The myths around carbon standards

With a growing number of farmers looking to evaluate their carbon footprint, Trinity AgTech’s Anna Woodley provides
some insight into the standards governing carbon and natural capital.

The carbon and natural capital space is rapidly developing and provides farmers with a real opportunity to make their businesses more profitable and sustainable. But when it comes to measuring and managing natural capital, how do you know which software to use?

According to Anna Woodley, managing director of business development at Trinity AgTech, the perception that there are no standards governing carbon is a misconception that leads to confusion when choosing the correct software solution.

“The trouble with the carbon space is there are no standards, so how do we know what system to use? This is a statement I hear on an almost daily basis, but the truth is there are a number of standards designed to bring order and credibility to the natural capital space.

“While the breadth of criteria for carbon reporting does vary with different standards, there are some international ‘super standards’ which verify the methodology behind carbon footprint reporting to the highest level,” she explains.

These standards include:

  • IPCC 2019 Tier 2 and Tier 3 – the most demanding tiers in terms of complexity and data requirements and sometimes referred to as higher tier methods. Tier 2 and Tier 3 are generally considered to be more accurate providing that adequate data is available to apply a higher tier method.
  • ISO 14064-2 – quantification, monitoring and reporting of activities intended to cause greenhouse gas emissions reductions or removal enhancements.
  • ISO 14067 – the quantification and reporting of the carbon footprint of a product, and the most comprehensive standard for carbon footprint reporting available.
  • Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 – specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services. (PAS) 2050 has mostly been replaced by ISO 14067 and the GHG Protocol, however some retailers are still using it as a guide.
  • Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Standard – designed to understand, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions.
  • SBTi FLAG – SBTi’s forest, land and agriculture (FLAG) guidance provides the world’s first standard method for companies in land-intensive sectors to set science-based targets that include land-based emission reductions and removals. The guidance enables companies to reduce the 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions produced from agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

Ms Woodley says: “Although these standards are not yet mandated, businesses operating in the food supply chain are increasingly making commitments aligned to these standards in a bid to cut out greenwashing and make credible progress on Scope 3 emissions, a significant amount of which sit at farm and fertiliser production level.

“SBTi and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol in particular, are two major standards that we are seeing increasing commitment to amid mounting scrutiny from investors and increasing reputational risk.”

Ms Woodley says it is a risk for farmers and the supply chain to use information from software that doesn’t monitor activities against these standards.

“We should be following the latest science to give confidence in on-farm reporting and credibly evidence our position and progress when it comes to protecting the environment.

“Software solutions that were credible a few years ago will no longer be relevant if they have failed to evolve with the science.”

Ms Woodley explains that Sandy is the only proven software solution that covers all farm types and sizes that is accredited to all of these international standards.

“If you are using Sandy to navigate carbon and natural capital, you can trust that you’re obtaining the most credible data possible.”

She adds: “And the high level of sophistication Sandy offers, doesn’t mean compromised usability. Sandy was built with farmers in mind, providing a user-friendly and intuitive platform that accounts for carbon as well as all other farm natural capital assets.”

Alongside carbon, Sandy contains modules for soil erosion, water quality and biodiversity.

“All of these natural capital assets have a value for farmers and should be considered holistically in conjunction with carbon.

“Co-benefits such as conservation management, increasing on-farm biodiversity, and protecting water courses can bring more to the table in terms of environmental sustainability than simply focusing on carbon emissions targets. Sandy is the only solution to credibly evidence these benefits alongside farm planning and financial data all in one place,” she concludes.

To find out how Sandy can help you measure, manage and optimise your farm’s natural capital assets, head to and request a demo.

What are Scope 1 emissions?

Scope 1 refers to a category of carbon emissions that includes direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from sources that are owned or controlled by an organisation. It is one of the three scopes defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) for measuring and reporting emissions. Scope 1 emissions are considered direct because they arise from sources that are physically owned or operated by the farm.

These emissions originate from activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels, onsite fuel combustion, and emissions from processes. Common examples of Scope 1 emissions include emissions from vehicles, on-site power generation, heating systems, livestock and processes that release GHGs.

Measuring and reporting Scope 1 emissions involves gathering data on the amount of fuel consumed and applying the appropriate emission factors to calculate the total carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. Emission factors represent the amount of GHGs released per unit of fuel burned and can vary depending on the fuel type and combustion technology used.

Reducing Scope 1 emissions is a vital aspect of sustainability and climate change mitigation efforts. Farms can achieve this by implementing energy-efficient technologies, switching to cleaner fuel sources, optimising operational processes to minimize fuel consumption and investing in renewable energy generation. Additionally, scope 1 on farms can be offset by your own sequestration.

By addressing Scope 1 emissions, organisations can take direct action to minimize their carbon footprint. It demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, enhances operational efficiency, and aligns with sustainable business practices.

What are Scope 2 emissions?

Scope 2 refers to a category of carbon emissions that includes indirect greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, or steam by an organisation. It is one of the three scopes defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) for measuring and reporting emissions. Scope 2 emissions are considered indirect because they are generated by a third party, such as a utility company, but are associated with an organisation’s activities.

These emissions arise when organisations use electricity, heat, or steam generated by external sources that release greenhouse gases during the production process. Examples of Scope 2 emissions include the burning of fossil fuels in power plants or the release of emissions from renewable energy generation.

Measuring Scope 2 emissions requires organisations to collect data on their energy consumption and multiply it by the emission factor associated with the electricity, heat, or steam used. The emission factor represents the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the energy source, such as coal, natural gas, or renewable energy. Organisations can obtain emission factors from publicly available sources or directly from their energy suppliers.

Addressing Scope 2 emissions is an important aspect of corporate sustainability efforts and climate change mitigation. Organisations can reduce these emissions by transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency in their operations, and actively engaging with their energy suppliers to procure low-carbon or renewable energy options. Additionally, organisations can purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) or engage in power purchase agreements (PPAs) to offset their electricity consumption with renewable energy generation.

By managing and reducing Scope 2 emissions, organisations can make significant progress toward their climate goals, contribute to a cleaner energy system, and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

What are Scope 3 emissions?

Scope 3 refers to a category of carbon emissions that encompasses indirect emissions resulting from an organisation’s value chain activities. Scope 3 emissions occur both upstream and downstream of an organisation’s operations, making them the most extensive and challenging to measure and manage.

These emissions originate from a range of sources that fall outside a company’s direct control. Examples include emissions from purchased goods and services, travel, employee commuting, product use, end-of-life treatment of sold products, and even the extraction and production of raw materials used in the company’s products. As a result, Scope 3 emissions can account for a significant portion of a company’s overall carbon footprint, particularly for sectors with complex supply chains.

Measuring and managing Scope 3 emissions can be complex due to the multitude of actors involved and the need for data collection across the value chain. However, addressing these emissions is crucial for organisations aiming to achieve comprehensive sustainability targets and effectively mitigate climate change.

Companies can take various steps to address Scope 3 emissions. This includes engaging with suppliers to encourage emission reductions, adopting circular economy practices to reduce waste and emissions throughout the product life cycle, incentivizing sustainable transportation options for employees, and offering energy-efficient and low-carbon products to customers. Collaboration among stakeholders is also crucial to drive systemic change and reduce emissions collectively.

Understanding and addressing Scope 3 emissions is essential for organisations committed to tackling climate change comprehensively. By accounting for the full carbon impact of their activities, companies can develop effective strategies to reduce emissions and contribute to a more sustainable future.