ESG Reporting

A simple guide to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

Discover all you need to know about the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol and the time saving shortcuts to help you calculate and reduce your emissions.

If you're not familiar with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, don't worry - we've got you covered. In this article we'll give you a bit of background as to why the GHG Protocol came about, how you can use it and what to expect from the process. We'll also cover how Goodwings takes away the hassle of filling out complicated spreadsheets for business travel emissions, saving you time and effort on climate reporting. 


What is the GHG Protocol?

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol is a set of guidelines and global standards that have been developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to help businesses, countries and other organizations calculate and find ways of reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Having global standards in place helps countries and businesses:

1. Identify where they produce the most greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

2. Find ways to reduce them 

3. See how they're doing against industry peers

Why was the GHG Protocol developed and why is it important for my business?

Until September 2001 when the first GHG protocol guidance was published, there was no common way of measuring or reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which made it hard for anyone to know how they were doing or what they were working towards. The GHG protocol gives businesses and countries a “common language” to measure and reduce their emissions, so that they can assess how well they’re doing in the fight against climate change.

Watch this short video about the GHG Protocol



Are there any alternatives to the GHG Protocol?

Yes, there are some alternatives to the GHG protocol including the 14064 publication from the ISO (International Standards Organisation) - an independent, non-governmental organization. However, the GHG protocol's Corporate Standard remains the most widely used and referred to set of standards worldwide. 

How do Scopes 1, 2 and 3 fit into the GHG protocol?

Calculating GHG emissions is a huge task, which is why the GHG protocol has developed a system of categorizing these emissions into “Scopes”. Having Scopes helps businesses identify and categorize different types of emissions into different buckets so that they can get a more accurate picture of what the company's polluting "hot spots" are and find ways to to tackle them. 

Here's an overview of the different Scopes:

scope 1 2 3

Which parts of the GHG Protocol are most relevant for my business? 

The two most widely used resources used by businesses are the “Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard” and the “Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard”. Here’s how you can use them:

Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard:

The "Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard" is a guide that sets out how to measure and report on your company’s emissions. It is quite a long and complicated document (to the tune of 116 pages!), but here's a step-by-step guide so you know what you can expect from the process. 

  1. Make a list of all the emissions you’re going to measure across the different "Scopes". How you choose what to measure will depend on the type of business you are (for example, if you produce goods, the emissions relating to manufacturing may feature heavily in the breakdown) and/or whether you are required by law to report. Read more about whether you need to report on your emissions here.

  2. Start collecting data points across your business. For Scope 3, and specifically business travel, this will involve asking third party suppliers for the data you need, for example the trip data from your travel agent.

  3. Use the GHG Protocol calculation tool to convert these data points into emissions (this is also known as “applying emissions factors”). As an example, when calculating your business travel, you'll convert the distance you've traveled on, let's say, an airplane into a quantifiable emissions total. 

  4. Start setting reduction targets - once you have all the emissions data, you’ll be able to see where you’re emitting the most, so you can start setting targets for where to reduce.

  5. Prepare your GHG emissions report with all the data you’ve collected, including your plans for emissions reductions. 

  6. Get a third party to verify the report you’ve put together to make sure that it complies with the standard or reporting framework you’ve selected for your business. This may be particularly relevant if you’re planning to share your report with the board, your employees or publicly.

  7. Start implementing your reduction strategy! 

Get an overview of your company's travel emissions

Get our beginner's guide for everything you need to get started.


Corporate Supply Chain (Scope 3 Standard) 

This standard was developed as a supplement to the Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, in part because businesses often overlook Scope 3 in favor of Scope 1 and Scope 2 when they’re measuring their emissions. Providing specific guidance on how to measure Scope 3 both acknowledges the complexity of value chain emissions (a jungle of suppliers, all of whom need to provide you with their emissions data!), but also that there are huge opportunities for reductions within this Scope. This is because in most cases, Scope 3 accounts for the majority of a company’s GHG emissions.

The steps are similar to the Corporate Accounting Standard, but because there are third parties involved, there are some nuances. You can find the full document here, but here’s a quick summary of the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Set clear objectives for what you're going to measure in Scope 3 (see point 1 in the list above).

  2. Use the categories set out in the guide to organize all your emissions. There are 15 different categories to help you label the different components of your value chain, for example how you transport goods from A-B, or how you travel for work. You can find a list of these categories here

  3. Reach out to suppliers, customers and partners to collect the data you need for your Scope 3 reporting. You can get a list of all the different emissions you need to collect on pages 8,9 and 10 of the Scope 3 Technical Guidance document.

  4. Use the GHG Protocol calculation tool to convert these data points into emissions (also known as “applying emissions factors”).  

  5. Prioritize the emissions that have the biggest impact on your business (also known as “assessing materiality”).

  6. Prepare your GHG emissions report with all the data you’ve collected, including your plans for emissions reductions.  


How does the GHG Protocol work with frameworks like the SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative)?

You may have heard of the Science Based Targets (SBTi) or the CDP (Corporate Disclosure Project) - they’re both voluntary reporting frameworks that businesses can choose to set emission reduction targets to work towards. Both of these frameworks use the GHG protocol guidance as part of the foundation for how they set targets. 

Did you know?

If you want your business to be recognized by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), you'll need to follow the GHG Protocol's Corporate Standard, Scope 2 Guidance, and Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard.

The pros and cons of using GHG Protocol calculation tools for business travel 

When it comes to calculating your business travel, the GHG Protocol offers a transport emissions calculation worksheet. This worksheet can be used to calculate all your travel emissions into the right Scopes and categories (ie. Category 6: business travel, Category 7: employee commuting), with either a fuel-based, distance-based or spend-based method. Collecting all this data, however, is complicated, time-consuming and can result in less-than-accurate emissions calculations. 

Here's a list of some of the pros and cons: 


green lineUses international datasets from DEFRA, meaning that your calculations will be compliant with some of the leading reporting frameworks such as SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative) and CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project).

green lineHelps you sort your emissions into the different Scopes and categories (for example, differentiating between commuting to and from work (which is Scope 3 / Category 7) and business travel (which is Scope 3 / Category 6).


blue lineThe calculation "tool" is effectively an excel spreadsheet, so it's limited in its ability to be implemented across an organisation, or used by different people at any given time. This might result in a backlog of data for one person to sift through, and delays in reporting. 

blue lineAs a business, you will still have to collect all the data yourself from third parties. For business travel, this can be particularly time consuming as there are so many different steps in one journey, including taxis, hotels, flights and transfers. 

blue lineHotel stays are not an obligatory part of the calculation process, so if you're a business that wants to get the full picture of your company's emissions, there is a big piece missing.  

Looking for a shortcut?

Book your business travel with Goodwings and we'll automatically calculate and reduce your emissions.


Goodwings - the shortcut you've been looking for

Using Goodwings to calculate your travel emissions is the easiest way to get the full overview of how much you're emitting as a business. Not only that, but it helps you reduce your emissions at the same time. When you book your business travel with Goodwings, we seamlessly calculate your emissions, giving you accurate and reliable data sourced from DEFRA's greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting conversion factors. 

To sum up, when you book your business travel with Goodwings you get:

  • Automated calculation and tracking of all your business travel 
  • DEFRA compliant emissions data for ESG reporting  
  • Easy-to-use dashboard with real time data insights 
  • A simple and cost-effective way to reduce your emissions 


Cheat Sheet of Terms 

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions: These are gasses released into the atmosphere that trap heat and make the planet warmer. These gasses consist mainly of carbon dioxide (CO2) but also methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Value Chain: Describes the full lifecycle of a product or process, for example how materials are sourced, how a product is made, how it’s sold, how it’s used and what happens to it when it’s no longer needed.

Scopes: “Scopes”are a way of organizing different GHG emissions and their sources. They’re divided into Scopes 1, 2, and 3 so that companies can better understand where their GHG emissions come from, and do something about them.

Materiality: How climate change impacts and influences a business’ financial and corporate health.

Reporting Framework - A set of guidelines that businesses, governments, or institutions can use to report and share information about their GHG emissions and what they’re doing about them. 

DEFRA: The UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Every year the department issues updated emission conversion factors for UK and international organizations to report on greenhouse gas emissions.

Conversion factors: Averages, usually set by governmental agencies (like DEFRA) to help measure and convert different activities (such as travel) into the right amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) so that you can report with full accuracy.



Upgrade how you calculate your travel emissions with Goodwings!

Book a demo today and see how we can help you track and reduce your business travel emissions in line with the GHG Protocol.


Similar posts