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Key terms

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Some of the terms used when discussing the environmental impact of organisations and actions that can be taken, can be confusing. Some of the key term and their definitions are listed below:


Adjustment in natural or human systems (including organisations) in response to current or expected climate change to moderate harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

Carbon footprint

The amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere because of the activity of an individual or organisation.

Carbon neutral

Causing no extra increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This can result from limiting carbon dioxide emissions and from removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Often used interchangeably with net-zero.

Carbon offsets

The process of compensating for the addition of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by using processes or technologies to remove the carbon that has been added, through carbon sequestration.

Carbon positive/Carbon negative

The process of removing more carbon from the environment than an individual or organisation is adding, resulting in a net reducing of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, going beyond net- zero. The terms carbon positive and carbon negative are used interchangeably.


‘Environmental dependency’ is a term which can be used to describe any organisations operations and activities which are significantly dependant on the state of the environment and the services it is providing (including weather and climate).

Net Zero Carbon dioxide emissions

The state in which no extra carbon dioxide emissions are being released into the atmosphere, either through a reducing in emissions or thorough it being balanced by the removal of greenhouse gases. Often used interchangeably with carbon neutral.


Ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb and accommodate or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration or improvement of its essential basic structure or functions.

Scope 1

The direct emissions created by an activity under your organisations control such as emissions from gas boilers, vehicles, and fugitive emissions (such as refrigeration or nitrogen fertilisation).

Scope 2

The indirect emissions cause by the production of the electricity purchased and used by your organisation.

Scope 3

All other indirect emissions from the activities of your organisation, occurring from sources that you do not own or control. This includes business travel, waste treatment, employee travel and procurement.

Vulnerability to climate change

The extent to which a system (such as an organisation) is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, the adverse effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events and climate variability.

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