What a peculiar phrase “the carbon maturation cycle” might be!

However, over the past ten years, we at Carbon Calculated have watched a number of leading companies begin their carbon-reporting journey with tentative steps and, over time, gain meaningful information that provides input into their wider business strategy.

A typical carbon journey often contains the following steps:

Why a carbon footprint?

On first being made aware of the need to undertake a carbon footprint, a company might question its necessity and relevance. These are valid questions and need to be answered by a carbon-reporting provider. A good start might be to read our recent article that outlines the five reasons to conduct a carbon footprint.  

Data collection

Carbon footprinting is a data intensive exercise. It requires detailed non-financial information that is often hidden within companies’ data vaults. Effort is required in identifying what information is needed and whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ data. Once identified, a system should be implemented to ensure that future data collection exercises are simple and pain-free.


Once the calculations have been completed and the report presented, a treasure trove of information is revealed. In addition to the greenhouse gases emitted in a business’ operations and supply chain, the report should highlight energy use (what type of energy, how much and where); electricity consumption; travel trends; and, other critical resource use. This provides useful insight for setting future reduction targets (carbon and other environmental indicators), as well as cost-cutting exercises.


A carbon footprint should speak for itself in terms of essential information to companies’ financial and non-financial performance. Once this is understood, the carbon footprint holds itself high in annual reporting requirements, being used to inform business strategy and providing information for external requests such as the investment community’s CDP submission, national greenhouse gas inventories and carbon tax obligations.

Management and targets

Over a period of years, emission trends are presented and wider supply chain emissions are included. Targets can be developed in either absolute terms or intensity metrics such as tonnes of carbon per tonne of product or full-time employee. The benchmark in target setting is the adoption of Science Based Targets where emission reduction is linked to a scientific understanding of reduced carbon emissions to ensure that average global warming is contained below 2° C from pre-industrial times.

Whether science based or not, carbon reduction targets require management and active collaboration between different departments in a business. When such collective focus is achieved, most companies realise they can achieve just about anything!

-Alex Hetherington, Founding Member of Carbon Calculated, alex@carboncalculated.co.za