Policy

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?

Across the globe, companies are seeking ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. An essential aspect of achieving this is for companies to better understand the sources and magnitude of their emissions. This is what the three Scopes aim to enable. Scope 1, 2, and 3 is a method of categorising a company’s different kinds of carbon emissions. Scopes are the basis for mandatory greenhouse gas reporting by most reporting standards. This makes it important for companies to understand what Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are.

Sita Bates

Forest and Nature Management Specialist

Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions: What are they, and what is their purpose?

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol – the world’s most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard – categorises GHG emissions into three Scopes: 1, 2, and 3.

These three categories are used to classify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with a company’s activities, within both its own operations and its wider value chain.

By incorporating Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in their full emissions inventory, companies are able to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of their full value chain emissions. This enables them to better focus their efforts towards the greatest reduction opportunities.

Definitions of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions

In essence, Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions owned and controlled by the company, whereas Scopes 2 and 3 are indirect emissions from sources that are not owned or controlled by the company. Whilst the company does not own or control the sources of Scope 2 and 3 emissions, these emissions still occur as a result of the company’s activities.

Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are categorised as follows:

Scope 1 emissions

Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions which occur from sources that are directly owned or controlled by the company. These include emissions from sources such as fuel combustion, company vehicles, and fugitive emissions.

Example: Scope 1 emissions occur from burning fuel in the company’s fleet of vehicles (provided these vehicles are not electrically powered).

Scope 2 emissions

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions which occur as a result of the generation of electricity, heat, or steam that a company purchases or consumes. Scope 2 emissions occur at the facility where the energy is generated, but are still associated with the company’s activities.

Example: Scope 2 emissions are caused by the generation of the electricity used in the company’s buildings.

Scope 3 emissions

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions which occur as a result of the company’s activities, but from sources that are not owned or controlled by the company. These include investments, purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal.

Scope 3 emissions include all emissions not covered in Scope 1 or 2, and which are created by the company’s value chain.

Example: Scope 3 emissions occur when the company buys, uses, and disposes of products from suppliers.

The role of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in corporate sustainability

Understanding Scope 1, 2, and 3 is crucial for companies aiming to reduce their environmental impact and comply with global sustainability standards.

By understanding emissions across all Scopes, companies are able to comprehensively assess their environmental impact. This knowledge enables them to identify the most significant sources of emissions and develop targeted reduction strategies tailored to their specific operations and value chains. 

This is particularly important for companies aiming to achieve net-zero emissions. There are several reasons for this, which go beyond simply aligning with broader global sustainability goals.

These include:

  • Accounting for all emissions: Net zero means balancing the amount of GHG emissions released into the atmosphere with an equivalent amount of emissions removed or offset. To achieve this, companies must account for all emissions within their value chain. This can be achieved through carbon accounting, which is used to accurately estimate all three scopes and serves as the foundation for crafting an impactful reduction and removal strategy. Find a carbon accounting partner here.
  • Developing comprehensive reduction strategies: Reduction is essential on the road to net zero. Understanding emissions helps companies develop comprehensive reduction strategies that address both direct (Scope 1) and indirect (Scope 2 and 3) emissions.
  • Minimising residual emissions: Understanding Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions helps companies identify residual emissions that are challenging to eliminate entirely, but may be minimised through the right reduction and offsetting measures.
  • Enhancing transparency and credibility: Transparent reporting of emissions data demonstrates the company’s willingness to be accountable for all emissions associated with its operations and activities. This enhances the credibility of the company’s net-zero commitment, helping to build trust with stakeholders and investors.

You might also be interested in: What is GHG accounting, and how does it work?

Scope 3 emissions: How companies can make an impact

For many companies, Scope 3 emissions account for more than 70% of their carbon footprint. For example, the extraction and processing of raw materials often cause significant Scope 3 emissions for manufacturing companies.

Scope 3 emissions are typically more challenging to control, as many suppliers have considerable influence on how emissions are reduced through their own purchasing decisions. However, committing to tackling Scope 3 emissions is crucial for companies looking to achieve net zero emissions.

Addressing Scope 3 emissions can make a significant difference in advancing a company’s journey towards decarbonisation and corporate sustainability.

Getting started with carbon removal

Understanding emissions across all Scopes enables companies to comprehensively assess their environmental impact, identify the most significant sources of emissions, and develop targeted reduction strategies tailored to their specific operations and value chains.

When it comes to achieving net zero, reducing your emissions is an important and necessary step in the right direction. However, there is growing consensus that reduction is longer enough to stay within the goals set forward in The Paris Agreement. For your company to reach net zero, you must neutralise your residual GHG emissions with an equivalent amount of carbon removal.

At Klimate.co, we provide access to high-quality, innovative, and verifiable carbon removal solutions. We strategically finance projects based on environmental responsibility as well as social and economic development – and we only work with companies that are taking action to reduce their emissions.

Sita Bates

Forest and Nature Management Specialist

Sita currently studies an MS in Forest and Nature Management at the University of Copenhagen. She has experience in digital marketing for carbon markets as well as environmental journalism, bringing this expertise to author technical and market-based topics.

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