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GHG Protocol Reporting Guide: all you need to know about Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG)

The GHG protocol applies to measuring greenhouse gasses in both the public and private sectors and provides standards that create a common ground for many sustainability certifications and reporting systems. In this article, we summed up all the ins and outs of effective GHG reporting.

Environmental Policy & News

What is the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol?

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in GHG?

Sustainability Reporting: What are the GHG Standards?

The Product standard in the GHG protocol

What’s the best way to measure the product’s carbon footprint?

How Ecochain Helix can help you

A good understanding of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) impacts is crucial to our collective climate journey. And that’s because it enables companies to thoroughly understand their climate hotspots- as well as to spark the proper responsive actions.

It’s no surprise that measuring, reporting, and managing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (scope 1, 2, and 3) is increasingly becoming mission-critical to many companies.

However, the GHG Protocol is not the only option. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) offers a broader approach, analyzing a product or service’s environmental impact across its entire life cycle. This methodology goes beyond carbon footprinting, allowing you to assess more than +15 environmental factors.

GHG protocol vs LCA methodology

Subject GHG protocol LCA
Goal Calculate GHG emissions for the full company Calculate product environmental calculations
Norms GHG protocol ISO 14040/14044
Data needed Full company data Product specific data
Scope Scope 1 and 2 impacts for all Scope 3 items Full life cycle indicators for products and services
Guidelines No specific datasets are required for GHG Depending on the purpose of the product LCA
Impact categories Only climate change impact category (GHG emissions) Several impact categories, including climate change impact

What is Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol?

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol was developed in the late ’90s and is the global standard framework for measuring and managing companies’ greenhouse gas emissions.  Most of its listed corporations have reported according to the GHG protocol for years already. The framework is now also increasingly adopted by many small and mid-sized enterprises.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG)
Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol

The GHG protocol applies to measuring greenhouse gasses in both the public and private sectors. It provides standards that create a common ground for many sustainability certifications and reporting systems. As a result, other standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) are built on the GHG protocol.

Because of its relevance, GHG Protocol reporting receives a lot of attention from stakeholders (customers, investors, etc.). The Protocol is now increasingly adopted worldwide as the standard framework for measuring climate risks and climate performance.

It should not be underestimated. It’s the base for every sustainability year report- and it’s tricky to measure.

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in GHG?

GHG emissions are generated from all kinds of organizational activities throughout your value chain (upstream + downstream). The GHG Protocol categorizes these emissions into three scopes – scopes 1, 2, and 3:
Scope 1,2,3Scope 1: Emissions from Scope 1 are direct emissions. This means that they directly come from your company’s owned- or controlled source, such as company vehicle fuel emissions.

Scope 2: Emissions in scope 2 cover the indirect emissions from purchased energy sources, such as your company’s consumed electricity or cooling. For example; this would entail the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels at a power station that generates your electricity.

Scope 3: Emissions from scope 3 are the trickiest. They are all the other indirect emissions within your entire value chain. Including the upstream supply chain (suppliers), as well as downstream GHG emissions (e.g. from customer usage). Think of emissions from; your business travels, waste disposal transportation, or investments. For many organizations, scope 3 emissions provide a dominant impact category.

Sustainability Reporting: What are the GHG Standards?

As the GHG protocol report is a framework, it entails a couple of standards for different organizational levels. These can help you measure and achieve your sustainability mission and targets.

The most important standards are:

  1. The Product Standard: The Product Standard can be used to understand the full life cycle GHG emissions of a product and focus efforts on the greatest GHG reduction opportunities. It uses LCA methodology while specifically focusing on calculating the GHG footprint. This is the first step towards more sustainable products.
  2. The Corporate Standard: The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard provides requirements and guidance for companies and other organizations, such as NGOs, government agencies, and universities, that are preparing a corporate-level GHG emissions inventory.
  3. The Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard: The Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard allows companies to assess their entire value chain emissions impact and identify where to focus reduction activities.
  4. The Project Protocol: The GHG Protocol for Project Accounting is the most comprehensive, policy-neutral accounting tool for quantifying the greenhouse gas benefits of climate change mitigation projects.

The protocol and the standards mentioned above look at both indirect– as well as direct emissions that occur in companies’ value chains (also called scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions- we’ll discuss that soon). At Ecochain, we can only help you with the product standard (as we are LCA-focused).

The Product standard in the GHG protocol

Companies can leverage the GHG Protocol’s Product Standard to calculate their product’s carbon footprints. This standard is based on the LCA methodology after ISO14040/14044. It provides a comprehensive framework for assessing emissions throughout a product’s life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. By following these guidelines, companies gain a clear picture of their product’s environmental impact, allowing them to identify areas for CO2 reduction and ultimately create a more sustainable product portfolio.

What’s the difference between measuring the company footprint and the product footprint

When it comes to measuring environmental impact, two main frameworks emerge the GHG Protocol and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). While both are valuable tools, they cater to different purposes. Here’s a breakdown to help you choose the right approach:

  • GHG Protocol: Provides a framework for reporting a company’s overall emissions, enabling comparisons between organizations within the same industry. As the GHG product standard is part of the GHG protocol, it leaves room for product footprints next to company emissions.
  • LCA (incl. GHG product standard): Allows you to report on traditional Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions within the context of your specific product. It’s important to note that not all company scope 1, 2, 3 emissions are relevant for the product footprint. For instance, employee commuting emissions (scope 3) wouldn’t typically be included in a product LCA.

How Ecochain Helix can help you

The GHG Protocol is a widely recognized standard for measuring greenhouse gas emissions at the company level, but it’s not the only option. Ecochain Helix offers a more granular approach, providing insights into emissions at multiple levels within a factory.  Specifically, it allows you to distinguish between Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions at the ‘total factory level’. While this may not provide a complete GHG Protocol footprint, it can still give you valuable insights into your factory’s environmental impact.

If your goal is to calculate your environmental footprint at scale across a large portfolio of similar products, Ecochain Helix is the right solution for you.

Ecochain Helix is designed for companies with multiple factories to measure the environmental impact of their product portfolio on a large scale. This solution allows you to:

✅Get an overview of the scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions within your production facility

✅Get PCFs, verified LCAs and EPDs

✅Comply with ISO 14040/14044

✅Measure different types of impact categories, including and beyond the carbon footprint

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Aleksandra Melekhina

As a content marketer with a passion for sustainability, I'm driven to create informative resources that empower businesses to embrace innovation and practices that prioritize environmental well-being

All posts by Aleksandra Melekhina