Climate change is an increasingly pressing concern for individuals, businesses, and governments alike. Greenhouse gases are always top of mind, as reducing carbon emissions is a direct way to reduce your impact on the environment and further a sustainable future. In order to do so, you need to understand the three different scopes of emissions: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. In this blog, we will explore the differences between these scopes and how their differences drive strategy in tracking and mitigating them.
Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that result from an organization's own activities or operations. These emissions are usually generated by sources that the organization owns or controls, such as combustion of fuels in boilers, furnaces, and vehicles or emissions from chemical reactions in industrial processes. Scope 1 emissions can also come from other sources that the organization controls, such as emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants.
Because Scope 1 emissions are generated by activities that are directly under an organization's control, they are often the easiest to measure and track. Additionally, since these emissions are generated directly by the organization, they are often seen as the most important emissions to focus on when trying to reduce an organization's overall carbon footprint.
Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions that result from the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, or steam. These emissions are generated by the activities of third-party providers, such as power plants or utility companies. Organizations are responsible for these emissions because they are consuming the energy, but they do not have direct control over the sources of the energy.
Scope 2 emissions are often seen as the second-most important emissions to focus on when trying to reduce an organization's overall carbon footprint. This is because they are a result of an organization's own activities, but the organization cannot control the emissions directly. However, organizations can choose to purchase renewable energy certificates or install their own renewable energy generation to offset their Scope 2 emissions.
Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions that result from an organization's activities but are generated from sources outside of the organization's direct control. This includes all emissions that result from activities such as business travel, employee commuting, and the extraction and production of purchased materials.
Scope 3 emissions can be challenging to track and measure because they are generated by activities that are often not directly related to an organization's core business operations. Additionally, Scope 3 emissions can vary widely depending on the industry and the organization's specific supply chain.
Despite these challenges, Scope 3 emissions are increasingly seen as an important area of focus for organizations seeking to reduce their overall carbon footprint. In fact, Scope 3 emissions often make up the largest proportion of an organization's total emissions. This is because the production of goods and services that an organization purchases or uses often generates a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Examples of Scope 3 emissions include emissions generated by the production of materials used in the organization's products, emissions generated by the use of the organization's products by customers, and emissions generated by the disposal of the organization's products at the end of their life cycle.
The main difference between the three scopes of emissions is the source of the emissions. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that result from an organization's own activities or operations. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions that result from the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, or steam. Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that result from an organization's activities but are generated from sources outside of the organization's direct control.
Additionally, the importance of each scope of emissions can vary depending on the organization and its industry. For example, an organization in the energy sector may have a larger proportion of Scope 1 emissions than an organization in the service industry, while an organization in the transportation sector may have a larger proportion of Scope 3 emissions due to the emissions generated by the transportation of goods and people.
Furthermore, the approaches to reducing emissions for each scope can differ. For Scope 1 emissions, organizations can focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing energy efficiency. For Scope 2 emissions, organizations can purchase renewable energy or generate their own renewable energy. For Scope 3 emissions, organizations can focus on reducing the emissions generated by their supply chain, such as by choosing suppliers with lower emissions or working with suppliers to reduce emissions.
It's also important to note that the boundaries between the scopes can be blurred. For example, if an organization owns a fleet of vehicles that are used for business travel, the emissions from those vehicles would be considered Scope 1 emissions. However, if the organization reimburses employees for the use of their personal vehicles for business travel, the emissions from those vehicles would be considered Scope 3 emissions.
Finally, it's important to remember that the three scopes of emissions are interrelated. For example, if an organization installs solar panels to generate renewable energy for its own use, the emissions from the electricity it generates would be Scope 1 emissions. However, by reducing the amount of electricity it purchases from a utility company, the organization is also reducing its Scope 2 emissions. Additionally, by installing solar panels, the organization is also indirectly reducing its Scope 3 emissions, as it is reducing the amount of emissions generated by the production of electricity from fossil fuels.
Understanding the differences between the three scopes of emissions is important for organizations seeking to reduce their overall carbon footprint. While Scope 1 emissions are often seen as the most important emissions to focus on, reducing Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions can also make a significant impact. It's important to track all three scopes of emissions, as they are interrelated and contribute to your overall carbon footprint. But where do you start? One option is to work with an emissions expert like Parq, who can provide emissions solutions tailored to your specific needs. Partnering with us eases the process of measuring and tracking emissions from each scope, and simplifies identifying areas for improvement to work towards your climate goals. Interested in learning how? Reach out.