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Trees and Cliff



Absolute Target

A target defined by the amount of reduction in absolute emissions over time such as a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% below 2020 levels by 2030.


Planting of new forests on lands that historically have not contained forests.

Anaerobic Digestion

The conversion of food waste into energy using a process called anaerobic digestion (AD) where the food waste is treated and broken down so that it produces biogas.  This biogas is rich with methane and used to create new energy.  AD is a great way to prevent food waster from going to landfill and emitting greenhouse gases and provides an effective form of renewable energy with a by product of the process being used as a fertiliser.


The layer of gases that surround the planet.  The earth's atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and smaller amounts of carbon dioxide and other trace gases.


Base Year
This is the date that has been historically chosen as the starting point against which emissions are tracked over time.

Base Year Emissions

This is the level of greenhouse gas emissions that were generated in the base year.

Base Year Emissions Recalculation

This is the term used to reflect the recalculation of emissions in the base year due to a change in the organisation or to reflect a change in the accounting methodology being used to calculate the level of emissions to ensure data consistency over time.


This is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi by way of natural process.


Fuel made from plant materials such as wood, straw and ethanol from plants.

Biomass Boilers

Biomass boilers burn natural materials such as wood pellets, chips or logs to provide heating and to power hot water boilers.


Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)

A process of capturing carbon dioxide, transporting it and then permanently depositing it in an underground store.  Often found within heavy industrial businesses such as utilities, cement, steel, chemicals and other manufacturers.

Carbon Dioxide

A naturally occurring gas that is also produced as a result of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas as well as changes in land use, industrial activities such as cement production and burning biomass.  Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that affects the radiative balance of the planet and is the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured.

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organisation, or business. 

Carbon Intensity

The total amount of a group, individual, company or country’s carbon emissions per unit of economic activity (eg sales, GDP or power generated)

Carbon Negative

An entity whose activity removes more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than it adds to it.

Carbon Neutrality

A entity can achieve net zero carbon emissions by balancing existing emissions with carbon offsets. Carbon neutrality is often (but not always) validated or certified by a third party. 

Carbon Offsetting

The process of compensating total carbon emissions by funding carbon negative activities elsewhere. Companies often offset their existing emissions by investing in projects such as tree-planting initiatives to offset the carbon produced within the business.

Carbon Sequestration

The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Circular Economy

The state of an economy in which there is no waste because resources are never disposed of.  These resources are continually recycled or re-used so there is no waste.

Clean Technology

The range of products, services and processes that reduce the use of  natural resources, reduce or eliminate emissions and waste, and improve environmental sustainability such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.

Climate Change

The change in state of the climate over a period of time, typically decades or longer which is measured in terms of average temperatures, sea levels and other properties such as extreme events (floods and droughts etc).

CO2 Equivalent

The universal unit of measurement to indicate the global warming potential (GWP) of each of the six greenhouse gases, expressed in terms of the GWP on one unit of carbon dioxide.




The process by which countries, individuals and organisations seek to achieve zero fossil carbon existence.  This typically refers to a reduction of the carbon emissions associated with electricity, industrial activity and transport.



The amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.


Fair Trade
The term for an arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships.

Food Miles

The distance food is transported from the time of its making until it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used when testing the environmental impact of food, such as the carbon footprint of it.

Fossil Fuels

Carbon-based fuels from fossil hydrocarbon deposits that include coal, oil and natural gas. These are naturally high in carbon and the gases that are released when these fuels are used are widely believed to be a cause of climate change.


Greenhouse Gases ('GHG's)

These are the gases that trap heat close to the surface of the earth and are a key cause of climate change.  There are 7 such gases covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  These are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitorgen trifluoride.


This is the process where by information is put into the public domain which is not correct, or implies that an organisation is undertaking activities that are more environmentally friendly or beneficial than they really are.  Examples include falsely communicating the environmental credentials of a product or service.


Hydrogen Fuel

Hydrogen fuel refers to hydrogen which is burned as fuel with oxygen. It can be a zero-carbon fuel, provided that it is created in a process that does not involve carbon.


Impact Investing

Investments that are made with the goal of achieving positive social and environmental benefits whilst also providing a financial return.



Kyoto Protocol

The protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ('UNFCCC').



This is where rubbish is disposed of that has not been able to be recycled.  Landfill sites tend to comprise of waste that is spread in thin layers, compacted and covered with a fresh layer of soil each day.



Monocropping is the agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops or growing multiple crops on the same land, which is known as polyculture.


Natural Gas

Underground deposits of gases consisting of between 50-90% methane and small amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane and butane.

Net Zero

The balance between the amount of greenhouse gases an organisation emits and the amount it removes from the atmosphere.



Carbon offsetting is any activity undertaken that compensates for the emission of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases by providing for an emission reduction elsewhere.


Plant Based Diets

Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular and are dietary patterns that have a greater emphasis on foods derived from plants such as fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts, seeds and oils.




Collecting and reprocessing a resource so that it can be used again.  


The act of planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but have been converted to some other use.



This is the term used to define the operational boundaries in relation to direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

Scope 1 Emissions

These emissions result from sources directly owned or operated such as a fleet of vehicles.

Scope 2 Emissions

These emissions are based on energy purchased to directly operate a business/organisation and includes electricity consumption.

Scope 3 Emissions

These emissions result from activities not directly owned by a business/organisation but that are associated with its operation such as business travel, waste management, commuting and third party distribution.



Traceability is the ability to trace all processes from procurement of raw materials to production, consumption and disposal to clarify when and where the product was produced and by whom.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The convention that sets the overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.


Value Chain Emissions

Emissions from the upstream and downstream activities associated with the operations of the reporting company.


A diet and lifestyle which seeks to completely exclude all animal, seafood and insect based products at all times.



The atmospheric condition at any given time or place.  It is measured in terms of wind, temperature, rainfall, humidity, cloudiness and atmospheric pressure and tends to change from hour to hour, day to day and season to season.




Zero Waste

Zero waste dates back to the 1970s when the term was coined by chemist Paul Palmer. Today, zero waste includes the 5 Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. 

We hope that our A-Z of sustainability has helped demystify some of the terms used but if there is something that you feel should be included, please drop us a line and we will add it to the guide in due course!


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