Everything you need to know about the GHG protocol

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The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a set of standards, guidelines, tools, and training aimed at businesses and governments to help them measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. This protocol is a key tool to support global environmental awareness. Indeed, carbon accounting now makes it possible to precisely calculate greenhouse gas emissions at the product or entity level (e.g. company, administration, NGO, etc.). Nonetheless, there are no predefined global standards for carbon footprinting. This is precisely where the GHG Protocol is interesting. It provides a benchmark to quantify these emissions. At Carbometrix we comply with this standard in a simple and efficient way! 

A few facts 

  • The GHG protocol is a key benchmark for rigorous carbon accounting by quantifying greenhouse gas emissions;

  • It is an international protocol developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), and has been in use for over 20 years;

  • It encompasses three scopesscope 1 (direct emissions), scope 2 (indirect emissions linked to the energy used such as electricity, steam, heat, and cooling), and scope 3, (further indirect emissions such as goods or services purchased, or employee-linked emissions). 

A short history of carbon accounting

Carbon accounting enables a clear identification, quantification, and classification of greenhouse gas emissions known as “anthropogenic” or generated by human activities.

The ultimate aim of carbon accounting is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve carbon neutrality. This takes part in the fight against global warming.

Carbon accounting thus makes it possible to identify, quantify and classify a given activity’s emissions. To this extent, it gives an extra-financial environmental cost to the latter.

Carbon accounting is thus based upon a similar system to that of financial accounting. Indeed, it defines a calculation perimeter, categorises the activity’s parameters and converts them into CO2 equivalent.

In order for carbon accounting to have an impact, it is essential that classification and data collection methods be verifiable and internationally validated, as is the case for financial and accounting standards. These conventions thus allow carbon footprints to be universally compared. This is one of the main advantages of the GHG protocol.

The origins of the GHG Protocol

The GHG protocol is often considered the international standard for measuring greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) in the output of products or services along the value chain. The protocol was introduced in 1998 following the Kyoto Protocol. It enacts a global approach of the firm, compatible with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on an international scale. It results from a collaborative partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The GHG protocol provides a framework for carbon accounting and the identification of six main greenhouse gases, given below:  

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)

  • Methane (CH4)

  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)

  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);

  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs);

  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

This protocol is used by firmsnon-governmental organisations, governments, and associations.

The GHG protocol defines three perimeters or scopes that make it possible to classify an entity’s emissions. These scopes are as follows:

  • Scope 1: the company’s direct emissions. This includes, among others, boilers and emissions from company vehicles.

  • Scope 2: emissions related to energy consumption. This includes, for instance, the production of electricity, heat, cold or steam.

  • Scope 3: other indirect emissions. Added in 2011, this last scope also includes the purchase of polluting goods and services, the amount of waste produced, and the emissions generated by buildings.

To find out more about these different scopes and their calculation, you can read our dedicated article. As mentioned above, the GHG protocol is not the only model used for carbon accounting. 

What is the difference between GHG Protocol and Carbon Footprint?  

The Bilan Carbone® is an assessment methodology of carbon accounting. Developed by the French Resource centre for greenhouse gas accounting in 2004, this framework is now widely used in France. 

GHG protocol and Carbon footprint: a common state of mind, but different objectives

  1. The GHG protocol and the Carbon footprint essentially have the same principles

Both methodologies take into account indirect emissions (scope 3), and must start with a careful perimeter study (such as mapping carbon flows). The methodology for measuring carbon flows used in the two frameworks is more or less the same, making their results comparable. There are however a few differences, particularly in the way depreciation is taken into account. Accordingly, they both lead to a report establishing an action plan to reduce emissions.

  1. The two frameworks differ in their aims

The GHG protocol’s final aim is to standardise the way in which greenhouse gas emissions are reported. It, therefore, defines a very precise categorisation of emissions according to the quality of available data. This allows a precise comparison between companies.

The GHG protocol was first developed to harmonise international carbon accounting reports. In particular, it has made it possible to unify them on an international scale. Its aim is to simplify the process of categorising, identifying, and calculating GHG emissions.

The Carbon footprinting method, on the other hand, is rather conceived as a tool for supporting decarbonisation. It is much more extensive in the preparation of the mission, whether it be upstream (choosing a project leader, specifying the objectives, etc.) or downstream (monitoring the emissions reduction action plan).

In a nutshell, the Carbon footprinting method includes a framework for measuring greenhouse gas flows (similar to that of the GHG protocol) but it goes further by recommending an action plan to concretely reduce emissions.

Which framework should you go for? 

The two frameworks are somewhat equivalent. However, the Carbon Footprint framework is more frequent in France, where the GHG protocol is more international.

It is particularly used as a carbon accounting standard by both the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and the SFDR (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation).

The CDP is a non-profit organisation that internationally collects data from companies to assess their environmental impact. The SFDR regulation, however, strengthens sustainability requirements for financial actors.

Although the French Resource centre for greenhouse gas accounting facilitates the action plan and implementation of Carbon footprinting in France, the GHG protocol offers more precise calculation rules, particularly regarding scope 3.

The GHG protocol, therefore, remains an essential standard for carbon accounting. Moreover, it was used as a basis for other carbon accounting methods, as was the case for the ISO standard.

Don’t worry the carbon footprint assessment made by Carbometrix is, of course, compliant with both. 


Broadly speaking, the GHG protocol serves as an international reference for carbon accounting. It encompasses the definition of calculation perimeters, the categorisation of GHG emissions, and the establishment of a precise action plan to reduce these.

The GHG protocol has been in use for over 20 years now and is an internationally recognised standard.

Calculating your Carbon footprint according to regulatory standards with Carbometrix allows your company to integrate into a sustainable development approach, comply with the law, and respect the existing regulations globally. At Carbometrix, we can help calculate your carbon footprint and help you take concrete action against climate changeGet in touch with us now!

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