Before you can reduce your emissions, you need to know where they come from. Once you know what to measure and how to measure, you can get a good picture of the carbon footprint of your business. Then you will be able to see where you can make the most impact.

Use the Climate Action Toolbox

A free and easy way to get started with emissions measurement is to use the Climate Action Toolbox. The carbon emissions calculator is designed specifically for smaller New Zealand businesses.

  • Measure your emissions – Provide data on your business activities and get an estimate of your carbon emissions.
  • Build your action plan – Learn where you can make impact and create your emissions reduction plan.

What makes up the carbon footprint of a business?

Your carbon footprint is an estimate of the emissions released by your business activities over a year. Greenhouse gas emissions are created through things like energy use and sending waste to landfill.

For example, direct use of fossil fuels such as petrol for vehicles releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Electricity use is linked to emissions because New Zealand’s electricity grid is not yet 100% renewable – around 15-20% of our electricity is generated by burning coal and gas which releases carbon dioxide. And when waste is left to decompose in a landfill, it releases greenhouse gases – predominantly methane.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

You may come across reference to Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. These are from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which has developed internationally recognised standards for emissions measurement.


Definition Example
Scope 1 Direct GHG emissions from owned or controlled sources
  • Fuel use in company-owned vehicles
  • Coal use for heat
Scope 2 Indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased energy
  • Electricity use
Scope 3 Other indirect GHG emissions occurring because of the activities of the organisation but generated from sources that it does not own or control
  • Business travel & staff commute
  • Freight transport
  • Waste
  • Working from home
  • Supply chain emissions

Learn more about the 3 emissions scopes(external link)

The Climate Action Toolbox helped us understand the key areas where our emissions come from. It's not just with transport as we originally thought. Emission levels from our office energy use were a real surprise.

Emah Tippett, Business Manager, ICE Electrical

How carbon footprints are measured

Your carbon footprint is expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) emissions. Measuring your carbon footprint will give you clarity over your organisation’s emissions hotspots and help you identify which areas offer quick wins that are worth targeting first.

Once you have a baseline, you can start to set targets to reduce emissions. Repeating the measurement process every year means you can track your emissions consistently and accurately. 

To use a carbon calculator like the Climate Action Toolbox, you’ll need to collect your energy use data. This information can typically be sourced from invoices or directly from your suppliers. The calculator will convert your energy use from litres of fuel or kWh of electricity (for example) into CO2-e emissions.

Climate Action Toolbox(external link)

What to measure and where to find the data

  • Energy use in buildings or on-site

    Energy use data (e.g. electricity and natural gas) can be found in your invoices from your energy supplier. If you share a workspace or don’t have your own energy account, you can request the data from the account holder or landlord and estimate your use based on your relative occupancy of the space.

  • Outsourced freight

    You should consider measuring freight emissions if you are spending more than $500 a month /$6,000 a year on these services. Freight is measured in tonne-kilometers (tkm), which is the weight of the goods multiplied by the distance travelled. You will need to get this information from your freight supplier.

  • Business travel

    This covers private and rental car use, taxi trips, and air travel. Car use is calculated by kilometres traveled, taxi use can be calculated by dollars spent, air travel is calculated by passenger kilometres (pkm) or the distance between airports. This information can be collected from your travel provider statements, taxi statements and staff travel expense claims.

  • Waste to landfill

    Waste is measured in kilograms. If you use a private waste service, you should be able to get this data from your provider. If you use a council service, or shared service, you can conduct a waste audit by weighing your waste over a short period (e.g. 2 weeks) and use this to estimate your annual waste.

  • Other – e.g. working from home

    Working from home emissions are increasingly becoming a relevant area for emissions measurement. This is measured in days worked from home – so you would need to track this information across your staff/team.

Sustainability actually improves efficiencies. If you can reduce your inputs to achieve the same outputs, you’re reducing your energy costs, the amount of materials you need, and you can improve your return on investment.

Steven Korner, Co-founder and CEO of Method Recycling

Free emissions calculators for New Zealand businesses

There are a range of emissions calculators available that are suitable for New Zealand businesses. The options listed here are free to use and support you through DIY emissions measurement. If you are interested in having your report verified and gaining carbon certification, you may want to consider engaging an agency that offers these services.

Ins and outs of a carbon zero journey

Demand for climate-friendly products and services is growing. No matter what size your business is or what sector it’s in, you can get ahead of the game by taking steps to becoming more carbon conscious.

EECA (the agency that backs Gen Less) has been measuring emissions longer than most. As the government agency charged with promoting energy efficiency and opportunities to reduce emissions, we signed up to a certified emissions reduction scheme in 2007. After whittling away annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35% since then, EECA earned carbon zero certification in 2019.

Got your carbon footprint sorted? Take the next step

When you know your baseline, the next step is to set some targets and make the changes that will help you reach these goals. And remember to keep measuring! Collecting your data regularly (e.g. monthly rather than annually) will help you stay on track.

Find support

You don't have to go it alone when it comes to embarking on, or continuing, your sustainable business journey. Finding the right help can make all the difference.

You can access training and resources through organisations like the Sustainable Business Network. Many New Zealand businesses get support with emissions measurement and management through a certification company such as Toitū or Ekos.

Explore support options