by: Joel Makower

What's your climate footprint? It's a hot question these days -- one being asked increasingly of companies by customers, investors, activists, regulators, and others.

OK, it may not be exactly that question, but it's probably in some form, like, "What's your company doing to reduce its climate impacts?" Or, "How do you call yourself environmentally responsible when you take so damn many plane trips?"

Whatever the question, providing an answer will require understanding what, exactly, your company does to contribute greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And therein lies a challenge: Calculating a company's climate footprint (sometimes referred to as a "carbon footprint") is far from simple. To begin, there are the sheer number and range of business activities that must be tracked: facilities, operations, transportation, travel, and purchases of everything from raw materials to office supplies.

That's the topic of my column this month in Grist.

Companies seem to be increasingly tripping over themselves trying to put on a friendly climate face. Each month brings new reports of companies making commitments to reduce or offset some part of their climate footprint. It's hard to attend an environmental event these days without hearing that the event, including all participants' travel, has been rendered "climate neutral" (or some such moniker; there are several variations on this theme). Even rock bands, from Pearl Jam to Dave Matthews, are drumming out the climate impacts of their concerts and tours.

So, how do you measure your firm's carbon footprint? Read on.

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