Many events are using undisclosed methodologies in the assessment of  GHGs to be included in an event's carbon footprint. This article aims to clarify the steps to identifying, establishing and reporting an event's 'carbon footprint'.

The underlying premise of any event greenhouse gas emissions claim is that the methodology used should be clear, transparent, scientifically sound, is documented and readily available to those that wish to view it. That means the details should be publicly available, and easy to access - for example hosted on your event's website under the greening pages.

Transparency is Key

This transparency is key to underlying any grand claims you make. Your stakeholders are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and skeptical, and so it is a major PR risk if you keep your methodologies and justifications to yourself, or worse still, don't actually have process around your GHG measurement, let alone have it documented.

PAS 2060 calls this disclosure a 'QES' - qualifying explanatory statement. Read a copy of one here.

Footprinting Steps

For many events, calculating a carbon footprint is a step on the journey to carbon neutrality. We will discuss the requirements of proclaiming carbon neutrality in the next article, but the premise of carbon footprint measurement is relevant for all events whether you are headed for offsetting, carbon compensation and neutrality or not.

PAS 2060 specifically requires the following steps when calculating a carbon footprint:

  • Identify and define what will be included in a carbon emissions calculation (the event parametres and GHG scope)
  • Define, clearly communicate and adequately justify what is included, the methodologies undertaken and emissions factors used
  • Estimate and disclose what the GHG emissions are anticipated to be
  • Create a carbon footprint management plan
  • Take action to make measurable reductions in carbon emissions
  • Re-quantify the carbon footprint: report/disclose performance indicating what reductions were achieved and how they were achieved

Australia's National Carbon Offset Standard offset us some following principles to consider in the calculation of a ‘carbon footprint’:

  • Relevance: ensure the GHG inventory appropriately reflects the GHG emissions attributed to the event.
  • Completeness: account for all GHG emissions within the defined boundary. Disclose and justify exclusions.
  • Consistency: ensure methodologies from event to event are consistent to allow for meaningful comparisons.
  • Transparency: ensure collation of GHG emissions data can be evaluated by auditors. Disclose assumptions, reference methodologies and data sources.
  • Accuracy: Ensure quantification is accurate.

Identifying the Boundary of the Carbon Footprint Assessment

It is imperative at the outset, that the boundary event carbon foot print is identified. This is detailing the activities, sites, venues, and which parts of the event lifecycle is included.

The basic rule of thumb is that all activities that are integral to the event, which could generate GHGs during the event's lifecycle, are included. If the event couldn't occur without the activity, then it should be considered for inclusion in the measurement boundary.

Once the activities and lifecyle of the event are identified, other assessment criteria can be used to determine and justify inclusion or exclusion from the event's carbon footprint calculation. The next article discusses these assessment criteria in more detail.

Once-off Nature of Events

A complicating factor in the establishment of a Carbon Footprint for events, and meeting the requirements of footprinting and carbon neutral specifications, is the establishment of a baseline. For organisations who's operations are ongoing, establishing a baseline is not necessarily complicated - they draw a line in the sand - take their measurements, and use that as their starting point.

For events which are once off, pre-event estimations are the name of the base-lining game. To meet the accepted protocols of giving your event a thorough and rigourous footprinting, you'll need to do some detailed pre-event assessments. This makes sense as how can you go about making reductions if you don't know what GHGs you might have created in order to find out where you could find some savings.

The Final Footprint

The final event carbon footprint should include:

  • The event parameters (subject scope - venues, sites, event lifecycle, activities)
  • GHG emissions deemed material
  • Pre-event assessment
  • Reductions identified, and acheived
  • Re-adjusted post-event GHG measurement, before any compensation or offsets

The footprint report can then go on to detail any carbon compensation undertaken including:

  • Carbon offsets purchased
  • Legacy projects which have ongoing GHG reductions that can be attributed back to the event's carbon neutral status/calculation


Next: So what GHGs could be measured?