12 June 2024
Topics in this article
  • Net Zero | Scope 3
  • Procurement Explainers
  • Sustainability

News about climate change is often saturated with terminology, which can limit our understanding of the issues and how our political leaders intend to address them. Here is a comprehensive glossary of key terms related to carbon emissions, sustainability, and environmental responsibility.

Whether you’re a beginner navigating the world of sustainability or an experienced professional, this guide aims to demystify jargon and provide easy-to-understand explanations. From carbon footprints to circular economies, we’ve got you covered.


Absolute emissions: The total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions an organization produces.


B Corp: A for-profit company with a business model designed for positive social or environmental impact, often publishing public impact reports.

Beyond Value Chain Mitigation (BVCM): Activity that focuses on avoiding or reducing emissions beyond a company’s immediate operations


Carbon Border Adjustment Measurement (CBAM): A tax imposed on carbon emissions associated with imported goods into the EU

Carbon capture: Technology for capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) before its release into the atmosphere.

Carbon credits: Certificates allowing organizations to emit a specific amount of CO2; can be traded or sold.

Carbon leakage: Re-locating carbon-emitting industries to countries with less stringent climate policies, potentially increasing carbon emissions.

Carbon negative: Exceeding net zero by removing more carbon from the planet than is produced.

Carbon neutral: GHG emissions produced equal to those removed (via reduction or offsetting).

Carbon offsetting: Compensating for CO2 emissions by investing in emission reduction projects elsewhere.

Carbon pricing: Assigning a monetary value to carbon emissions to drive reduction efforts.

Carbon tax: Fixed charges on emissions sources to incentivize reduced greenhouse gas production.

CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project): An international non-profit organization that helps companies and cities disclose their environmental impact.

Climate Change: A long-term change in global or regional climate patterns, often linked to human activity.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The idea that a company should be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD): An EU legislation requiring large companies to report their environmental and social impacts

CO2: Carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring greenhouse gas and a byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

CO2e: Carbon dioxide equivalent, a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints, which accounts for the impact of different greenhouse gases.

COP: United Nations Climate Change Conference, where global stakeholders collaborate to tackle climate change.


Decarbonization: Reducing carbon emissions produced by organizations or entities.

Decarbonization-as-a-Service (D-a-a-S): Services focused on helping businesses reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their supply chains.


Energy efficiency: Using less energy to achieve the same output.

Embodied emissions: Emissions associated with product or service production, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, and transportation.


Fossil fuels: Natural fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas which produce greenhouse gases upon combustion.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG): atmospheric gases that are increased through human activity such as burning fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

GHG Protocol: global standardized framework for measuring, managing, and reporting greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors.


Human rights: Universal, inalienable, and equal rights inherent to all individuals regardless of status (throughout the supply chain)


Incremental innovation: Gradual improvement of existing products or services.

Industry-wide collaboration: Companies collaborating to address climate change collectively.

Intensity emissions: GHG emissions relative to economic output (e.g., CO2e per product sold).

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): A United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.


Long-term Science-Based Targets: Emission reductions for net-zero by 2050.

Lifecyle-assessment (LCA): Evaluating environmental, economic, and social impacts of products throughout their lifecycle.


Modern slavery: Exploitation of people through coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for labor or sex


Near-term Science-Based Targets: Reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Net-Zero: Balancing the amount of emissions produced with emissions removed over time.

Net Zero Standard:
This standard requires companies to reduce emissions by at least 90% by 2050, with a 5-10% offset limit.

Net Zero Procurement Strategy:
Embedding net zero policies and practices into activity, prioritizing goods and suppliers that support the achievement of SBT.

Ocean Acidification: The ongoing decrease in pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere.


Renewable energy: Inexhaustible energy sources like solar and wind power, that replenish faster than they are consumed.

Radical innovation: Creating entirely new technologies or knowledge that transform industries.


Science-based targets (SBT): Emission reduction targets aligned with global warming goals.

Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions from an organization’s activities or control.

Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from electricity used by an organization.

Scope 3: Indirect GHG emissions across the value chain (e.g., purchased goods, business travel).

SBTi: Science-Based Targets Initiative accredits science-based emission reduction targets.

Social Value: The additional value of goods or services that positively contribute to societal impact, beyond the scope of the contract.

Supply Chain Act: Requires companies to monitor human rights and environmental risks in their global supply chains.

Sustainable Land Management: Practices that integrate the management of land, water, biodiversity, and other environmental resources to meet human needs while ensuring the long-term sustainability of ecosystem services and livelihoods.

Sustainable Procurement: Integrates environmental, social, and governance criteria into procurement processes, promoting sustainable development

Systemic change: Fundamental change affecting how the whole system functions.


The Chancery Lane Project: A collective of lawyers creating climate-related contract clauses to drive climate solutions.

The Scope 3 Maturity Benchmark: A framework that enables organizations to track their progress against their peers, tackling their Scope 3 emissions.

Tipping point: A critical moment when widespread change occurs in adopting an idea or trend.


Voluntary Carbon Markets: Markets where carbon credits are traded on a voluntary basis, outside of regulatory frameworks.


Water Management: Strategies for managing water resources to meet current and future human demands.

Remember, understanding these terms is crucial for positive climate action. If you’re working towards Net Zero, take a look at our Sustainable Procurement Services.

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