Carbon Consultants vs Carbon Accounting Software in 2024

Discover why carbon consultants combined carbon accounting software should be your best-fit solution.
Alex Whyte
Chief Carbon Officer

Carbon consultants have traditionally been the go-to solutions for organizations that need help with carbon accounting. But, they’re a costly solution and also often support with strategy, not the nuts and bolts of reporting. This is where software comes in.

With carbon accounting software, you can eliminate the significant amount of time sunk into collecting, processing, and managing the data required for carbon reporting. Otherwise, manual data management can lead to risks of misreporting due to human error as well as auditability issues.  

Historically, carbon accounting software has struggled to effectively automate or support tasks related to:

  • Guidance on the carbon accounting process and data requirements
  • Extracting data from primary records
  • Running calculations to complete carbon accounts. 

However, sector-specific software and developments in AI have changed that equation. 

This doesn’t mean that you have to choose between using carbon consultants or carbon accounting software. You should be looking to marry both solutions.

Here, we will explore how carbon accounting software has evolved and how they can be used in tandem with carbon consultants for more efficient processes in 2024 and beyond. 

When do you really need a carbon consultant?

If you’re thinking about using a carbon consultant, you need to understand what carbon consultants can help you do, and whether using a consultant is right, or necessary, for you. 

Signs you could use a carbon consultant

Not every carbon consultant operates the same way. However, here are some indicators that a carbon consultant may be a good fit for your business: 

  • You need advice on how to get started: Carbon consultants are particularly valuable in providing face-to-face support and guidance on your carbon accounting options and goals.
  • You need support on manual data processing: Carbon consultants will help you with the process of collecting, uploading and analyzing emissions data. However, it’s important to remember that portions of this work will remain with you. Data owners need to collect internal and external records. They might need to do the data processing themselves. 
  • You need guidance on developing an emissions reduction strategy: Carbon consultants excel at helping you turn carbon accounting data into an emissions reduction strategy. Combining their efforts with carbon accounting software is key to achieving accurate and effective carbon accounting.

Fundamentally, carbon consultants will advise you on the carbon accounting process, and help you put that into action. Carbon consultants might take on some of the manual work required for effective carbon data management. However, consultants will not remove all of this work from your plate. 

Signs a carbon consultant isn’t enough for your business

Carbon consultants have their limitations. Primarily, these come down to major issues in manual data processing that are common in carbon accounting. 

If your business has any of the below objectives, you likely can’t rely on carbon consultants alone: 

  • You want to eliminate manual inefficiencies in data management: Combing through records to manually extract relevant data to a spreadsheet is time-consuming. Whether this is outsourced or done in-house, that time is accounted for in the total cost of your carbon accounting process.
  • You want to remove the risk of human error: Manual data processing creates the risk of error, increasing the risk of misreporting. This problem exists whether or not that data entry is done in-house or by a consultant.  
  • You want complete visibility and an audit trail: Manually reviewing records and extracting data to spreadsheets creates issues for auditability. With primary records siloed across multiple resources, it’s easy for those sources to fall out of date, get lost or be forgotten. This creates issues if you need to prepare for third party assurance, or understand the provenance and integrity of your input data.   

As carbon consultants still struggle to solve central problems in carbon accounting, the process remains to be manual, time-consuming and error-prone. Whether or not you’re paying for that time with in-house resources or a large consulting bill, it doesn’t change the limited ROI you get in the end. 

Achieving the best ROI possible out of your carbon accounting solutions requires considering carbon accounting software alongside carbon consultants.

The benefits of carbon accounting software

Carbon accounting software isn’t new but it’s an increasingly powerful option. The market is expected to quadruple to more than £51bn by 2030. 1

Generative AI, specifically, has had a big impact. This technology opened the door to extracting information from your organization’s primary records, regardless of their structure or file type. It removes the most time-consuming, error-prone and costly step in that process. A step that also usually breaks the audit trail. 

The ability to solve this challenge makes it possible to create a tool that spans the entire carbon accounting workflow in a single platform. For example, adding: 

  1. Guidance on data sources: Carbon accounting is complex, but relatively standardized within industries.2 This means that industry-specific carbon accounting software can use a smart discovery system to prompt data owners with questions about data sources, and guide them through collecting, uploading and analyzing that data. 
  2. Engagement tools: Carbon accounting software generally allows you to invite people to the platform, assign data owners and contributors, and communicate directly with third parties to acquire missing data. This simplifies workflows and keeps all information in the same place.  
  3. Automated estimates: You need to accurately and transparently estimate unavoidable data gaps with extrapolation or intensity-based modeling. Centralizing management of primary carbon records improves the accuracy of this modeling. Carbon accounting software can do this automatically.  

Greater automation also reduces the risk of misreporting by removing human error from the process. Keeping everything within a single platform further helps with transparency and defensibility of results, providing instant access to records and a full audit trail. 

At Ideagen, we’ve built a tool that does just this. Organizations that deploy Ideagen Carbon Accounting free up 70% of the human resources required to accurately report on carbon emissions. 

For the fundamentals of carbon accounting, leading-edge software can automate a lot of what carbon consultants deliver. 

What is the best choice for carbon accounting in 2024? 

Not all carbon accounting software is the same. Many carbon accounting tools are really just project management tools that let you assign owners and track people’s progress filling out spreadsheets. When we’re discussing the merits of carbon accounting software, we’re really looking at the capabilities of advanced AI-based solutions, like Ideagen Carbon Accounting. 

In that context, carbon accounting software can either solve your carbon accounting challenges, or should at least be part of that solution. 

  • Scenario 1: If you have a very basic understanding of carbon accounting, the smart discovery capabilities of a solution like Ideagen Carbon Accounting will be able to guide you through the whole process. That will deliver fast and accurate results.
  • Scenario 2: If you need detailed support to reduce carbon emissions, or understand the landscape of regulatory and voluntary sustainability reporting, you should look to carbon consultants. However, using carbon accounting software to automate the carbon accounting process will improve the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of this option. 

When it comes to the fundamentals of carbon accounting, software delivers more accurate and auditable results, faster. Consultants are there for face-to-face strategic support, navigating the landscape of use cases for your carbon accounts, or creating a detailed emissions reduction plan. 

Automation will define the future of carbon accounting for everyone

Whether or not you adopt AI-based carbon accounting software, it will probably be used in your carbon accounting process. It will likely end up being used by your carbon consultant.

By adopting this technology directly, you can remove consultants as middlemen, and then leverage their expertise where it matters — e.g. putting that data into action. 

If you want to see this technology in action, you can book a demo of Ideagen Carbon Accounting in minutes, and start your journey to automated carbon accounting.  

1 Carbon Accounting Software Market Growth | Analysis [2030]

2 Standards | GHG Protocol