How Carbon Literate are You? How Well Do You Understand Carbon Footprints?

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What is ‘carbon literacy’? Basically, carbon literacy is an awareness of climate change and how our everyday activities affect climate change. The Carbon Literacy Project gives a fuller definition of the term on the homepage of its website.

How carbon literate are you, though? Below is a look in a little more depth at what it means to be carbon literate, at how to become (more) carbon literate, at why carbon literacy is important when working in procurement and also at our own achievements in carbon literacy.

What is carbon literacy?

Being carbon literate means understanding the impact of climate on you and on the people around you. This is in terms of both geography and sectors. It’s all about possessing the knowledge and ability to bring about change in how people work, think and behave in their response to climate change.

Carbon literacy shows you’ve developed the skills and knowledge to lower your own carbon footprint. Not only this, though, but you can share them confidently to help others do the same.

Carbon literate people show compassion and concern not only for the environment, but also for their health and for that of the people around them.

How do you become carbon literate?

According to the website of the Carbon Literacy Project, more than 65 020 people from more than 4 747 organisations are carbon literate. Carbon literacy may sound complex as a concept, but the path to becoming carbon literate is straightforward. The route just depends on whether you’re an organisation, an individual or a trainer.


As an individual, there are two ways you can become a certified carbon literate individual. The first is to complete a day’s worth of accredited learning. This must add up to around eight hours and can be in the form of e-learning, workshops or self-directed learning. In the case of the latter, this can be homework that a trainer has set you, for instance. A simple way to pursue your learning is with a carbon literacy course.

The second route is to organise your own carbon literacy learning. You can do this by speaking to a colleague, manager, chief executive officer (CEO) about implementing carbon literacy within the organisation, community or place of business. The next step is to contact the Carbon Literacy Project.


A carbon literate organisation (CLO) is one the Carbon Literacy Project has accredited as having shown a substantial commitment to developing a carbon literate workforce. There are four different levels of accreditation — Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze  — each one representing a different level of commitment to carbon literacy by the organisation.

For an organisation to become carbon literate, they must first register a training initiative with the Carbon Literacy Project that meets training criteria. One of the organisation’s leaders must also be certified as carbon literate. Completion of these steps earns the organisation a Bronze accreditation.

From there, the organisation must visually promote its carbon literacy, publish a one-page case study and manage to develop carbon literacy in most of its workforce. It must also integrate carbon literacy into its performance management. This earns it a Silver accreditation.

To achieve Gold accreditation, the organisation must pick two of the following actions:

  • promote carbon literacy;
  • deliver carbon literacy to another organisation;
  • develop carbon literacy materials with another organisation that is then going to use those materials outside of the organisation;
  • work with another carbon literate organisation;
  • sponsor carbon literacy for another group;
  • create a cost-benefit study.

To earn the top accreditation, the Platinum level, the organisation must then select two more actions from the above list. Eighty per cent of its workforce must also be carbon literate at this point.


To become a certified carbon literacy trainer, you must have already provided carbon literacy training. There are three different levels: Carbon Literacy Facilitator (level 1), Carbon Literacy Trainer (Level 2) and Carbon Literacy Consultant (Level 3).

A certified carbon literacy facilitator (CLF) will have a certain level of experience in arranging, organising, supporting and communicating a carbon literacy training initiative. They’ll either have this or experience in delivering training and supporting learners face to face. They may have experience in both.

A certified trainer (CLT) or consultant (CLC) will have a level of expertise, but they’ll also have completed and passed an assessment of their training delivery and communication skills that reflects this expertise. Additionally, they’ll receive a profile on the online training register and take priority when projects come in through the Carbon Literacy Project.

Why procurement professionals need carbon literacy training

Procurement professionals should take carbon literacy training for several reasons:

A substantial amount of emissions come from the supply chain

In the article ‘How to prepare for sustainability along the value chain’ on the website of consultancy McKinsey, the company reports that 80% of a typical consumer goods company’s emissions come from its own supply chain, more than from its own in-house operations. The heat and energy it takes to grow, make, process and transport goods and materials contribute significantly to a business’s carbon footprint.

Making procurement professionals aware of the impact of the supply chain upon the environment and how they can influence it for the better could make the supply chain much more sustainable. Procurement has an immense part to play in the whole carbon reduction of the goods and services we use in society.

A guarantee that the money is spent wisely

Procurement professionals in the civil service have a special responsibility to develop carbon literacy. The UK government is one of the nation’s biggest purchasers of services and goods, and the people who conduct these operations must ensure they’re spending public money wisely. It spends billions of pounds on goods and services, which provides it a good opportunity to lead by example in the way it attains goods, services and operations and governs them. It’s a chance to lower its substantial carbon footprint and instil a low carbon culture.

The move to Net Zero

As part of its 10-point green industrial revolution and green economic recovery strategy, the Government aims to eradicate carbon emissions in all sectors of the economy by 2050. When applying for government contracts over £5 million, suppliers must be able to illustrate their commitment to the Net Zero 2050 initiative with a suitable carbon reduction plan that sets out the measures they will have in place and implement during the performance of the contract. Procurement Policy Note 06/21 provides guidance for central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies, which it refers to as ‘In-Scope Organisations’ in the note, on how to take account of suppliers’ Carbon Reduction Plans (CRPs).

A CRP is essential for Net Zero. If you’re in charge of procuring goods and services and are helping your organisation to procure a government contract, you should make yourself aware of what, if anything, your suppliers are doing to work towards the Government’s net zero target. Check that they’re following the guidance of the latest procurement policy note.

Barkers Procurement: a Silver-status CLO

We believe in ethical procurement. As part of our commitment to ethical procurement, we operate as a carbon neutral company, a status we earned in 2022. Recently, we achieved Silver status as a carbon literate organisation (CLO). All of the company’s permanent team members have undergone carbon literacy training, and we encourage anyone who joins the team to take the training within six months of starting with us.

We want people who are as passionate and enthusiastic as we are about caring for the planet, and we’ll make this clear when advertising for new employees. Each of our team takes steps to reduce their own carbon footprint and that of the company. We also promote the message of carbon literacy through our newsletters, blog posts and social media channels.

We’ve promoted carbon literacy not just online, but offline as well. In March 2023, we held a ‘The Power of Procurement in Your Sustainability Strategy’ event alongside our partner Coupa. The purpose of the event was to showcase to procurement professionals the role they can play in sustainable procurement.

If you’re a business with a passion for sustainability and would like help to make your procurement operations more environmentally friendly, contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you on ways to improve your procurement operations and, at the same time, to conduct your procurement more ethically.

Barkers Recognised with Silver status by the Carbon Literacy Project.

Author: Barkers Procurement