👉 You’ll find all the information in this article.


Growing your business is good, but growing financially while protecting the environment is even better!

An increasing number of companies are looking to achieve this goal by implementing a CSR strategy, of which the main cornerstone is (often) to perform an assessment of their carbon footprint. This practice has become widespread in recent years and is no longer the preserve of large groups. Would you like to find out about the benefits of organising a carbon assessment for your business and how to go about it? We’ll explain everything in this step-by-step guide.

What is a carbon assessment for companies?

📈Background information on why the business carbon assessment methodology was created

Where does the carbon assessment concept come from? Below is an explanation.

Before you can reduce your company’s emissions, you need to know how much your business emits. It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to improve something that you have not evaluated.

In order to meet this crucial ecological challenge, the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), with the help of the engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici, developed the carbon assessment methodology which was published in 2004. The carbon footprint assessment was born.

Subsequently, there was a major step forward driven by the government’s commitment to implement a national low-carbon policy, with the adoption of Act No. 2015-992 of 17 August 2015 on energy transition for green growth (LTECV) as well as the Paris Agreement.

The objective was to provide companies and French people with a list of tools to better manage their carbon footprint in order to:

  • Achieve carbon neutrality by 2050
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of French consumption gradually and steadily so as to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, i.e. by 3% per year. [ref to LCTEV law]

Definition of a carbon assessment

If you don't know what a carbon assessment is, here is a definition. When a company carries out its carbon footprint assessment, it calculates all of its greenhouse gas emissions generated over a year, with the aim of reducing these emissions in order to combat global warming (even if this last point is not a legal obligation). Only certain companies are legally obliged to carry out a carbon assessment, but it is very common for businesses to enlist the services of an expert authorised to carry out this highly complex operation.

The stages of conducting a business carbon footprint assessment

Calculating a company’s carbon footprint is a complex operation, which requires a methodical approach. The different stages are as follows:

#1 Identify emission sources

Identifying emission sources begins with the collection of all the required data, both internal and external to the organisation (companies, local authorities, etc.), in order to calculate the emissions on the different parameters identified. Depending on the method and the structure of the organisation, the timescale for the data collection phase will vary.

#2 Convert data into CO2

Calculate the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance: this data must then be converted into its equivalent in tonnes of CO2, taking into account the distribution of these tonnes of CO2 between the various areas of activity.

#3 Define a priority focus area

Draft a personalised plan for reducing your GHG emissions after having identified the priority sources for reduction beforehand.

#4 Communicate your results

Publishing your results to communicate them to decision-makers and the wider public is part of the legal obligation for large companies that are required to carry out a carbon footprint assessment.

💡 A tip from Greenly: more and more companies are sharing their carbon assessment to demonstrate good practices adopted in this area, especially to their community and employees. Share your carbon footprint assessment with your employees to show your transparency on this issue.

What parameters must be taken into account when conducting a business carbon footprint assessment?

There are two parameters to consider to steer you in the right direction:

  • The so-called “organisational” parameter: this refers to defining the sites, facilities and skills that will be taken into account in your company's carbon assessment. Note that your organisation may have several sites or facilities, each of which may emit GHGs.
  • The “operational” parameter: this covers defining the emission sources that will be taken into account during the assessment. There are three CO2 focus areas, also called scopes, which we will discuss in more detail later.

Which GHGs are taken into account in the carbon assessment?

The accounting of GHGs in the carbon assessment as part of the ADEME method are based on various criteria in the ISO 14064 standard and the GHG Protocol initiative. Six types of gas are included in the calculation. They are as follows:

  • Carbon dioxide or CO2
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Hydrofluorocarbon
  • Perfluorocarbon
  • Sulphur hexafluoride

The different scopes of the carbon assessment

Emissions are divided into three categories in the methodology, which are also called scopes:

  • Scope 1: This covers direct GHG emissions. These are emissions that are generated directly by the company’s operations. For example, if product manufacturing required the use of oil, fuel or, more generally, if it generated CO2 emissions.
  • Scope 2: This refers to all indirect emissions associated with energy. These are generated outside of the company and concern the production of energy. For example, the electricity consumed to power the office. This consumption does not emit emissions per se, but the production of this electricity does emit greenhouse gases.
  • Scope 3: This encompasses all other company-related emissions. This category is very broad and includes, for example, emissions linked to the company's suppliers (purchasing of goods and services), employee and customer transportation, recycling and the end-of-life of the company's products, etc.

Synthèse des différents scopes

Method for calculating CO2 emissions as part of the carbon assessment

ADEME entrusted ABC (Association Bilan Carbone) with the management of the carbon assessment methodology in 2011. ABC has registered a trademark, which covers both a tool and a method of carbon accounting. To calculate greenhouse gas emissions, the quantity of CO2 is estimated according to two factors relating to emissions:

  • Monetary ratios used to calculate the carbon content of a purchased product or service based on its price. This is measured in kgCO2e/k€ excluding VAT.
  • Physical ratios corresponding to the unit of emission of the product (m2 of a given surface, kg of a gas emitted, etc.).

Conversion des émissions en tonnes de CO2

Which companies are obliged to carry out a carbon assessment?

Some companies are legally obliged to carry out a carbon assessment as it is an effective tool for ecological transition. Below is a list of the types of companies concerned:

  • All companies with more than 500 employees
  • Companies with more than 250 employees located in France’s overseas departments and territories
  • Legal entities governed by public law with more than 250 employees
  • All local authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants  

And finally, the government itself.

To comply with the law, companies must produce a BEGES (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report) every four years, and failure to do so is punishable by a €10,000 fine.

Should your company carry out a carbon assessment?

Why perform a carbon assessment of your company?

There are many reasons why you might want to carry out a carbon assessment for your company: Do you want to reduce your company's carbon footprint? Or do you simply want to commit to a CSR approach?

In all cases, if you perform a carbon assessment for your company it can be integrated into a sustainable development or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach. Rather than being a constraint, taking action for sustainable development will provide you with many tools to communicate and manage the growth of your company.

⭐️Improve your brand image

Brand image, particularly with regard to ecology (green delivery, less packaging, etc.) is now a priority for consumers when buying goods online according to a study published by Budgetbox and Harris Interactive in November 2019.

This suggests that carrying out a business carbon footprint assessment is now (almost) a mandatory step for all companies that want to be aligned with consumers’ new expectations.

Establishing an image that is in line with consumer expectations will improve your brand image, which will lead to more revenue in the long run! It will also help you to find a balance between growth and social responsibility. 🌱

Improve your brand image with CSR

📣 Communicate with your community and your employees

By sharing your annual carbon assessment, your sources of expenditure and your areas for improvement with your employees and your community, you are providing transparency with regard to your emissions. As a result, your employees will have more trust in your brand.

A survey by the consulting firm Deloitte reported that 65% of young people attach more importance to the “benefits to society” than to “profits” as a company objective. As you can see, adopting a CSR strategy also helps you to build a stronger brand image among your consumers.

🚀 Attract the talents of tomorrow

Talented young people are particularly concerned with companies’ environmental commitments. According to a study by Jam, 15-25 year olds are looking for a company that is committed to them as well as the planet. Seven out of ten young people think that companies are not deeply or sincerely committed in this field. Taking into account that salaries are generally the same between competitors for employees with equivalent skills and qualifications, a company’s capacity to embody the values of the younger generations is more essential than ever. Regardless of the size of your company, whether it’s a startup or a large group, the more closely you are aligned with the values of the new generations, the more candidates will flock to you!

👩💼 Encourage employee commitment

The issue of employee commitment has become extremely important in recent years. The happier your employees are, the more involved they will be in their respective projects and the more they will envisage themselves working for the company over the long term.

According to a study by Come communication, almost 51% of employees say they do not want to work for a company that has not made a social or environmental commitment. To this end, you should give your employees the opportunity to get involved in environmental issues.

Still not convinced? Another study by Korn Ferry emphasises the fact that more than 75% of employees say they are disappointed if an employer does not offer them specific CSR-related projects (involvement with an association, challenges between colleagues or sponsorship, etc.). So, don’t wait any longer to make your employees happy and to generate growth.

💳 Spend less, to spend better

At first glance, it may seem that performing a carbon assessment will incur additional expense, but in the long run, it will save you money. This may seem surprising but it’s actually quite logical. By measuring and identifying your emission sources, you can determine the impact of each of your expenses. Generally speaking, the most energy-intensive items of expenditure are also the most expensive. You should also remember that the less energy consumed means the less money spent. Make savings where you can to grow your business!

🎯Meet consumer expectations

Consumers increasingly expect companies to take action and communicate about climate change! Making your company greener by carrying out a carbon assessment will help you to meet this expectation.

The Oeko Tex Group conducted a survey of 11,000 consumers in more than 10 countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States) and reports that the younger generations prefer brands that communicate about their commitments and incorporate environmental values into their products.

🕰 Save time for your teams

Your teams no longer need to waste time filling out documents with dozens of sheets of paper: your company’s CO2 emissions can be monitored automatically. Automating these time-consuming tasks will leave more time to focus on the essentials and will save a significant amount of working hours.

🖲 Ensure compliance with current standards

Since 2016, French companies with more than 500 employees and local authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants have been legally obliged to carry out a carbon footprint every 4 years and 3 years respectively. This assessment must be published on the ADEME website, and is otherwise punishable by a fine of up to €10,000.

However, the Citizens’ Climate Convention, founded in 2019, has issued recommendations on tightening carbon assessment standards. It recommends publishing data on Scope 3 emissions in the report, or increasing the fine to serve as a deterrent. Therefore, the current standards for carbon assessment are likely to change in the near future.

Which carbon assessment solution should you choose for your company?  

Do you want to launch a low-carbon strategy for your company? Carrying out a carbon assessment for your company helps to solve the problem of CO2 emissions. Identifying sources of emissions in order to reduce them is a key step in the process.💡

Businesses of all sizes have a key role to play in the transition to a low-carbon world. More and more people are expressing a desire to join the fight against climate change, so why not start by taking effective action and adopting best practices within your company?

You have a budget to carry out a carbon assessment

If you have a budget to carry out your company's carbon assessment and you are sure that it will be useful, there are two ways to proceed, as follows.

Use software to perform your carbon assessment

Software is the most recent solution to become available on the market: by using innovative technology, it is now very easy to measure your carbon footprint. Wave goodbye to complex Excel spreadsheets and say hello to simple and user-friendly interfaces. There are several tools available on the market, including Greenly’s software, of course.


  • On average, this solution is 5 times less expensive than hiring a specialist consultancy firm 💵
  • Companies only need to log into their bank accounts to monitor their carbon footprint in real time.


  • It takes some time to implement the tool to take into account the company’s specific sources of expenditure. However, once it is fully configured, you will be able to monitor your company's expenses automatically.

Avantages et Inconvénients de l'utilisation d'un logiciel pour son bilan carbone

Hire a specialist firm

Many specialist firms have seized the opportunity to apply the carbon assessment methodology so that they can offer emissions calculation or structure their customers’ CSR strategy in more general terms. These companies include Carbone4, created by the engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici, Greenflex and Ecoact, which was recently acquired by the Atos group.


  • Comprehensive support with performing a carbon assessment (impact assessment, extra-financial reporting, alignment with the ISO 26000 standard, etc.)
  • Receive support throughout the entire process to reduce your emissions


  • Using these firms is often very costly, both in terms of money and time.
  • It should be noted that the cost can vary by several tens of thousands of euros from one firm to another. 💸

You don’t have a budget to carry out a carbon assessment

If you don’t have a specific budget for a carbon assessment, there are still some actions you can take as detailed below.

Conduct an in-house assessment

You can carry out your own carbon assessment in-house, which generally requires training by Association Bilan Carbone. Most companies choose to use an external service provider who has been trained in the carbon assessment method, as the process can quickly become complex.

Carbon assessment questionnaire

You can also perform an assessment by answering a questionnaire. Although the results are approximate, the benefit of this method is that it is quick and it can establish your positioning in relation to the consumption of other businesses.

👉 Here is a guide on writing specifications by ADEME if you would like an overview of the procedure to follow.

Online tools for performing a carbon assessment

You can also use tools such as the carbon calculators created by certain associations, for example, the online tool from Avenir Climatique, called MicMac, or those developed by Ecolab or GoodPlanet. Particular care should be taken when using these tools as the majority are for calculating your personal carbon footprint.

How much will a carbon assessment of your company cost?

Do you need to spend a lot of money on a carbon assessment for your company? Is this process reserved for large groups? Absolutely not! Previously it was only for companies with the resources to hire a team of qualified consultants, but the cost of carrying out a carbon assessment has decreased considerably in recent years, mainly because of the development of automatic monitoring tools.

The cost of a carbon assessment for companies

The cost of a carbon assessment for large companies varies according to the size and complexity of the structure, and monitoring emissions requires the mobilisation of human resources and a significant amount of working time.

👉 Consequently, even if the price varies according to the structure and size of the organisation, a carbon assessment costs an average of €5,000 and can easily reach €30,000 at the higher end, if you decide to use firms authorised to carry out a certified carbon assessment.  

Fortunately, alternatives have been developed over the past few years.

Some software programmes can reduce the cost of carrying out a carbon assessment for your company by assigning a coefficient by sector of activity or by specific ratio for each company.

The good news is that it is becoming easier to measure your company's GHG emission sources. By using these tools, you can benefit from a tailor-made plan for your company's consumption, while the budget needed to carry out a carbon assessment is divided by five.  

💡 A tip from Greenly: If you have already conducted an initial carbon assessment for your company, the second carbon assessment will cost less as you can reuse the same database.

Can only large companies afford a carbon assessment?  

Although essential for decarbonising your company, the average cost of carrying out a carbon assessment is still quite high because it requires the intervention of consultants trained in this methodology. Fortunately, this practice has been popularised over the last few years and the cost has fallen for several reasons:

  • The growing importance of CSR for the brand image of companies
  • The government’s commitment to implementing a national low-carbon strategy
  • The development of software that automatically monitors this data

Not to mention the emergence of software which has automated the process for monitoring emissions using innovative technology. The emergence of such platforms has made it possible to automatically monitor the GHG emissions of companies, whether large or small, and this requires much less material and human resources than before to measure and monitor emissions. Some platforms offer monitoring from around €100 per month.  

💡 A tip from Greenly: You can obtain a grant from ADEME for certain energy transition plans including up to 80% financing for your carbon assessment.

Advice on how to start decarbonising your company

You can already start implementing measures to decarbonise your company, even if you do not have the means or the time to carry out a carbon assessment.

Integrate certain CSR practices into your business

Integrating certain practices will help to ensure the effective roll-out of your CSR strategy. Furthermore, some measures require nothing more than good intent. Below are some actions you can start to put in place to adopt a low-carbon strategy:

✅ Appoint a CSR manager

✅ Adopt eco-friendly behaviour in the office

✅ Rethink your employees’ travel arrangements (sustainable mobility plan etc.)

✅ Put monitoring procedures in place for waste management, eco-friendly behaviour (See the ADEME website)

✅ Switch to a green electricity provider

✅ Think about recycling

✅ Switch to LED lighting

The list goes on and on, so don't hesitate to visit the ADEME website to see all the measures that you can take 😉.

If you then want to launch a more comprehensive CSR strategy, you can follow the steps below:

✅ Create a CSR scorecard with a list of priority needs

✅ Use CSR tools (ISO 26 000 standard, B Corp management system, etc.)

✅ Set up partnerships (associations, SSE sector etc.).

Finance carbon offset projects

You can offset your carbon footprint by financing local or international projects with a positive impact via the purchase of tonnes of CO2.

Let's be clear: it's better not to emit carbon emissions at all, rather than offsetting them at the end of each month. However, as a last resort, it does offer a solution. The principle is quite simple: you buy tonnes of CO2 (the price per tonne varies according to the project), which then compensate for your emissions and those of your employees.

For example, you can support ecological projects such as the Floresta de Portel project, certified by the Verified Carbon Standard and CCB standard, or more local initiatives such as the reforestation of the Louargat forest or the afforestation of the Rennetour wood.

👉Some websites are specialised in carbon offsetting such as Eco-act, the GoodPlanet Foundation and Reforest’Action.

💡 A tip from Greenly: A French person emits an average of 11 tonnes of CO2 per year. To offset your carbon footprint, you would therefore have to pay for 0.58 tonnes of CO2 per month, which is equivalent to planting 4 trees per month, at a total cost of €12.

How can you obtain financial aid for your company’s carbon assessment?

Since February 2021, as part of the France Recovery Plan and more specifically the Springboard for the Ecological Transition public fund, ADEME has been awarding grants to finance the Carbon Assessment. This aid is intended for VSEs and SMEs with fewer than 100 employees, excluding self-employed entrepreneurs. This fund can amount to 80% of the cost of the carbon assessment, and a grant of between €5,000 and €200,000 may be awarded, either for the GHG assessment or for projects aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.

To benefit from these grants, the company must meet a number of criteria:

✅ Be a VSE or SME (excluding self-employed entrepreneurs) based in France

✅ Have not yet committed to any expenditure

✅ Have applied for a grant of between €5,000 and €200,000

✅ Have a project eligible for aid

✅ Have submitted an application to ADEME

Why choose Greenly for your company's carbon assessment?

Greenly provides SaaS software that enables companies to conduct a carbon assessment in a simple and automated way and then to disseminate it:

  • Internally: to your employees to engage them with the process
  • Externally: to your community to enhance your brand image

🤖 Because it’s a simple and automated process

When you connect your accounts with Greenly, the platform analyses all the emissions linked to your expenses in real time, thus automating your carbon assessment.

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🏅A certified methodology

Our methodology is based on environmental data provided by the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME). Greenly has developed a unique algorithm to calculate this data and the different sources of company expenditure, offering unrivalled accuracy.

⌛️ Real-time monitoring

Your carbon footprint is no longer a value taken from a fixed point in time, Greenly analyses your carbon expenditure on a daily basis and provides a detailed analysis of the impact of your activities.

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💵 Save money

The good news is that you don’t have to spend €10,000 to €30,000 to make a firm commitment by carrying out a carbon assessment.

🚀 For more information:

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