New Guide Makes Small Business GHG Measurement: Worth the Time, Energy and Money

Recently, the Carbon Trust launched a new online guide, The Growing Business’ Guide to Managing Carbon. The guide is aimed at giving small businesses the types of capabilities for measuring (and hypothetically reducing) carbon emissions that previously were only available to larger companies with bigger budgets and dedicated staff.

The Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company “providing specialist support to help business and the public sector boost business returns by cutting carbon emissions, saving energy and commercializing low carbon technologies.” Their recent estimate that small business can save $600M annually through carbon footprint reduction and certification may sound hopeful, but just as importantly, is it feasible? And how does a company truly benefit?

The guide indicates that the biggest reasons to measure a company’s carbon footprint are to help manage and reduce emissions and to communicate the results effectively. In addition, there are some mandatory reporting requirements. Walmart’s requirements of their suppliers to disclose carbon emissions led to an entire industry of sustainability consultants catering to exactly this audience, and businesses hoping to sell to the world’s largest retailer have had to jump on board.

In addition, the U.S. Federal government is running a pilot program testing the feasibility of requiring its suppliers to measure their carbon emissions. President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, setting this pilot in motion to test the feasibility of requiring carbon emission measurement and certification from its suppliers, and, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, “using this data as part of the federal procurement process”. There is nothing to say that this pilot will lead directly to preferred purchasing from vendors who have conducted carbon assessments, but the language of the order certainly seems to be pointing in that direction: “GSA’s Section 13 Report concluded that it is feasible to incentivize federal contractors to inventory and disclose their GHG emissions data and then use this data within the federal procurement process.”

With Walmart and the Federal Government’s combined purchasing power, I believe good things are coming for carbon measurement, and reduction, from the small business community.

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and Principal of, a small business sustainable strategy advisory firm.

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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.