Deborah Chu

What are Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and why do they matter?

6 min Read
Three mountains in the distance

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are three types of greenhouse gas emissions. Developed by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, these categories help organisations better measure and understand where their emissions are coming from. 

Read on for our explainer on each of these Scopes, and why your organisation would benefit from measuring them. 

What are Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions?

Scope 1 emissions are those that a company creates directly—i.e. From a source or activity that they have ownership over. Examples include: 

  • Onsite energy usage (i.e. heating, cooling and electrifying an office).
  • Driving company-owned vehicles.

Scope 2 emissions are the emissions that a company creates indirectly, through the energy that it purchases and uses. They’re created as a result of the company’s activities, but emitted by external sources. For instance:

  • If a company buys energy that is produced by a coal-fired power station, the emissions from the production of that energy would fall under the power station’s Scope 1. 
  • However, the company must also be aware of and take responsibility for those emissions because they bought and used the resulting energy.
  • Hence, those emissions fall within the company’s Scope 2 emissions. 

Scope 3 emissions include all the other indirect emissions that occur as a result of an organisation’s activities, but from sources that aren’t directly owned or controlled by them. These include emissions produced by:

  • Investments
  • Purchased goods and services
  • Employee commuting
  • Business travel
  • Waste disposal
  • Home working (listed as ‘teleworking’ under the GHG Protocol)
  • How their sold products are used 

How are the Scopes measured?

To calculate Scope 1 emissions, an organisation has to measure all the energy it has consumed from sources within their ownership—i.e. The fuel for their company cars, the heating for their buildings, etc. 

Scope 2 emissions measured by how much energy the company has purchased, and then determined where that energy has come from. For instance, if their energy is coming from a national or regional grid, they’ll need to calculate what percentage of that energy mix is coming from renewables versus fossil fuels.  

For Scopes 1 and 2, a company will usually already have the data they need to convert their usage and purchase of energy into its equivalent in GHG emissions. Therefore, Scopes 1 and 2 are considered relatively easy to measure!

Scope 3 is where things get tricky. Because these emissions fall outside a company’s direct management, an organisation needs to get in touch with all the suppliers up and down its supply chain, and get the data from them. Since these suppliers are outside of their direct control, Scope 3 can be difficult to both measure and manage. 

However, Scope 3 emissions often account for the vast majority of an organisation’s footprint—an average of 75%, to be precise. So if a company is serious about meeting its net zero targets, they absolutely must get to grips with this Scope.  

Why should businesses measure Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions?

  1. It benefits their bottom line. According to Carbon Trust, companies that put in the work to calculate their Scope 3 emissions find that the process strengthens supplier relationships, improves efficiency, and enables them to spot cost reduction opportunities. 
  2. There are solutions for zeroing a company’s Scopes 1 and 2. With the rise in renewable energy and EVs, there are now clear pathways to achieve net zero on Scope 1 and 2 emissions. So why not go for the win when it’s in sight? 
  3. It benefits the ‘broader ecosystem’ of carbon reporting. As this article by PwC points out, ‘your Scope 1 and 2 emissions are another organisation’s Scope 3.’ Measuring emissions and making that information available enables other companies to clear the data hurdle, and get started on reduction. You scratch their back…
  4. It’s likely that they’ll have to do it soon anyway. As of April 2022, the UK’s largest companies and financial institutions are having to measure and disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities—which includes their Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Given that the UK has a legally-binding net zero target for 2050, it’s likely that more businesses will have to do so in the future. Pressure to make Scope 3 reporting mandatory is growing as well. Forward-facing companies are taking steps to measure today, rather than play catch-up tomorrow!

How can Pawprint help?

Our Employee Scope 3 survey helps our customers begin to untangle the complicated knot of their Scope 3 by measuring their commuting, business travel and home working emissions. 

But we don’t stop there—we also interpret this data into actionable insights, so that a business can immediately begin their reduction efforts. By helping companies better understand what their workforce actually wants and needs, our survey accelerates climate progress and secures team wide buy-in and engagement. 

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? To find out more about the survey, and how it can benefit your business, speak to a member of our wonderful team.

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