As the world engages in the process of decarbonisation, organisations are rushing to figure out how to best calculate their carbon emissions and set net-zero targets. For a business to understand its impact on the planet, it first needs to assess what its current carbon footprint actually is. Then and only then can it take the imperative steps needed to reduce it.
The process of calculating greenhouse gas emissions is becoming a requirement, not just from a regulatory perspective, but also as a necessity to track progress against net-zero targets set by businesses individually, and by cities and regions collectively. Requirements do, of course, differ across organisations, countries and industries, and as a result, a broad range of carbon footprint calculators with varying degrees of usefulness and credibility, can be found online.
To make it easier to understand which calculator is best for your needs, here is our review of the ten most popular and reliable calculators, compared according to the following essential criteria:
Here’s a quick overview of each calculator that we’ve rated. Hopefully, this will help you answer the question: what is the best calculator out there for me? You can find a more detailed analysis below this table.
Target audience: SMEs
Regional focus: United Kingdom
Data and methodology: It refers specifically to the GHG Protocol, and includes direct emissions from fuel and processes, and emissions from purchased electricity. The calculator is not fully comprehensive and does not provide a full evaluation for an SME’s footprint. However, it provides full transparency on methodology and data used.
Usability: It provides a good user experience.
Best for: UK-based SMEs.
The GHG Protocol is the most widely used emissions reporting framework in the world, with an estimated 92% of Fortune 500 companies using it in 2016. They now have an excel-based calculator (in beta at time of writing).
Target audience: Governments, SMEs, and large businesses.
Regional focus: Available for all regions, with the option for sector- and country-specific calculations. Customisable to particular developing countries.
Data and methodology: The calculator is based on the GHG Protocol and is accessible as an Excel spreadsheet complete with step-by-step instructions. The underlying data and methodology are fully transparent for the purpose of meeting various sustainability standards.
Usability: Since it’s based on an Excel spreadsheet, the user experience is pretty average. It offers a range of training and events for businesses looking to learn more about industry standards and carbon accounting.
Best for: Organisations globally looking for a tool that is compliant with industry standards.
This calculator is powered by Normative and was developed with support from Google.org.
Target audience: SMs.
Regional focus: Businesses in all regions.
Data and methodology: Based on data from the GHG Protocol, this calculator is comprehensive and transparent about the methodology used.
Usability: It provides a good interface and offers advice from net-zero experts to support companies with their emission profiles.
Best for: SMEs globally.
Target audience: SMEs and large businesses.
Regional focus: US-based businesses.
Data and methodology: EPA-based emission factors with a limited scope. Offers simplified calculations for electricity, heat generation, vehicles, air, rail, shipping and events. The calculator adheres to the Quality Assurance Protocol and has published its methodology and data sources.
Usability: Average user experience. Offsetting is available for interested users.
Best for: US-based businesses.
The ecocockpit calculator is offered by the Efficiency Agency in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany.
Target audience: SMEs.
Regional focus: Available for German-based companies. Offered only in German.
Data and methodology: Refers to the GHG Protocol and has a comprehensive set of categories to allow for footprint estimations. The calculator has a transparent methodology and the agency offers courses and events to educate on the use of the calculator and GHG accounting.
Usability: It provides a good user experience.
Best for: German-based SMEs.
Target audience: Individuals, SMEs, large businesses, and events.
Regional focus: Available for the US.
Data and methodology: Uses EPA data. Not very comprehensive compared to other calculators on the market. It is transparent about its data and methodology.
Usability: It provides an average user experience. Offsetting is available for interested users.
Best for: General business use in the US.
Numerous online carbon footprint calculators are available that support individuals, households, SMEs, and large businesses. Another promising tool which is about to be launched is Ecology Zero and we are looking forward to reviewing it as soon as it’s live.
Our review of business-focused calculators shows large differences in terms of scope, transparency of methodology, and reliability of calculations. As the world races to set net-zero targets and strategies, it’s important for individuals and organisations to identify and calculate their emissions and take the necessary steps to reduce.
Did we miss any calculators? Let us know if you’d like us to review any particular tools that are not on the list.
Keep an eye out for our next blog in this series where we discuss best practices to design and develop a carbon calculator using Climatiq’s API.