If you’ve been keeping an eye on environmental news or corporate sustainability reports, you might have come across terms like “Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions”. These terms are used to categorise the different sources of greenhouse gas emissions produced by businesses. Understanding these categories is key to mitigating the impacts of climate change. But what do they mean? Here we try to break it down in the simplest way possible.
To start, the concept of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions comes from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), the most widely used international standard for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions.
Scope 1: Direct Emissions
Let’s start with Scope 1. These are direct emissions that come from sources owned or controlled by a company. Think of the exhaust from the company car or the emissions from a factory’s smokestack. These emissions are the ones that the company has the most control over, as they’re directly tied to its operations.
For example, if a pizzeria owns a wood-fired oven, the smoke that billows out while baking delicious pies would be considered a Scope 1 emission. It’s direct, and it’s within the control of the business to manage and reduce, possibly by installing more efficient ovens or using cleaner-burning wood.
Scope 2: Indirect Emissions from Purchased Electricity
Next up is Scope 2. These are emissions created by the production of electricity, heat, or steam that a company purchases and uses. If we’re talking about the pizzeria again, the electricity used to light up the restaurant and run the refrigerators is a Scope 2 emission. Although the company doesn’t produce these emissions directly, they are still a consequence of its energy consumption.
Reducing Scope 2 emissions might involve a pizzeria opting to source its energy from renewable sources or implementing energy-efficient technologies.
Scope 3: Other Indirect Emissions
Now, let’s move on to the trickiest of the three: Scope 3. These are all the other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain. This means they can come from sources not owned or directly controlled by the company but are associated with its activities.
Back to our pizzeria. The emissions from a cheese supplier’s factory, or the fuel used by a delivery service to bring ingredients to the pizzeria, or even the greenhouse gases emitted when the flour for the dough was grown and harvested—those are all Scope 3 emissions. They’re often the hardest to calculate and reduce, as they involve complex supply chains and processes outside of the company’s direct control. However, they can also represent the largest share of a company’s carbon footprint and thus present significant opportunities for emission reduction.
To minimise Scope 3 emissions, businesses might look into partnering with suppliers who also prioritise sustainable practices, or they might look into technologies which optimise their indirect supply chains to require less transportation from their contract partners.
Why Understanding the Scopes Matters
Knowing the differences between Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions helps businesses—and the public—understand where emissions come from and identify where there are opportunities to reduce them. Many companies are now making commitments to reach net-zero emissions, meaning they’ll need to balance the amount of greenhouse gases they emit with the amount they remove from the atmosphere. By addressing each Scope, they can work towards this goal more effectively.
In conclusion, each emission scope offers a different area of opportunity for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. The categories guide companies and individuals in understanding and taking responsibility for their environmental impact. So next time you hear about Scope 1, 2, or 3 emissions, you’ll not only know what they mean but also understand the role they play in our collective fight against climate change.
OptaHaul is proud to be helping the dairy industry to reduce Scope 1 emissions (owned fleet) and Scope 3 emissions (contracted hauliers) in milk transportation.