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How Many Trees Would Offset Big Businesses’ Carbon Footprints?

The number of trees needed to offset the

greenhouse gas emissions of businesses

in the US and UK

With the aim of fighting global warming, some of the biggest businesses in the world are pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions, and generate power from renewable energy sources, including market leaders like Coca-Cola. However, with the millions of tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year by the UK and US’ top businesses, there is still a long way to go to tackle climate change.

We looked at the carbon footprints of top companies in the US and UK, including Amazon and Microsoft, to discover just how many trees each organisation would need to plant to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The UK-based petroleum company, BP, has the largest carbon footprint of all the companies we looked at, requiring 1.87 billion trees to be planted to offset annual emissions.

The UK Businesses with the Biggest Carbon Footprint

1

BP

374,000,000

Tons of CO2 released annually

The big oil and gas company, BP, is one of the world’s seven supermajor companies in oil production, trading and shipping large quantities of products all over the world.

Although BP does not publicise their scope 3 emissions, they reported in 2020 that their scope 1 and 2 emissions amounted to the equivalent of 374 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

To offset such a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, BP would need to plant 1,869,999,998 trees.

= 4 million tress

1,869,999,998

Trees to offset carbon footprint

2

British Airways

24,640,417

Tons of CO2 released annually

The UK-based airline, British Airways, is the second-largest carrier in the nation behind EasyJet, despite having a larger carbon footprint than their competitor.

British Airways reported the release of 9,400,692 tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, including all scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. If the company were to offset their carbon footprint for the year, it would need to plant 47,003,460 in total.

= 4 million tress

123,202,050

Trees to offset carbon footprint

3

M&S

5,700,000

Tons of CO2 released annually

Best known for their food products, the UK-based company Marks & Spencer also manufactures home goods, clothing and shoes.

Over the 2020/21 year, Marks & Spencer reported releasing the equivalent of 5.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This includes scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. To offset their carbon footprint for the year, the company would need to plant 28.5 million trees.

= 4 million tress

28,500,000

Trees to offset carbon footprint

The UK Businesses with the Biggest Carbon Footprint

Company Name

Annual Emissions (tCO2e)

Category of Emissions

Number of trees to offset emissions (per year)

The US Businesses with the Biggest Carbon Footprint

1

ExxonMobil

112,000,000

Tons of CO2 released annually

The supermajor gas company with headquarters in the US, ExxonMobil, reported that their absolute greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 equalled 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The total figure includes only scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, therefore does not account for indirect emissions that are released during the value chain, for example, employee commuting and upstream transportation.

To offset the 112 million metric tons of CO2 released annually by ExxonMobil, the company would need to plant 560 million trees every year.

= 4 million tress

560,000,000

Trees to offset carbon footprint

2

Berkshire Hathaway

74,960,726

Tons of CO2 released annually

Berkshire Hathaway, chaired by Warren Buffet, fully owns a variety of US companies, including Duracell, Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom, and has minority holdings in Coca-Cola, Apple and American Express.

In 2019, the holding company released the equivalent of 74,960,726 tons of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. To offset that quantity of greenhouse gas emissions, Berkshire Hathaway would need to plant 374,803,630 trees.

= 4 million tress

374,803,630

Trees to offset carbon footprint

3

Amazon

60,640,000

Tons of CO2 released annually

The global e-commerce company with headquarters in Seattle has pledged to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and was the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in 2020.

Despite recent environmental commitments, Amazon reported its carbon footprint amounted to 60.64 million tons in 2020, up from 51.16 million tons in 2019. This includes scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions across all areas of the company. To offset their CO2 emissions, Amazon would need to plant 303.2 million trees.

= 4 million tress

303,200,000

Trees to offset carbon footprint

The US Businesses with the Biggest Carbon Footprint

Company Name

Annual Emissions (tCO2e)

Category of Emissions

Number of trees to offset emissions (per year)

Methodology

We wanted to find out how many trees some of the biggest companies in the US and UK would have to plant to offset their annual carbon dioxide emissions. We looked at the companies in the UK and US with the biggest market cap, for which figures on annual emissions were available.

The total annual emissions of greenhouse gases, measured in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, for each company was sourced from each businesses’ most recent sustainability report and where unavailable, was sourced from Planet Action, PERI and Reuters. Where available, scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions were included, although scope 3 emissions were not disclosed by every company.

Using Carbonify’s Carbon Calculator, the number of trees that would need to be planted each year to offset the annual CO2 emissions of each company was calculated.

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