Any organisation looking to cut its contribution to global warming needs to know the scale - and the sources - of the greenhouse gas emissions it is responsible for.
Many companies can now measure their energy consumption by analysing factors such as the buildings they use, and the business travel they rack up. However, this does not tell the whole story.
"Typically, most of a company's carbon footprint is contained in the embodied carbon from the goods and services it purchases," says Paul Brockway, senior consultant with Arup, the global engineering and design business.
With these supply-chain emissions in mind, Arup has created a new carbon measurement and management tool called Beacon.
"[It] was created as a means for large organisations to measure and manage [their supply-chain] carbon emissions," says Brockway. "The Beacon model uses world-leading carbon factors for 57 sectors in each of 94 individual countries covering 98 per cent of world GDP."
The breadth and quality of data available to Beacon, he adds, "means that we can calculate a robust and credible total carbon footprint for any organisation anywhere in the world."
Brockway sees three main drivers for organisations' desire to monitor their supply-chain emissions - compliance with carbon-reporting standards, to reduce supply-chain costs, and to improve their environmental performance reputation, relative to their peers.
"Some cities, such as Seattle and London, have already tried to measure their full footprint, including the embodied emissions in their goods and services," he says, adding that the 2011 protocol on greenhouse gas has made reporting of supply-chain emissions mandatory among global firms.
"Measuring these [supply-chain] emissions is the first stage in reducing them and lowering the cost base, leading to a more competitive business," Brockway adds.
The heightened focus on environmental considerations throughout the economy, and society as a whole, presents new opportunities for engineers with relevant experience.
"We are looking for people with specialist skills, particularly in environmental fields, such as air, noise, water and ecology," says Arup director Sam Tsoi. "They should also have a broad knowledge of other environmental subjects, as well as a good understanding of the practical application of mitigation designs."
Tsoi says the possession of environmental engineering skills can enhance an engineer's career prospects with Arup, "particularly in those operating groups whose day- to-day work involves the resolution of a combination of engineering, cost, environmental and social issues."