Operational Emissions

Operational emissions encompass the greenhouse gases emitted from an organisation’s own technology infrastructure and operations. These are categorised into three groups - On-Prem, Cloud, and Generator emissions (O, C, and G) - based on the level of ownership and control an organisation has over the assets.

Understanding operational emissions allows organisations to quantify, monitor, and benchmark the climate impacts of their technology infrastructure and business operations. It enables setting emission reduction targets and strategies and facilitates compliance with current and emerging climate disclosure legislations.

Emissions are further classified into direct and indirect sources:

Direct Emissions

Direct emissions are a result of the organisation’s direct consumption of grid-supplied electricity (Category O) or combustion of fossil fuels like diesel or natural gas for owned power generators (Category G). The organisation can directly measure and account for emissions from owned assets.


Emissions associated with the actual operation and use of devices owned by an organisation (usage carbon).

Read more about usage carbon emissions.

Category O (On-premise) emissions can be related to GHG Protocol Scope 2.

Servers and Storage

The energy consumed by on-premise servers and data centres.

Click here to see a worked example of estimating usage emissions for a server.

Networking Devices

In the information on networks, networks are split into four categories - the operational network, the wired backbone internet, the wireless internet and your consumer’s network. Of these, the first three need to be considered in Operational Emissions.

Within the operational network, consider the running cost of the connected devices. These include, but are not limited to:

  • routers
  • switches
  • bridges
  • Wi-Fi access points
  • firewalls
  • modems
  • hubs
  • repeaters

Research1 has shown that not all networking equipment will use power in line with the data it is transmitted over it. These devices will have a baseline load (i.e. the energy they consume for simply being switched on, regardless of the processing they do), a maximum load and a typical load. Most wired networking equipment, such as routers and switches, will consume at least 60% of their maximum power as a baseline going up to 90% of their maximum power under a heavy load2. For accurate numbers, power monitors on the power socket are an excellent way of gathering data. As the power usage of networking equipment has very little variance while it is running, attributing the power consumption to specific applications or processes is less important.

Data consumed from a supplier’s API, that is external to your organisation, is accounted for in the indirect category. Public wired and wireless internet usage does not need to be measured in the Direct Emission category. Data sent from the service to end users is accounted for in the downstream emissions category.

Employee Devices

The energy consumed by computers (desktops, laptops), monitors, printers, and other devices used by employees.

Click here to see a worked example of estimating usage emissions for a laptop.


Any fossil fuel-powered generators, solar PV, wind turbines, or other systems installed on-site to supply electricity to technology equipment.

Category G (Generators) can be related to GHG Protocol Scope 1.

Indirect Emissions

Indirect emissions result from the organisation’s purchase of cloud computing services, software, or managed IT services from third-party technology providers.

As the organisation does not own or control the IT assets delivering these services, their associated emissions cannot be directly quantified. But use of these services can contribute substantially to the organisation’s overall technology emissions footprint. Emissions estimates for third-party services can be obtained from providers to account for these indirect, supply chain impacts.

Category C (Cloud) emissions can be related to GHG Protocol Scope 3.

Cloud Services

The emissions associated with cloud platform services like compute, storage, and networking. Services are backed by computing hardware with associated upstream and operational emissions. The proportion of such emissions attributable to an organisation will vary based on service, server instance types, and region.

Read more about cloud services.


Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.

Managed Services

Managed Security Operations, IT support and data backup services.