Understanding Scope 3 Emissions 

Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are naturally occurring gasses in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat and lead to global warming. These GHG’s are often referred to as ‘carbon dioxide’ (CO2) but also include methane, nitrous oxide and other harmful gasses so are measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)

When we refer to greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) we typically split these into three categories:

  • Scope 1 emissions are ones a company directly emits through energy use such as gas heating and business vehicle fuels.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions, created elsewhere, from the energy supplied to the company, such as purchased electricity and any supplied heating, or cooling.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions released upstream and downstream in a company’s value chain. Scope 3 emissions include all indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, such as business travel, purchased goods and services, waste disposal, and even employee commuting.
Source: WRI/WBCSD Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard (pdf), page 5.

Why should businesses measure Scope 3 emissions?

For many businesses, Scope 3 emissions make up a large proportion of their emissions, and for some, they even dominate the overall carbon footprint. However, because they generally fall outside of a business’s direct control, they are difficult to gain information on, making net zero goals unachievable.

Although challenging to collate, there are a number of benefits when Scope 3 emissions are examined, most notably making a real difference in the fight against climate change, encouraging more businesses to report on and improve their carbon reporting.

For large businesses, Scope 3 emissions are the next area to explore in order to reduce their impact on the climate. For most companies, net-zero targets must include Scope 3 emissions “where material to total emissions and where data availability allows”.

How can businesses measure Scope 3 emissions?

When getting started with measuring Scope 3 emissions businesses should consider:

  • Analyzing the entire supply chain regarding sustainability and the laws in your area.
  • Looking into the data of direct purchases on energy such as gas and electricity and converting its value into GHGs tonnes.
  • Calculating the most vital sources of carbon emissions to find out where it emits the most to make a direct change.
  • Research on getting a carbon footprint calculator or tools that can cater to wide-scope calculations, such as the framework provided by the GHG protocol.

Quick solutions for reducing Scope 3 emissions?

There are a number of strategies that businesses can implement in order to reduce their Scope 3 emissions.

  1. Procurement
    By purchasing differently, seeking goods which use more sustainable raw materials or use recycled raw materials, businesses can reduce their emissions and subsequent carbon footprint. Businesses should also consider reducing the overall quantity of purchases made, new methods to reduce waste or reuse of materials.
  2. Product Design
    Designing products with the end of their life in mind can lead to a reduction in scope 3 emissions. For example products that can be recycled at the end of life produce fewer emissions than those destined for landfill or incineration.
  3. Travel
    Sourcing local suppliers and materials which require shorter travel routes and less carbon-intensive modes of transport commonly leads to a reduction in emissions.

How can we help?

If you still don’t know how to get started, don’t worry! Groundwork’s Sustainable Business Consultants can help you to measure your Scope 3 emissions and begin to take the next steps in reducing your carbon footprint.

Our environmental consultants will spend time learning about your businesses operations and provide guidance on how to design and implement systems that work for you.