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What to look for in carbon accounting and emissions management software

May 14, 2024

How to pick the right sustainability platform.

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How to choose the best carbon accounting method

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Managing each aspect of a sustainability strategy—from carbon accounting and reduction targets to ongoing management and reporting—in disparate software platforms is a Sisyphean task. Businesses need one place to turn for their end-to-end sustainability program.  

Every day there seems to be a new emissions management software or carbon accounting system on the market. So how do you cut through the noise, distinguish between features, and decide which one is right for your business?

Here are eight things you should consider before you decide on a solution:  

1. Automatic scope 1, 2, and 3, emissions calculations  

Businesses that want to take climate action must first calculate their greenhouse gas emissions across scopes 1, 2, and 3 and convert those outputs to CO2 equivalent (MT CO2e). But watch out—converting GHG emissions to CO2e can be challenging without the help of software.

Detailed gas breakdowns are important for businesses to accurately report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Look for a platform that takes inputs like electricity consumption, waste, vehicle use, company purchases, and more and does the math automatically. Also table stakes: the functionality to track carbon emissions at different facilities and locations, month-to-month and year-over-year.  

Waste measurement module in Sustain.Life

How to measure your emissions with Sustain.Life

Whether you’re a beginner or a sustainability expert, from minute-one on Sustain.Life, you can start calculating your scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions across buildings, vehicles, people, products, purchases, waste, water, and other custom inputs at each of your business’s locations.

2. Guides to help reduce emissions

Emissions measurement and benchmarking are essential steps for future improvements—afterall, what gets measured gets managed. But businesses also have to have a plan and initiatives to manage and reduce their emissions.

Any sustainability management platform with a robust feature set should help users understand how business behaviors impact their emissions and guide them to cut those emissions. Without that understanding, setting realistic emissions reduction goals and a net-zero target is nearly impossible.  

Guide to providing transit benefits on Sustain.Life

How Sustain.Life helps you reduce your emissions

Based on your carbon footprint, Sustain.Life helps you create a plan to reduce your emissions that your entire company can execute. Sustain.Life enables you to measure your baseline performance, operationalize an ESG strategy, get guidance and ideas, and adapt policies aligned with your priorities. The platform includes 100+ expert-created how-tos and guides to make your packaging more sustainable, evaluate supply chain risk, prepare for climate change risks, and much more.

See how Sustain.Life can fundamentally change your path to net-zero

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3. Data repository and center of excellence to track progress

Businesses need their emissions data where the entire organization can find it—not in various systems, spreadsheets, and departments. When it comes time to disclose company emissions, having your data in one place, along with an audit trail of document uploads, notes, and customizable tags, saves time and money.

Along with environmental and ESG data, energy consumption, and GHG emissions, look for flexible dashboards and insights by location, team, and emission scope.  

Emissions management dashboard on Sustain.Life

How Sustain.Life helps you track your environmental and sustainability data

Whether it’s monitoring bags of waste, electricity bills, water usage, or other data like employee commuting miles, Sustain.Life is your source of truth for it all. Designed to streamline data collection and input, Sustain.Life’s APIs work with your systems. By tracking your consumption against cost, Sustain.Life shows the ROI of your sustainable investments.

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4. Accurately and efficiently assess your supply chain

Scope 1 and 2 energy-related emissions only tell part of a business’s emissions story. Many companies lack the resources to understand just how far down the value chain their emissions go. In fact, indirect scope 3 emissions often comprise 90% of a business’s carbon footprint. Yet few companies accurately account for them.

An all-in-one emissions management platform should help survey and score a business’s entire supply chain, set supplier requirements, and strengthen relationships. And to get an accurate picture of scope 3 emissions, it also needs to aid in accounting for emissions from sold products and employee behaviors.  

Supply chain assessment on Sustain.Life

How Sustain.Life helps you track supply chain—scope 3—emissions

Whether you’re evaluating your emissions to make more informed purchasing decisions or compiling a complete emissions inventory for future disclosures, you need to account for your scope 3 emissions. Sustain. Life’s supplier management tools help automatically survey and score your suppliers while also providing them with tools and resources to improve their sustainability programs.  

5. Engage employees at every point on their sustainability journey—at work and home.  

When it comes to workplace sustainability, highly engaged employees create a better workplace environment. But for a sustainability program to take hold, companies have to embody sustainable principles—from the entry-level employees to the c-suite. Good sustainability software should help companies engage employees both in the office and remotely.

How Sustain.Life helps with engagement

Sustain.Life includes personal emissions calculators, guides to sustainable commuting, green team communities, and offsets for emissions at home and work.  

6. Intuitive and easy-to-use so that all employees can contribute

Data-centric platforms often get a bad wrap, and rightfully so. They’re typically hard to use, look unapproachable, and require extensive onboarding periods and expensive specialists to set up. The same holds true for many sustainability platforms on the market—they’re built so only sustainability experts can utilize their functionality.  

Look for a platform that doesn’t require long training and set-up times and one that fosters collaboration, not isolation. A good sustainability platform should also educate and engage stakeholders with customizable and shareable sustainability reports that offer insight into priorities and progress. Sustain.Life allows you to create custom sources for standard categories, or even entirely custom metrics that do not fit into existing GHGP categories. This level of flexibility ensures that all your unique emissions sources can be accurately tracked and reported.

How Sustain.Life is easy to use

Sustain. Life’s intuitive and straightforward interface makes it easy for anyone—and we mean anyone—to pick up and use in seconds. That means quick adoption, traction, and ongoing engagement for all users. Plus, no more manually pulling data and reports for external consultants and auditors.

7. Help with compliance and disclosure

Until recently, emissions reporting requirements in the U.S. have been nearly nonexistent. Those days are now numbered, and that means thousands of companies will have to reliably record their emissions to publicly disclose to investors. Transparency in methodologies and calculations are also crucial for data validation and to ensure the data meets compliance and stakeholder requirements.

Look for a sustainability platform that aligns with the GHG Protocol and uses reliable and up-to-date emissions factors. The breadth and source of emissions factors can significantly affect the accuracy of carbon accounting. Factors should come from reliable, recognized databases and be updated regularly to ensure precision. Sustain.Life’s carbon calculators include thousands of externally validated emissions factors and cover 240+ countries and territories.

The ability to align with and report against various frameworks is also essential for global and cross-industry compatibility as well as for building credibility 
with stakeholders. Sustain.Life supports leading frameworks, including GRI, SASB, TCFD, and CDP. We also enable customization to align with other specific industry or 
region-specific frameworks.

Compliance and disclosure on Sustain.Life

How Sustain.Life will help you disclose your emissions

In addition to our stringent methodologies, Sustain.Life gives companies the ability to align with and report against various frameworks and regulations. Sustain.Life supports leading frameworks, including GRI, SASB, TCFD, and CDP. We also enable customization to align with other specific industry- or region-specific frameworks, while also preparing your business for third-party assessments, like the TRUE Certification for Zero Waste, and the B Impact Assessment.

8. Data privacy and security

In an age of increasing data breaches and stringent data privacy regulations, it is crucial to ensure that the software provides robust data security measures.

Sustain.Life officially completed its SOC 2® Type 2 assessment. We place the utmost importance on protecting and securing sensitive customer data. The SOC 2 audit was conducted by leading compliance assessor A-LIGN, a technology-enabled security and compliance partner trusted by more than 2,500 global organizations to help mitigate
cybersecurity risks.

9. Affordability and scale

There‘s no shortage of SaaS platforms geared toward businesses looking to be carbon neutral. Prices range from free up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for enterprise solutions.

Carbon neutral graph on Sustain.Life

Typically, free software is geared toward personal emissions, or it will only take a business so far. And solutions on the other end of the spectrum are only affordable for the Fortune 50.

So where does that leave the majority of companies that will need to measure and disclose?

Sustain.Life is the solution. It‘s affordable, accessible, and will scale with your business. Head to our plans page to get started.

Ebook: Choosing the best carbon accounting method


1. Forbes, “How To Take Sustainability Beyond Motto And Mission,”

Editorial statement
At Sustain.Life, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Written by practitioners and experts, articles are grounded in research and experience-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by our team of sustainability professionals to ensure content is accurate and aligns with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
Sustain.Life Team
Sustain.Life’s teams of sustainability practitioners and experts often collaborate on articles, videos, and other content.
Alyssa Rade
Alyssa Rade is the chief sustainability officer at Sustain.Life. She has over ten years of corporate sustainability experience and guides Sustain.Life’s platform features.
The takeaway

There‘s no shortage of carbon accounting platforms to choose from—prices range from free up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for enterprise solutions—but there are a few things to watch out for when selecting the right solution.