What are scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?
April 3, 2023

What are scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?


Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions release gases into the Earth’s atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect, leading to global warming and climate change. The primary greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), among others. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere, affecting ecosystems, weather patterns, and human activities.

Measuring and reducing GHG emissions is critical for mitigating climate change and its devastating impacts. By understanding the sources of emissions, governments, businesses, and individuals can develop strategies to reduce their carbon footprint and move towards a more sustainable future. Reducing emissions helps slow global warming, protect ecosystems, and improve human health and well-being.

To better understand and address GHG emissions, they are categorized into three scopes – Scope 1, 2, and 3. These classifications help organizations identify emissions sources and develop comprehensive strategies for reducing environmental impact.

Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 emissions, also known as direct emissions, are generated from sources owned or controlled by an organization. These emissions result from activities occurring within the organization’s operations and facilities.

Examples of Scope 1 Emissions sources

  • Fossil fuel combustion: Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy production, transportation, or industrial processes release significant amounts of CO2.
  • Industrial processes: Some industries, such as cement production and chemical manufacturing, emit GHGs during production.
  • Livestock emissions: Livestock, particularly cows, produce methane due to their digestive processes, contributing to GHG emissions.

Strategies for Reducing Scope 1 Emissions

  • Energy efficiency: Implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices can help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and the resulting emissions.
  • Renewable energy: Shifting to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower, can decrease reliance on fossil fuels and lower direct emissions.
  • Carbon capture and storage: Utilizing carbon capture and storage technologies can help remove CO2 from emissions sources and store it securely, reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 or indirect emissions are generated from producing electricity, heat, or steam that an organization purchases and consumes. While these emissions occur off-site, they are attributed to the organization that uses the energy.

Examples of Scope 2 Emissions Sources

  • Purchased electricity: Electricity generated from fossil fuels and used by an organization contributes to Scope 2 emissions.
  • Heat and steam: Some organizations purchase heat and steam from external sources for their operations, which can generate GHG emissions.

Strategies for Reducing Scope 2 Emissions

  • Energy efficiency: By increasing energy efficiency in operations and facilities, organizations can reduce the amount of purchased electricity, heat, and steam needed.
  • Renewable energy procurement: Purchasing electricity from renewable sources or investing in on-site renewable energy systems can lower Scope 2 emissions.
  • Green tariffs and power purchase agreements: Organizations can enter into agreements with utilities or energy providers to purchase electricity from renewable sources, supporting the growth of clean energy and reducing their Scope 2 emissions.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions, also known as other indirect emissions, encompass all other emissions that occur as a result of an organization’s activities but are not directly controlled by the organization. These emissions are typically generated throughout the value chain, including both upstream and downstream activities.

Examples of Scope 3 emissions sources

  • Upstream supply chain: Emissions associated with the extraction, production, and transportation of raw materials and goods used by an organization.
  • Downstream transportation and distribution: Emissions generated from the transportation and distribution of finished products to customers and end-users.
  • Business travel: Emissions employees produce during business trips, such as air travel or car rental.
  • Employee commuting: Emissions resulting from employees’ daily commute to and from work.
  • Waste disposal: Emissions generated during the disposal or treatment of waste produced by an organization.
  • Product use and end-of-life: Emissions related to the use, maintenance, and disposal of products sold by an organization.

Strategies for Reducing Scope 3 Emissions

  • Supplier engagement: Collaborating with suppliers to improve their environmental performance and reduce emissions throughout the supply chain.
  • Sustainable procurement: Adopting sustainable procurement practices, such as sourcing environmentally friendly materials and products, to minimize emissions related to purchased goods and services.
  • Waste reduction: Implementing waste reduction initiatives, such as recycling, composting, and reducing single-use materials, to decrease emissions from waste disposal.
  • Encouraging remote work and low-carbon commuting options: Promoting telecommuting, carpooling, or using public transportation among employees to reduce emissions from commuting.

The importance of understanding and addressing all three scopes

Each scope of emissions plays a crucial role in an organization’s overall carbon footprint. By addressing all three scopes, organizations can develop comprehensive strategies to reduce their environmental impact and contribute to global climate change mitigation efforts.

Developing a holistic approach to emissions reduction involves not only reducing direct emissions (Scope 1) but also addressing indirect emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2) and activities throughout the value chain (Scope 3). This comprehensive approach ensures that organizations identify and target all sources of emissions, resulting in more effective and sustainable reduction efforts.

Transparently reporting and communicating emissions data across all three scopes enables organizations to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and climate action. Clear and accurate reporting fosters trust among stakeholders, including investors, customers, and employees, and encourages other organizations to take similar steps toward reducing their emissions.

Next Steps

Addressing all three scopes of emissions is crucial for effectively mitigating climate change and moving towards a sustainable future. By considering direct and indirect emissions throughout their value chain, organizations can develop comprehensive strategies to reduce their overall environmental impact.

Emissions reduction is a collective responsibility that requires the active participation of businesses, governments, and individuals. Businesses must commit to sustainable practices, while governments must establish regulations and incentives that encourage emissions reduction. Individuals can contribute by making environmentally conscious choices and advocating for climate action.

We can create a more sustainable future by working together and focusing on comprehensive emissions reduction strategies. Collective action can lead to innovative solutions, reduced emissions, and a healthier planet for future generations.

If your organization is seeking assistance in tracking and managing Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, Veritrove can help. Our team of experts provides customized solutions for monitoring and reducing your carbon footprint, enabling you to achieve your sustainability goals. Contact us today to learn more about our services and start making a positive impact on the environment.


On Key

Related Posts

What is the B Impact Assessment?

What is the B Impact Assessment?

The B Impact Assessment is a powerful tool businesses use to measure their social and environmental impact. This assessment evaluates a company’s operations, policies, and