Emissions certification

The information provided here is intended to give an overview of the concepts and terms associated with claims on emissions and the regulation/certification for these.

A number of schemes have been set up to certify company actions towards decarbonisation. When a company claims that it or its products are carbon neutral the standard by which this is measured should be stated. This is often done in marketing materials by using a logo such as the following examples:

There is a proliferation of certification schemes offered by a number of companies including BSi who have also drawn up the some Publicly Available Standards (PAS).

Behind this proliferation of schemes are a number of standards, which various schemes are built on:

  • ISO 14040 and 14044 these cover basic lifecycle assessment.
  • PAS 2050 a consistent method for quantifying product carbon footprints.
  • GHG Protocol a number of standards for GHG accounting and reporting.
  • PAS 2060 a carbon neutrality standard which includes offsetting and reduction targets.
  • Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) a standard for setting targets that are consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement.

From April 2019, large companies must now include emissions in their company reports.

The terms emission scope is used a lot in discussion of emission standards, so a section is included on scopes.

The Race to Zero is an initiative to get as many organisations to commit to reduce GHG emissions in line with the Paris goals in the run up to COP26.

Lastly certifying organisations and the different labels they offer are covered.

Product and corporate standards

Separate standards have evolved for products and companies to meet different requirements. In general terms a company may be aiming to reduce its overall carbon footprint, it will have a number of products and services each of which has a different carbon footprint. It might advertise that a specific product is carbon neutral, whilst the company overall is not.

Emission scopes

For reporting purposes emissions are divided into the following scopes:

Scope 1 – direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.

Scope 2 – Purchase of electricity, heat, steam or cooling.

Scope 3 – emissions from other sources, such as:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Waste disposal
  • Use of sold products
  • Transportation and distribution (up and downstream)
  • Investments
  • Leased assets and franchises

BEIS Environmental Reporting Guidelines

Government publishes Environmental Reporting Guidelines. These describe a process for annual reporting of an organisation’s GHG emissions and energy consumption. For most organisations these are voluntary, though this is now obligatory for some larger companies.

To enable this GHG reporting conversion factors are published for each reporting year. We have used these factors in our carbon footprint tracker.

Minimum GHG reporting standard for public companies in the UK

These describe what must be reported as part of an organization’s annual report.

Since April 2019 the following types of company have been required to report on GHG using a process compatible with the environmental reporting guidelines:

  • quoted companies
  • large unquoted companies (including charitable companies)
  • large Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs)

The annual report must include:

  • Annual GHG emissions including scopes 1 and 2
  • Underlying global energy use
  • Previous year’s figures for GHG and energy use
  • An intensity ratio (GHG divided by an appropriate indicator such as units sold, number of employees, turnover)
  • Energy efficiency action taken
  • Methodology used

BS EN ISO 14040

This 2006 international standard describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA), for further details see: https://www.iso.org/obp/ui#iso:std:iso:14040:ed-2:v1:en

BS EN ISO 14044

This 2006 international standard specifies requirements and provides guidelines for LCA, for further details see: https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:14044:ed-1:v1:en

ISO 14067

Carbon Footprinting of products

PAS 2050

PAS 2050 was introduced by BSi with the aim of providing a consistent internationally applicable method for quantifying product carbon footprints.

PAS 2050 builds on ISO 14040 and 14044.

PAS 2050 relates to the life cycle assessment of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions for goods and services, and does not cover other environmental impacts.

Following publication of the GHG Protocol Standard in 2011, PAS 2050 was revised to take account of lessons learnt to form PAS 2050:2011.

PAS 2050:2011 is a specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services developed by BSi

GHG Protocol

The GHG Protocol consists of a number of standards:

  • Corporate Standard covering accounting and reporting providing requirements and guidance for companies and organisations preparing a corporate-level GHG emissions inventory. It covers seven GHGs covered by the Kyoto protocol. Emission scopes are covered as follows:
    • Scope 1 emissions must be accounted for.
    • Scope 2 emissions must be account for, separate Scope 2 guidance has been provided.
    • Scope 3 emissions may optionally be accounted for, separate guidance is provided in the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard, which allows companies to assess their entire value chain emissions impact and identify where to focus reduction activities.
  • GHG Protocol for Cities offers a robust and clear framework that builds on existing methodologies for calculating and reporting city-wide GHG emissions. Here city is used to describe any sub-national geographic entity, so this is an appropriate standard for Teignbridge. This standard requires the measurement of emissions using two approaches:
    • Measurement of emissions from production and consumption activities within the city boundary, including some emissions released outside the city boundary.
    • Measurement of emissions categorised by scopes.
  • Mitigation Goal Standard provides guidance for designing national and subnational mitigation goals and a standardised approach for assessing and reporting progress toward goal achievement.
  • Policy and Action Standard provides a standardised approach for estimating the greenhouse gas effect of policies and actions.
  • Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard can be used to understand the full life cycle emissions of a product and focus efforts on the greatest GHG reduction opportunities.
  • Project Protocol is a policy neutral accounting tool for quantifying the greenhouse gas benefits of climate change mitigation projects.

PAS 2060

PAS 2060 is the internationally recognised specification for carbon neutrality and builds on the existing PAS 2050 environmental standard. It sets out requirements for quantification, reduction and offsetting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for organisations, products and events.

The specification applies at two levels:

  • Declaration of a commitment to carbon neutrality
  • Declaration of achievement of carbon neutrality

PAS2060 is applicable to any entity:

  • regional or local government
  • communities
  • organizations/companies or parts of organizations (including brands)
  • clubs or social groups
  • families
  • individuals

It is applicable to any subject defined by an entity including activities, products, services, buildings, projects and major developments, towns and cities, events.

PAS2060 is an on-going process which starts by measuring emissions and offsetting remaining emissions, followed by periodic audits which demonstrate a reduction in emissions and reduced need to offset.

The participating organisation communicates in 2 stages:

  • A declaration of commitment to carbon neutrality, which requires establishment of a carbon footprint and a carbon footprint management plan.
  • A declaration of achievement of carbon neutrality, which requires a reduction in carbon footprint and offsetting of remaining GHG emissions for an audit period. The statement of achievement only relates to the audit period.

All of scopes 1 & 2 emissions must be reported, and any scope 3 emissions that contribute more than 1% of the total.

Though PAS2060 is about reducing emissions it does not define targets that must be met.

Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)

Science-based targets provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C

This article from the Carbon Trust provides a good introduction to SBTi.

In order for an organisation’s target to be recognised requirements including the following must be met:

  • The GHG Protocol Corporate standard, scope 2 guidance and scope 3 accounting standard must be followed
  • Target must cover Scope 1 and 2 emissions, unless one of these represents less than 5% of emissions
  • Target must cover all GHGs
  • Direct CO2 emissions from the combustion of bio-fuels and/or biomass, as well as sequestered carbon must be included
  • Targets should relate to parent company or group rather than subsidiaries
  • Direct land use change emissions should be included in the target
  • Base and target years – Targets must cover a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 15 years from the date of submission, targets that have already been achieved by the date of submission are not acceptable.
  • Level of ambition must be to set scope 1 and 2 targets consistent with keeping global temperature increase well below 2C compared with pre-industrial temperatures. Companies are encouraged to pursue greater efforts towards 1.5C
  • Targets should be for absolute reduction, intensity targets are only acceptable if they give an absolute reduction of well-below 2C
  • Offsets may not be used
  • Avoided emissions do not count
  • Targets to actively source renewable electricity at a rate consistent with 1.5C are acceptable as an alternative to reducing scope 2 emissions.
  • Companies must complete a Scope 3 screening to determine the significance of scope 3 emissions.
  • Companies must have a scope 3 target if scope 3 represents more than 40% of all emissions
  • Companies must set one or more emissions reduction targets and/ or supplier or customer engagement targets that collectively cover at least 2/3 of total scope 3 mandatory emissions

See https://sciencebasedtargets.org/ and https://sciencebasedtargets.org/resources/legacy/2019/03/SBTi-criteria.pdf for further information

Race to zero

The Race to Zero is a global campaign to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonised economy ahead of COP26, where governments must strengthen their contribution to the Paris Agreement. This will send a resounding signal that business, cities, regions and investors are united in meeting the Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.

In order to join the Race to Zero an organisation must:

  • Pledge at head-of-organisation level to reach net zero GHG as soon as possible:
    • By mid century at latest
    • In line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C
    • Set an interim target to achieve in the next decade, which reflects maximum effort toward or beyond a fair share of the 50% global reduction in CO2 by 2030 identified in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C
  • Plan: within 12 months of joining, explain what actions will be taken toward achieving both interim and longer-term pledges, especially in the short to medium term.
  • Proceed: Take immediate action toward achieving net zero, consistent with delivering interim targets specified.
  • Publish: Commit to report publicly both progress against interim and long-term targets, as well as the actions being taken, at least annually. To the extent possible, report via platforms that feed into UNFCCC Global Climate Action Portal.

Initiatives can join Race to Zero, individual actors should join an initiative or network which is a member of Race to Zero.

Race to Zero Partners

The range rigour and ambition of commitments with different partners is considerable, as is the cost of the scheme. It is assumed that this is to maximise participation.

Race to Zero partners include:

  • For businesses:
  • Small and Medium-sized enterprises – SME Climate Hub commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.
  • Certified B Corporations: B Corporation – certified corporations have a score over 80% in an online B Impact assessment covering interaction with workers, customers, community and environment. This assessment is then validated and supported by documentation submitted.
  • Chambers of Commerce: International Chamber of Commerce Climate Coalition
  • Cities: Cities Race to Zero , to join cities must make 5 pledges:
    • Commit to keep global warming to the 1.5C goal of the Paris agreement.
    • Pledge to reach net zero in the 2040s , 2050 at the latest in line with 1.5C
    • In advance of COP26 explain the steps taken
    • Plan at least one inclusive and equitable climate action
    • Report annual progress beginning no later than 2022
  • Investors: Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance , investors agree to:
    • Transition investment portfolios to net-zero GHG by 2050 consistent with 1.5C, including setting intermediate targets every five years.
    • Advocate for industry and public policy for a low-carbon transition economic sectors
    • Play an active role in the alliance
    • Annually complete the alliance’s Ongoing Informal and Qualitative Stock-take, and periodically complete a Special and Qualitative assessment assessment questionnaire.
  • Regions/States: Under2Coalition
  • Universities:

For further information see https://unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign

Certifying organisations

There are a number of certifying organisations including:


As well as producing standards bsi runs carbon footprint verification services.

Carbon Trust

The carbon trust focusses on:

  • Corporate sustainability
  • Green Finance
  • Cities and Regions
  • Assurance and labelling
  • Future energy systems
  • Offshore wind
  • Zet zero

The Carbon trust certifies product carbon footprints with different levels of labelling:

Co2 measured logo
  • CO2 Measured – product is certified to PAS2050, GHG Protocol Product Standard or ISO14067
  • Reducing CO2 – product has been CO2 measured again (re-baselined) and has lower emissions
  • Reducing CO2 Packaging
  • Carbon Neutral – certified to PAS2060 standard
  • Carbon Neutral Packaging
  • Lower CO2 – than the lifecycle carbon footprint of the market dominant product in the category
  • 100% Renewable Electricity – product is backed 100% by Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) certificates.

Carbon trust helps organisations to set targets (Scope 1,2 and 3) that meet the requirements of the Science Based Targets initiative.

Carbon Footprint

Carbon Footprint Ltd is a company with a number of certification schemes under the name Carbon Footprint Standard for organisations, products, services and events. Certificates have three levels:

To qualify an approved methodology must have been followed.

ILFI – Zero Carbon Certification

Zero carbon certification relates to building projects. The standard is that 100% of the operational energy use associated with the project must be offset by new on- and off-site renewable energy. 100% of the embodied carbon emissions impacts associated with the construction and materials of the project must be disclosed and offset.

There are also requirements on reduction in energy intensity, avoidance of combustion, use of renewables.