But what is a Carbon Footprint? When people are asked about the causes of global warming, they often point the finger at businesses. Reducing the carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to this environmental phenomenon seems to be the slogan of the year, but how do companies, medium-sized and small businesses and entrepreneurs tackle such a vague task? And how do they know if they are doing better than before?
Back in 1954, Peter Drucker said: "What gets measured gets managed". If a company wants to become more sustainable, the first step is to understand its current situation and start analysing its carbon dioxide emissions. However, it is important to know that CO2 emissions are responsible for 81% of global GHG emissions, and that companies are largely responsible for this. The remainder of GHG emissions is made up of methane (10%), nitrous oxide (7%) and fluorinated gases (3%).
To overcome this problem, companies need to monitor and measure their CO2 emissions, which is the first key step in reducing them. To do this, they need to carry out a Bilan Carbone.
What is a bilan carbone?
Bilan Carbone ® is a carbon accounting method developed by Jean-Marc Jancovici in 2004 for ADEME (Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie). The aim of this method is to quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with a company, product, individual or community. Since 2011, the carbon footprint has been managed by ABC (Association Bilan Carbone).
The Bilan Carbone ® method takes into account all sources of GHG emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH4 ) and nitrous oxide (N2 O), and ﬂuorinated gases (F-Gas) comprising hydroﬂuorocarbons (HFCs), perﬂuorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexaﬂuoride (SF6) and nitrogen triﬂuoride (NF3). These synthetic gases are several thousand times more important than CO2. However, a carbon footprint is always measured in CO2 equivalent (eq. CO2).
In France, the Bilan Carbone is used in particular to draw up the Bilan des émissions de gaz à effet de serre (BEGES), a report that has become compulsory for companies under Article 26 of the Grenelle II law. The Bilan Carbone enables companies to carry out a precise assessment of their carbon footprint, including the direct and indirect emissions generated by their activities, in order to design and implement a plan to r e d u c e these emissions, based on comparable data.
The Bilan Carbone process is divided into six key stages: it begins by raising awareness of the issues surrounding the g r e e n h o u s e effect, its origins and its repercussions on the environment and society. Next, the scope of t h e study is defined, followed by the collection of data within the company. The results are then analysed to develop a strategy for reducing GHG emissions. Finally, the strategy is implemented.
In France, the Bilan Carbone is widely used, with more than 6,000 assessments carried out by companies since 2006. In 2007, a specific system was developed for local authorities, and a version accessible to the general public is available online.
Other methodologies exist and are compatible with Bilan Carbone®, the main ones being ISO 14064-1-2-3:20063 , ISO 14069:2013, the GHG Protocol and national regulations. The Bilan Carbone® tools can be used as part of these approaches, as they meet their various requirements.
The benefits for companies undertaking a Bilan Carbone are manifold: it enables them to prepare for future regulations on GHG emissions, reduce their energy costs, orient their management practices in favour of the environment, while reinforcing their image in terms of environmental responsibility.
Bilan Carbone® is a registered trademark for :
- A methodological guide to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting.
- Various tools (Excel spreadsheets) to facilitate GHG emissions accounting and action planning.
- Training in GHG emissions accounting (via the IFC).
- A network of approved members (via the ABC).
- Bilan Carbone® helps private companies, as well as local authorities, associations, universities and individuals.
What is the difference between Bilan Carbone®, carbon footprint and GHG footprint?
The terminology used in relation to GHG emissions can lead to confusion, as it includes a number of similar expressions. "Le Bilan Carbone®", "bilan carbone" and "bilan GES" (greenhouse gas balance sheet) are terms often used to designate concepts related to the assessment of GHG emissions. However, it i s important to note that "Le Bilan Carbone®" is a registered trademark for a specific GHG emissions accounting methodology, w h i l e "bilan carbone" and "bilan GES" are more general expressions referring to the assessment of greenhouse gas emissions. This diversity of terms can sometimes lead to confusion, but they all share the common objective of quantifying and reducing the carbon footprint of activities, products or organisations.
Indeed, the Bilan Carbone® registered trademark has led to the popularisation of the expression "carbon footprint", which today refers to any approach aimed at assessing CO2 emissions as part of a CSR or emissions reduction strategy. When a company measures its greenhouse gas emissions, it is often referred to as delivering its carbon footprint. However, this does not necessarily mean that the specific Bilan Carbone® method has been used.
Which companies are required to carry out a carbon audit?
In France, since January 2023, the Bilan GES complet or BEGES-R, including scopes 1, 2 and 3, is a mandatory inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for French organisations with more than 500 employees in mainland France or more than 250 employees in the départements and French overseas territories.
The BEGES-R must be made public and updated by private entities at least every four years. The BEGES-R must be disclosed via ADEME's online GHG balance platform. Registration on the platform and disclosure of the BEGES-R are free of charge. Scope of the assessment only concerns entities located in France; any foreign subsidiary must be excluded from the GHG analysis.
In order to combat global warming and achieve the reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreements, the French government has introduced a number of measures. In France, the Grenelle law of 2009, amended in 2010, provides for a significant energy transition, particularly in the construction sector, with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of public and private buildings. This legislation also requires all companies with more than 500 employees to carry out a carbon audit at least every three years. The same obligation applies to local authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants and public institutions with more than 250 employees.
However, there are real benefits to having a carbon footprint, whatever the size of your company, number of employees or geographical location. You can get a head start on your competitors if you calculate and reduce all three of your scopes.
Is the bilan carbone mandatory?
Companies subject to the obligation to carry out a 'carbon balance' or 'regulatory GHG balance' are not obliged to use the Bilan Carbone® method.
However, it is strongly recommended that you d o so, as it represents a comprehensive and credible approach. The Bilan GES, which complies with the regulations, is an integral part of France's National Low Carbon Strategy, and is therefore eligible for subsidies from ADEME for scopes 1, 2 and 3.
How do you calculate a company's Bilan Carbone®?
Carrying out a Bilan Carbone® for your business may seem complex, but by methodically following the steps in the Bilan Carbone method, you can effectively assess and reduce your carbon footprint. Here's how to do it:
Step 1 - Appoint a leader and define objectives
First of all, management commitment is essential. The objectives of the organisation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and appointing someone to lead the process.
Stage 2 - Definition of the perimeters to be accounted for
The organisation maps the ﬂux of energy, raw materials, waste and incoming and outgoing products that must be taken into account when calculating emissions. The perimeters include all the organisation's sites and facilities (organisational perimeter), as well as the emissions generated by its activity (operational perimeter). The temporal scope is generally one year, but can be adapted to specific periods.
Stage 3 - Data collection and processing
The pilot collects all the data needed to calculate GHG emissions for the defined perimeters, whether from sources inside or outside the organisation. The data is converted into tonnes of CO2 equivalent, then the emissions are calculated and broken down by category. This stage enables the priority emissions items to be identified and the risks and opportunities associated with these issues to be assessed.
Stage 4 - Drawing up the action plan
Following analysis of the data, recommendations and an action plan are drawn up. Monitoring indicators are defined to assess the effectiveness of the emission reduction measures.
Stage 5 - Summary of the Bilan Carbone®
The result of the Bilan Carbone® is the quantification of the organisation's GHG emissions, broken down by emissions category within the defined perimeters. A coherent action plan is proposed, accompanied by monitoring indicators. This plan must include at least one action aimed at improving the approach.
Awareness-raising initiatives: Throughout the process, awareness-raising initiatives are essential to involve internal stakeholders. This includes publicising the issues involved in the energy-climate transition, raising awareness among the pilot and technical teams, as well as the contacts in the various departments and, finally, management. These actions will encourage people to take action and implement reduction measures.
By following these steps, your company can carry out a full Bilan Carbone®, identify opportunities for improvement, and actively commit to reducing its carbon footprint.
Why should you carry out your company's Bilan Carbone?
You may be wondering why it's so important to analyse and reduce your company's carbon footprint. As well as respecting the environment and your ecological values, measuring and reducing your carbon footprint has many advantages:
- Becoming a genuine green company: Carrying out a carbon footprint demonstrates your commitment to sustainability. You're not just paying lip service to ecology, you're taking concrete action to reduce your impact on the environment. For example, the 2022 barometer of French digital start-ups revealed that climate and sustainable development are becoming priorities for more and more start-ups, with 37% of respondents measuring their environmental impact and 33% labelling their corporate mission.
- Anticipating legislation: Regulations on greenhouse gas emissions are becoming increasingly strict. By carrying out your carbon footprint, you can anticipate future legal requirements and avoid potential penalties.
- Improving brand and employer image: Consumers and employees are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues. A company that reduces its carbon footprint strengthens its reputation as a responsible employer and contributes to a positive brand image. In fact, nearly 70% of people aged between 18 and 30 said in a survey that they would be prepared not to apply for jobs with companies that did not take environmental issues into account.
- Improving the quality of products and services: Reducing the carbon footprint often requires improvements in production processes and the supply chain. This can result in better quality and more sustainable products and services.
- Staying ahead of the competition: Companies committed to reducing their GHG emissions are often seen as innovative and competitive. So you can stay ahead of the competition by offering environmentally-friendly solutions.
- Spend less and better: Reducing GHG emissions is often synonymous with saving energy and resources. This can lead to a reduction in the company's operating costs.
- Become an ecological benchmark: By taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint, your company can become a benchmark in your sector and set an example for others.
- Opening up to new financial and local markets: Investors and business partners are a t t a c h i n g increasing importance to environmental criteria. Reducing your carbon footprint can open the door to new markets and financial opportunities.
- Intelligent innovation: The search for solutions to reduce GHG emissions can stimulate innovation within your company. This can lead to the creation of innovative products or processes.
At the end of the day, carrying out a corporate carbon footprint is not just an environmental exercise, but an opportunity for improvement, innovation and responsibility that can have a positive impact on both your business and the planet.
How can Plan A support your company's carbon footprint?
Bilan Carbone® is much more than a simple environmental measurement; it is an essential approach for companies wishing to make an active commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. This method offers a multitude of benefits, from compliance with legislation to improving brand image and attractiveness as a responsible employer. By anticipating future regulations, reducing operating costs, improving the quality of products and services, and opening the way to new financial and local markets, the Bilan Carbone® is becoming an essential tool for companies that care about the environment.
At Plan A, we're experts in corporate carbon footprint, and we invite you to take action now. Carry out your carbon assessment with us and find out how you can contribute to the fight against global warming while boosting your competitiveness. Don't miss out on this opportunity, book a demonstration with our team today to find out more about our services and how we can support you in this crucial process. Your future, the future of your business and the future of our planet depend on it.