C. Measurement Capacity

7. Building Environmental Measurement Capacity

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As was established earlier in this section, the vast majority of small and medium sized organizations can responsibly measure their environmental sustainability using carbon equivalent emissions alone. Hundreds of valuable methodologies and tools have been developed that use carbon equivalent emissions to quantify the impact of most anything related to an organization or individual project. More specifically, carbon accounting systems are software-based tools designed to measure and track impact by helping facilitate the collection, compilation and analysis of carbon equivalent emissions data.  

Internally Developed vs. Prepackaged Solutions

When it comes to carbon accounting systems, two options exist: some organizations choose to internally develop a system, while others will acquire a prepackaged solution that is publicly or commercially available. Given how evolved the practice of carbon accounting has become, as well as the quality and universality of the systems available, we recommend adopting a prepackaged solution. While it may seem simple to calculate emissions, the process of effectively accounting for and managing carbon is very complex.   

Selecting a Carbon Accounting System

Adopting a carbon accounting system with the measurement capacity and functionality that best suit an organization is critical to building the capacity to measure environmental impact. Naturally, the ideal system will vary based on the unique profile of each organization (e.g. size, industry, location, budget).

In the following table, we have defined the criteria that should be considered when selecting a carbon accounting system. 

System Profile

Reputation & Credibility The image the system has developed among experts and the entire community of users.
Carbon Emission Factor Reliability The degree to which the system’s carbon emissions factors are accurate and can be trusted.
System Support The diversity and quality of opportunities for users to secure system support.
Pricing The pricing structure associated with acquiring the system.

System Functionality

Compatibility The degree to which a system can be integrated to work with software already in use.
System Accessibility The ease, flexibility and security associated with accessing the system.
Data Management Functionality The capabilities, features and tools a system boasts for enhancing or simplifying the management of data.
Data Analysis Functionality The capabilities, features and tools a system offers to support analysis of the carbon equivalent data generated.
Reporting Functionality The capabilities, features and tools a system provides for generating reports.

The details of each criteria and how they can be effectively applied are expanded on greatly through the REFOCUS Guide to Selecting a Carbon Accounting System that is available for download

The market for carbon accounting systems is complex and constantly evolving. The system you select will have a tremendous impact on your ability to accurately and effectively measure impact of individual projects and your organization as a whole. Taking an informed and methodical approach to evaluating the systems available with a clear understanding of your organization’s needs and priorities will help you make a sound decision.  


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