How to combine accuracy & action in carbon accounting


Last updated: 25. Mar 2024

When it comes to emissions calculations, perfection should not be the enemy of progress.

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Dr. Alexander Schmidt

Head of Science, Sustainability, and Climate Research

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Thomas Chrostek

Thomas Chrostek

Research Assistant

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Evan Farbstein

Content Writer

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Table of Contents

Accurate emissions data is vital for reaching net zero. However, businesses can set out on the journey with imperfect data and refine their work along the way.

In other words: when it comes to emissions reductions, perfection should not be the enemy of progress.

Here’s how your business can achieve the most accurate view of your emissions using the data you currently have – and how increasing your data accuracy will empower even more effective action.

Accuracy should not delay action

Collecting the data needed for comprehensive carbon accounting can be a challenging process – especially when it comes to value chain emissions.

However, deficiencies in data should not delay action indefinitely. Even rough emissions estimates can help identify areas for improvement and set goals for emissions reduction. The aim is to always be as accurate as you can be given where you are in your carbon accounting journey.

For example, a company early in its journey might not have any activity data in scope 3, but usually has comparatively easy access to activity data in scopes 1 and 2. By beginning with this activity data in scopes 1 and 2 – such as KWh or the amount of purchased fuel – and using financial transactions at the scope 3 level, the company can relatively quickly identify its emissions hotspots and begin to take targeted action.

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Carbon accounting, explained

Learn what carbon accounting is and how it empowers your business to achieve net zero emissions, comply with reporting legislation, and build credible sustainability branding.

Improving accuracy

Working from these initial calculations, you can identify your hotspots and use them as guidance for seeking additional data.

Initial estimates can highlight focus areas

Once you have more material-level and supplier-level data, you can then repeat the calculations to enhance their accuracy. With increased accuracy, in turn, you can set more granular reduction targets and identify new, specific actions you can take.

This iterative approach to refining the material-level and supplier-level data available combines the pragmatism of immediate action with the precision required for comprehensive action. 

By taking quick, informed steps toward accurately accounting for carbon emissions, your business can ensure it is implementing best practices and using an iterative approach to refine data – achieving both accuracy and timeliness.

Executive summary

  • Taking quick, informed action towards accurately accounting for carbon emissions is crucial to reducing a company’s carbon footprint.
  • Starting small and with imperfect data should not hold a company back from taking action.
  • Using an iterative approach to refine data helps companies achieve both accuracy and timeliness.

Normative powers effective climate action

Our carbon accounting engine automates the process of calculating emissions, using a science-backed hybrid methodology to ensure accurate, actionable carbon calculations.

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