Bulletins

A Google-backed carbon footprint tracker could be a game-changer for small businesses

Normative introduced a free version of its carbon emissions tracker for small to medium-sized businesses.

A red and white smokestack against a blue sky.

Small and medium-sized companies can measure their carbon footprint for free, courtesy of a new tool.

Photo: veeterzy / Unsplash

Tracking carbon emissions is hard, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. A Google-backed company is coming to their rescue, though.


Swedish startup Normative introduced a free version of its carbon emissions tracker, which it created to help relatively small companies get a baseline understanding of their emissions. That's the first step to putting together a climate plan.

“We want to make measuring carbon emissions and joining the race to net zero accessible to everyone,” Normative co-founder and CEO Kristian Rönn said in a statement. “This new tool is our second step towards engaging value chains across the world, and we will continue to develop and push our technology to help businesses take climate action.”

Normative’s Business Carbon Calculator helps small and medium-sized businesses monitor their carbon emissions and locate emission hotspots based on data like the size of their facilities and how much they spend on heating, electricity and gas. A team of fellows from Google.org, software engineers, UX designers and product managers have spent the past several months developing the calculator on a pro bono basis. Normative also offers larger businesses a paid product.

Smaller businesses can play a key role in the push to cut global emissions before 2030 and reach net zero emissions before 2050. Meeting those targets would help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a key threshold for preserving a safe climate. Small and medium-sized enterprises make up about 90% of all enterprises and half of all jobs worldwide, according to the World Bank.

However, these firms have a hard time tracking and mitigating their carbon footprint compared to larger enterprises like Google and Amazon, which have mapped out their own agendas for tackling the climate crisis. Carbon accounting is incredibly complex, especially once you get into emissions tied to the supply chain.

Roughly half of small to medium-sized businesses track emissions and have developed plans to reduce their carbon footprint, according to a recent survey from the SME Climate Hub. But two-thirds of small business owners said in the survey that they’re concerned they lack the skills, knowledge, funding or time to be able to fight the climate crisis. Normative's tool could start to change that paradigm, putting resources normally only available to major tech companies in the hands of little people.

“We know that it’s especially challenging for small businesses to understand, measure and report emissions — that’s why we wanted to create a tool that would make it easier for everyone to participate in the race to zero,” Rönn said in September, when the project first got underway.

Tracking emissions is only step one, though. Companies also need to come up with credible plans that include interim targets and accountability to stay on track. That's because the world has a finite carbon budget and once we burn through it, it's gone.

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