Our article about the problem with current carbon auditing systems explains they’re beyond repair because they’re based on secrecy and money.

Any system that depends on competing proprietary carbon auditing standards, each with their proprietary IP, needing to keep their databases secret in order to monetise them, is fundamentally flawed and irredeemably corruptible.

That’s why See Through Carbon is based on the principles of radical transparency and open source.

Transparency always trumps secrecy

At home, adults tell children that honesty is the best policy, but tend to do the opposite once they enter the office.

Much of business competition depends on creating information asymmetry’, profiting from knowing stuff your competitors don’t. It’s why there’s industrial espionage, intellectual property, patents and secret sauces.

This may work well for increasing profit, but it’s proved to be disastrous for reducing carbon. By aping the models of big business, carbon auditing standards have condemned themselves to replicate their faults.

Look at this Visual Capitalist graphic showing the top 70 carbon pricing mechanisms around the world.

An infographic of active carbon pricing initiatives across the world, including a colour-coded world map of the types of initiative, a timeline of their proliferation since 1990, and an itemisation of them as info 'cards' across 70 territories. Each 'card' cites the US dollar price per tonne of CO2e, the percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions in its scope, and the metric tonnes of CO2e tracked.
Infographic by Visual CapitalistView full size

It’s a brave attempt to map to the Wild West of carbon pricing. It attempts to summarise a chaotic mess of competing standards that produce wildly different values of the base unit, a kilo of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e).

Consider what a UK tonne of CO2e is supposedly worth’ in these different places:


Hubei is just a few hours south of Beijing — both are in China. Don’t waste time trying to understand these differences, because they make no sense.

Compare it with a more familiar tariff for something we value properly, money:

Much more orderly, rational and logical. The sooner our carbon pricing system resembles a forex table, the sooner our transition to a zero-carbon economy.

But pricing depends on measuring, and measuring depends on a universally accepted, rigorous, un-gameable metric. Which is why we need See Through Carbon.

Baseline for improvement

Every new SME signing up to See Through Carbon, and every phase of every Pilot, will make the database, and our scoring system. more solid and reliable.

As the database grows, it will be increasingly possible to automate the verification and auditing process, as anomalies will be more obvious. Like self-assessment tax reporting, the system will only need to verify outliers, or conduct random spot-checks.

The broader purpose of the pilot is to make itself obsolete by replacing bottom-up voluntary uptake with top-down mandatory uptake.

Bigger businesses are coming under increasing pressure to provide accurate carbon reporting for their Scope 2 supply chain (this article explains carbon auditing basics). Their supply chain is made up of SMEs, so if the bigger companies are serious about accurate measurement, and trust the accuracy of See Through Carbon’s Absolute score, they should mandate their supply chain SMEs to adopt it. It couldn’t be any cheaper, as it will always be free to use for the SMEs (this article explains how).

To convince big businesses to require their supply chain SMEs to sign up to See Through Carbon, our Pilot database needs to be large and compelling enough. More details in this article,

If you build it, they will come

Establishing See Through Carbon as a pervasive, free, accurate, universal carbon audit standard generates a cascade of beneficial side-effects outside the narrow scope of carbon reporting. This is true even at the Pilot stage.

Many of these opportunities will only emerge once the database exists, but here are some examples:

SME improvement

Each SME will have its own webpage, generated by the data they submit. Our data visualisation and statistics experts will optimise this page for clarity, accessibility and practical carbon-reducing outcomes and learning. For example, until a night time economy venue sees the report of its carbon footprint breakdown, it might not appreciate that typically around 80% of a venue’s carbon footprint is Scope 3 — i.e. the carbon emitted by the audience/​customers who attend their concert/​event.

General improvement

Making each business’s Absolute score, Relative score, rating history, and Consultancy recommendations publicly visible has tremendous educational opportunities for any other businesses considering adopting See Through Carbon. They’ll be able to track the beneficial consequences of acting on our consultants’ advice, broken down by general, sector-specific and individual level, and the impact each action has on the overall scores.

Evidence to change policy/​regulation

Making the database publicly interrogatable will allow anyone to derive a rich variety of data analysis and visualisations. We can automate the more popular and effective ones, and make them easily shareable. To expand on the example above, if most of the night-time economy venues in a Pilot geography sign up, they can instantly generate a report based on independently verified data they can use as evidence to change local government policy. For example, they can buttress any public safety/​public health argument for providing late-night bus service with evidence of the carbon savings too.

Ranking businesses by carbon intensity

See Through Carbon database will make it easy for any large organisation — e.g. a local government, supermarket or listings service — to add a Carbon Intensity’ filter to any search function. As well as ranking products/​services/​venues by price, distance, quality etc., they can now add carbon rating’, empowering consumers to take that into consideration in their choice of product, service or event.