ICT Sustainability

Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

An Online Graduate Course & Book by Tom Worthington MEd, FACS CP

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This is an extract from the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy, National Carbon Offset Standard for Organisations (2017). There are also standards for Products & Services (2017b), Events (2017c), Precincts (2017d) and Buildings (2017e), which take a simialr approach. The standard details steps to: measure, reduce, offset and report emissions. Use of the standard is voluntary, however those making claims against the standard are required to be independently audited:

2.3 MEASURE: Prepare carbon account

Preparing a carbon account involves the following steps:

Step 1: Establish the emissions boundary. Step 2: Catalogue emissions sources within the boundary. Step 3: Set a base year. Step 4: Collect data on identified emissions sources. Step 5: Calculate the total carbon account attributable to the organisation.

The responsible entity may choose to prepare its own carbon account, or may engage a consultant to prepare the carbon account or to provide technical advice.

2.3.1 Step 1: Establish the emissions boundary

Defining the emissions boundary is the first step in the carbon accounting process. The emissions boundary refers to the coverage and extent of the carbon account. The boundary is established using a set of criteria to identify emissions sources and decide which of the identified sources are to be included or excluded. Refer to Figure 3 for examples of typical inclusions in an emission boundary.

For an organisation, the emissions boundary includes emissions sources that are part of the organisation boundary as well as emissions sources outside the organisation boundary (scope 3) that are considered relevant. The criteria of materiality can be applied to exclude emissions sources that would not be cost effective to measure relative to their significance to the carbon account.

The organisation’s emissions boundary must be transparently documented and disclosed, along with the reasoning for choosing the boundary. Where significant exclusions are made, they must be clearly stated, and the reasons for and implications of the exclusions must be justified. A disclosure statement, including reason and justification for any exclusions, must be published as part of the public report (Section 2.6).

Organisation boundary

The organisation boundary can be established using either a control or equity share approach: 1. The control approach requires an organisation to account for the greenhouse gas emissions from operations over which it has control. This can be based on either:

2. The equity share approach, which requires an organisation to account for greenhouse gas emissions according to its share of equity in the operations.

Once an approach is chosen, it must be applied fully and consistently to determine the organisation boundary of the carbon account. The most common approach for organisations seeking certification through the Australian Government is the operational control approach. The organisation boundary sets the basis for determining what are considered direct emissions and indirect emissions. See Section 2.3.2 for more information on scopes of emissions.

For further details and case studies on the application of these three approaches, refer to the GHG Protocol – Corporate Standard (WBCSD and WRI, 2004).


The criterion of relevance, as adapted from the GHG Protocol – Corporate Standard (WBCSD and WRI, 2004), is about ensuring the carbon account appropriately reflects the emissions of the organisation and meets the expectations of consumers and stakeholders – both internal and external to the organisation.

Emissions sources considered to be relevant, whether or not they fall within the organisation boundary, must be included in the emissions boundary (subject to materiality).

The Organisation Standard deems certain emissions sources to be relevant.

Emissions deemed to be relevant

The following emissions sources are deemed to be relevant to all organisations:

All other scope 3 emissions sources must be assessed for relevance in accordance with the relevance test, including:

Relevance test

Emissions sources are relevant when any two of the following conditions are met (adapted from the GHG Protocol – Corporate Standard (WBCSD and WRI, 2004)):


An emissions source that constitutes 1 per cent or more of the total carbon account is considered to be material under the Organisation Standard

If a relevant emissions source is estimated to be material, it must be included within the emissions boundary, unless justification can be provided to demonstrate that such quantification would not be technically feasible, practicable or cost effective relative to its significance.

Emissions sources that are relevant but estimated to constitute less than 1 per cent of the total carbon account can be excluded from the emissions boundary.

In applying the 1 per cent materiality threshold, the total amount of emissions to be excluded must not exceed 5 per cent of the total carbon account.

To estimate materiality of these emissions sources, tools based on input–output analysis can be useful.

Responsible entities are encouraged to include, measure and report as many emissions sources as possible, regardless of an emissions source’s materiality. Data for emissions sources that are deemed as immaterial (contributing less than 1 per cent to the carbon account) may still be included in the carbon account. The following methods can be used if primary data cannot be sourced:

Where a relevant emissions source is estimated to be material, but accurate data is not yet available, a data management plan should be developed to outline how more rigorous quantification can be achieved within a reasonable timeframe. This could include setting in place appropriate data collection processes and negotiating with stakeholders who have access to accurate data. ...

From: the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy, National Carbon Offset Standard for Organisations (2017).

Next: Assessment.

About the book: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Edition Notice

ICT Sustainability is about how to assess, and reduce, the carbon footprint and materials used with computers and telecommunications. These are the notes for an award winning graduate course on strategies for reducing the environmental impact of computers and how to use the Internet to make business more energy efficient.

Copyright © Tom Worthington, 2018

Third edition.

Cover shows Power on-off symbol: line within a circle (IEC 60417-5010).

Latest version of materials available free on-line, under at Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license at http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/

Previous edition, 2017:

ISBN: 9781326967949 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9781326958503 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781326967918 (PDF)
ISBN: 9781326958497 (ePub eBook via Lulu and Apple)
ASIN: B005SOEQZI (Kindle eBook)

Editions of these notes have been used for the courses:

  1. ICT Sustainability (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009), and
  2. Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635), Athabasca University (Canada). Adapted for North America by Brian Stewart.
  3. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009),