The GHG protocol in a nutshell

The GHG protocol in a nutshell

Published March 1, 2024

3 minute read

On a cool spring morning, Patrick, an EHS manager at a manufacturing company, is looking at emails in his inbox. A message from his boss stands out with the subject line: Follow GHG Protocol. Patrick opens the email and finds out his organisation will now be adhering to this protocol in an effort to measure and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  

Patrick has also been named the lead on this project, along with members of the finance team, to follow the GHG protocol when submitting their emissions report in accordance with their regional framework by next year.  

As an EHS manager, Patrick doesn’t know much about the GHG protocol, so he starts browsing the internet to learn more. Do you find yourself in the same position?  

Read on to explore: 

  • What is the GHG protocol? 
  • Why is it important? 
  • What organisations does it concern? 
  • How is the GHG protocol connected to other frameworks and standards? 
  • How do I get started? 

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What is the GHG protocol?

So, let’s start at the very beginning. What is the greenhouse gas protocol? This is a set of guidelines and standards which help organisations measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions 

First published in 2001, the first edition of the GHG protocol was developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This was in an effort to help create an internationally standardised framework for businesses, NGOs, and governments to use when it came to their greenhouse gas accounting and Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.  

Why is it important?

This GHG framework is important because it provides a sense of standardisation, where all organisations can adhere to the same GHG protocols and standards. This also makes a business’s greenhouse gas accounting more reliable because it’s following the guidelines outlined by the GHG protocol. It’s also particularly important to investors and stakeholders because it allows them to easily compare reports from different organisations to decide who to work with.  

Businesses can truly benefit from adhering to the GHG accounting protocol because it provides them with greater insight into their sustainability performance. With this transparency, organisations can make data-driven decisions to reduce their emissions and make the business more resilient when it comes to certain disruptions. Not only is this more cost effective, but it also helps demonstrate a sense of commitment to investors and stakeholders who value an organisation’s sustainability strategy.  

Factory with smoke coming out of vessels

How is the GHG protocol connected to certain frameworks and standards?

Think of the GHG protocol as one of the building blocks needed to adhere to a specific framework or regulation. If you are in the United Kingdom, for instance, you will most likely report to the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD) or Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR). As part of these frameworks, your organisation will have to disclose several different elements, including your GHG emissions. The way to comply and accurately report your organisation’s emissions, will be by following the GHG protocol.  

Think of the GHG protocol as the gold standard in measuring and reporting an organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions. This methodology is followed when reporting to various other standards like the TCFD or SECR, which have additional location-specific standards. 

What organisations does it concern?

According to the GHG Protocol’s official website, 90% of Fortune 500 companies who report to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) follow the GHG protocol. As previously mentioned, all organisations must follow the GHG protocol if they would like to submit their carbon accounting reports to their regional framework.  

There are specific criteria you must be able to fulfill when submitting your emissions reports to specific frameworks like the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD), Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR), or the Corporate Social Responsibility Directive (CSRD).  

For example:   

  • If your organisation is in the United Kingdom or in Europe (excluding Switzerland and Norway which have their own regulations) it must be publicly listed, have more than 500 employees, or have over £500 million turnover annually. 
  • If your organisation is in California, in the United States, it must make over $1 billion in revenue annually. 
  • If your organisation is in Canada it must be federally regulated.  

Organisations that don’t fit these criteria could also choose to submit their carbon accounting to shareholders or investors. In this case, they would simply follow the GHG protocol when submitting their reports.  

How do I get started?

Wrapping your head around this information can be challenging, but our team of internal sustainability experts want to help. With over 15 years of experience in climate metrics, we have supported businesses in a range of industries on their journeys to comply with different reporting standards around the world. 

Get a more accurate picture of GHG reporting requirements for your organisation in our eBook, GHG Reporting: How to Keep Your Investors and the Environment Happy, where you will discover the five steps you need to complete your reports, three tips from an internal expert to consider, five mistakes to avoid, and much more. Ready to get started?  

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Author Dina Adlouni

Dina is a Content Marketing Manager at EcoOnline who has been writing about health and safety, ESG and sustainability, as well as chemical safety for the past four years. She regularly collaborates with internal subject matter experts to create relevant and insightful content.

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