Carbon footprints are useful and important tools in the fight against climate change, which are now being used widely by larger companies. These large corporations have recognised not only their use as an environmental tool but also their potential to attract customers and reduce costs. However, this is not yet the case for many smaller companies who still consider environmental assessment to be a burden which is too difficult and costly to undertake.
In order to encourage small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to take more responsibility for their environmental impact, a carbon footprint tool needs to be developed specifically for them, which addresses their particular requirements, namely their lack of knowledge of environmental issues and their lack of time and money.
There are currently two basic methodological approaches to produce the conversion factors required to convert quantitative values of material used into the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by that material usage. One methodology is called lifecycle analysis (LCA) as it looks at all the steps individually throughout the lifecycle of a product and adds them together to form an overall picture. The other, called environmental input output analysis (EIO), uses economic purchase and sales data combined with sector emissions to derive conversion factors based on the amount of money spent within a different sector.
This study compares both of these methodologies to determine which of them is most suitable to use in the development of a tool for SMEs. Two tools were created, one based upon each methodology. The most noticeable difference between these two tools was that whereas the LCA tool asked for information in terms of the quantity of a material used, the EIO tool asked for information about the amount of money spent within a sector.