Sustainability jargon - C Free style

March 29, 2022, 4:40 p.m. • By Adam Forster

The environmental space is notorious for copious jargon. In the review we thought we would define a few a key terms to help you slice through word salads.

Cover Image

This is a live blog where we will add definitions as you request them, so please let us know if you want to know the meaning of any complex jargon.


Carbon footprint protocols and standards:

GHG Protocol: The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is an internationally renowned standard that defines the techniques and mandates by which a body can calculate the carbon footprint of an organisation, event, or product.

Kyoto Protocol: A protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It requires countries listed to meet reduction targets of GHG emissions relative to their 1990 levels during the period of 2008-12.

PAS:2060: PAS:2060 is an internationally renowned standard detailing how to demonstrate carbon neutrality produced and published by the British Standards Institution.


GHG Protocol scope 1, 2, and 3 definitions:

Scope 1: The direct greenhouse gas emissions from any owned or controlled sources. Buildings, equipment and vehicles. This is most easily understood as emissions that you create. Think burning gas in a boiler or fuel you purchase for your car’s internal combustion engine. These are emissions that your organisation is creating that no-one else is responsible for.

Scope 2: Indirect emissions where the energy consumption is acquired and consumed by the company. For most businesses this is simply electricity consumption but it can also take the form of other purchased energy such as heat or steam.

Scope 3: Any other direct or indirect emissions that are not included in scope 1 or 2. These are the emissions the company can influence but does not control. There are 15 subsets of scope 3 which are: Purchased Goods and Services, Capital Goods, Fuel and Energy-Related Activities Not Included in Scope 1 or Scope 2, Upstream Transportation and Distribution, Waste Generated in Operations, Business Travel, Employee Commuting, Upstream Leased Assets, Downstream Transportation and Distribution, Processing of Sold Products, Use of Sold Products, End-of-Life Treatment of Sold Products, Downstream Leased Assets, Franchises, and Investments.


Key carbon footprint terms:

CO2e: This is the unit that carbon footprints are measured in. It stands for Carbon Dioxide Equivalent and includes other greenhouse gases weighted based on their global warming potential.

Carbon Credit/ Offset: A tradable token representing one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions removed from, or demonstrably prevented from being emitted into, the atmosphere. There are multiple standards that verify carbon offsets such as the Gold Standard and Verra. Be sure to watch out for non-standardised offsets such as low cost tree planting.

Carbon Footprint Calculation: An assessment and summation of the emissions caused by the production and use, or the continued operation of a product or organisation respectively.

Carbon Reporting: A report elucidating the techniques used to conduct a carbon footprint calculation and thereby demonstrating standard compliance.

Carbon Reduction Plan: A document including a summary of a carbon footprint of an organisation or body, and a commitments to, and strategy to achieve, carbon reductions. Have a look at our Carbon Reduction Plan example.

Carbon Neutrality: The status achieved after having complied with the PAS2060 (or some other standard) such that, for a given accounting period (or life cycle), emissions have been calculated, reduction commitments have been made publicly in a qualitative explanatory statement (QES), and residual emissions offset.

Net Zero: The status of having maximally reduced real emissions in all reasonable or practicable ways and then offset residual emissions with the highest quality sequestration carbon credits.

Emission factor: The representative value that allows you to convert the activity data into green house gas emissions

Conversion factor: A factor allowing GHG emissions to be estimated from a unit of available activity data (e.g., tonnes of fuel consumed, tonnes of product produced) and GHG emissions.

Qualitative Explanatory Statement (QES): A qualitative explanatory statement used to set out, explicitly and publicly, an organisation, event, or product’s compliance with standards required to become carbon neutral thereby justifying the use of the term in association with the organisations, event, or product.

Carbon Sequestration: The uptake of Carbon Dioxide. In context, the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs): GHGs are the six gases listed in the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide (CO2); methane (CH4); nitrous oxide (N20); hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Renewable Energy: Energy taken from sources that are not limited, e.g., wind, water, solar, geothermal energy, and biofuels.

Spend-based Method: This is a way of estimating emissions for goods and services by collecting data on the value of goods and services purchased and multiplying it by relevant emission factors.

Activity-based Method: This is a more accurate way of measuring carbon emissions based on real activity data such as distance travelled or volume of fuel used.


This is a very non exhaustive list of various terms that come up again and again. Keep an eye on this blog as we will be updating it with new terms that we come across. If there is something not on this list that you want to know about then get in touch and we will be sure to add!

We hope that this will help you on your environmental journey.

Meet with one of our experts