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What is a carbon footprint?

What is a carbon footprint?

What is meant by the term "carbon footprint"?

A carbon footprint is the result of an emissions calculation or carbon footprint. It indicates the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an activity, process or action. For example, a CO2 footprint can be specified for a company's business or manufacturing processes. Products also have a CO2 footprint, which includes the sum of the emissions from the production, use, recycling and disposal of that product.
A CO2 footprint can also be calculated for many other activities and processes, such as a hotel stay, a business trip, an event or the provision of a particular service.

The CO2 footprint is usually stated in CO2 equivalents (CO2e), because in addition to carbon dioxide, the other five greenhouse gas emissions mentioned in the Kyoto Protocol are taken into account. These are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). In some cases, the global warming potential is significantly higher than that of CO2 - for example, 21 times in the case of methane, 22,800 times in the case of SF6.

Carbon footprint of companies
For companies committed to sustainability, the CO2 footprint is an important tool for assessing climate impacts and is therefore a central component of ecological balance and sustainability reporting.     
The CO2 footprint shows which areas emit the most greenhouse gases and where the greatest potential for savings and efficiency measures lies. As a result, the CO2 footprint is also of great economic importance, as companies can sustainably reduce operating costs by purposefully saving energy and other resources.                                                                                                                   
As part of corporate strategies for climate and resource protection, the CO2 footprint also provides a basis for formulating reasoned reduction targets and is therefore an important element of sustainability management.

External impact: CO2 footprint and stakeholder relationships

At the company level, the CO2 footprint is an important indicator for further development of the sustainability commitment. However, it also shapes the external image of companies and their perception by different stakeholder groups. Customers are increasingly demanding environmentally friendly products and services and are increasingly integrating these considerations into their purchasing decisions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
The companies' commitment to sustainability also plays an important role for other stakeholder groups: Investors analyze climate risks in their portfolios, buyers set stringent specifications for the ecological balance of procured products, and shareholders expect stringent environmental and climate protection standards to be met. In terms of stakeholder relations, it is therefore indispensable for today's companies to actively address the issue of sustainability and communicate the relevant measures in a transparent manner.                                                                                                                
That's why more and more companies are starting to publicly disclose their CO2 footprints and publish the relevant balance sheet as part of reporting to the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) or another reporting initiative.