Key takeaways

  • The EPA offers a free greenhouse gas reporting guide for small businesses and low emitters
  • GHG Inventories are a useful tool for businesses to track and reach GHG reduction goals
  • GHG reductions are important for even small companies to mitigate risk and create short- and long-term business opportunities
  • Emission tracking is broken down into 3 scopes. Direct Emissions such as fuel burning on sight or vehicle fleets; indirect emissions like electricity and heating; and all other indirect emissions such as suppliers, purchases, and employee commuting.

You may have heard some buzz about the Security Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed climate disclosure rules. These rules are requiring publicly traded businesses to inform investors of their risks to climate change, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and if they have set goals. This is a big deal. Mounting concern is coming from investors, consumers, and regulators regarding the impacts of business operations are affecting the world around them. Even if your business is not public, it’s still advantageous to elevate operations to the standards that investors, customers, and potential future regulations are expecting, especially if growth is in the future. One topic emphasized by the SEC rules and in the minds of customers and investors is GHG emissions. The best way to calculate GHG emissions and set a plan to reduce them is through a GHG inventory. 

 What is a GHG Inventory? 

A greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is a useful tool for a company to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions. It involves looking at every source of emissions within your operations and calculating how much is being emitted. A GHG inventory is divided into three scopes: 1, 2, and 3. 

         Scope 1 includes the emissions that the company directly creates, such as burning fuels at their facilities, gas from fleet vehicles, or paint and printing fumes. If your company is office-based, the scope 1 emissions may be very low.

         Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions. They are associated with the company, but the GHGs themselves are emitted at a different physical location than the business. Main scope 2 emissions include electricity, heat, steam, and cooling.

         Scope 3 emissions include all the other indirect emissions in the supply chain of a business. Scope 3 can be the broadest scope, and includes emissions from employee commuting, business travel, goods and services purchased (suppliers), waste disposal, and investments.


Once the emissions are tracked, then emission reduction targets can be set and a company can begin working towards those goals. Carbon dioxide is the most commonly thought of GHG, but there are many others including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a chemist to measure GHG emissions, but it helps to know what gases emitted are included in measurements.

Why should small businesses care about GHG inventories?

GHG emissions are heat-trapping gasses that contribute to climate change. Yes, climate change threatens our natural world, but it also poses high risks for businesses and livelihoods. Everything that a company can do to lower these emissions helps lower a company’s risk to supply chain interruptions, carbon restrictive policies, and employee retention. GHG reduction goals backed by a GHG inventory can attract new business and can provide a competitive advantage. You don’t want your business to lag behind the curve on reducing its climate crisis-causing emissions, but where do you even start? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided a free online guide specifically geared towards small businesses and low emitters. The guide takes you step by step in the process of starting a GHG inventory, what to measure, and how to use the inventory as a benchmark for GHG reduction goals.  

How does the guide help?

The EPA GHG Emissions Guide for Small Businesses and Low Emitters breaks down the process of how to start up a GHG inventory into 3 steps: Getting Started, calculating emissions, and creating a GHG inventory management plan. 

  1. The Getting Started step presents all of the necessary information that a company would need to start a GHG inventory from scratch. It breaks down vocabulary, the 3 scopes of emissions, and how to choose a starting point.
  2. To help with calculation, the guide provides the GHG calculator; a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet populated with questions, formulas, and organized tabs that make it easy for a business to plug in their emissions and obtain a summary.
  3. The last step walks a business through how to maximize the utilization of their GHG inventory, by creating a management plan to set goals, track progress, and establish a consistent reporting system that will be beneficial in the long term.

The best part is that this resource is free. There are no expensive consultants to pay, or certificates to purchase. 

At the end of the day, understanding a GHG inventory and taking advantage of the powerful EPA resources available could benefit your company and ensure it doesn’t get left behind in the sustainability wave. It is of no cost and it will only add value to your company while also helping take better care of the planet we all call home.