What are Scope 3 emissions?

Published: 27th March 2024

With mounting pressure from the government to reduce CO2 emissions, more than ever, sustainability ought to be at the forefront of organisational practice.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to your business's sustainability targets. So understanding the definition of scope emissions and how they’re categorised is key.

What are scope emissions?

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are categorised using a widely-used international accounting tool, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol.

Greenhouse gas emissions are categorised into 3 groups, widely known as ‘scopes’. These scopes help organisations identify and understand the kinds of carbon emissions they are creating within their operations and supply chains.

According to the Carbon Trust, scope emissions are grouped into the following:

  • Scope 1 emissions cover direct emissions from owned sources or controlled by the organisation. E.g. company-owned vehicles and facilities.
  • Scope 2 emissions are from the generation of the electricity purchased by your business or organisation.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect value-chain emissions that include transport and distribution, investment, leased assets and employee commuting.
Why are scope 3 emissions important?

Now we know the definition of scope emissions, here’s why they are important. As more consumers concern themselves with the greenhouse gases produced from their purchased goods and services, Scope 3 emissions need to be a key focus in order for a company to become truly carbon neutral.

In 2021, 26% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, making it one of the largest contributors. The transport sector consists of emissions from road transport, railways, domestic aviation, shipping, fishing and aircraft support vehicles.

Although scope 3 emissions reporting is not yet compulsory for businesses, monitoring it is key to meeting sustainability targets that may be in place while making organisations more attractive to prospective clients and talent.

This is especially because, the UK government are fining companies for breaching climate change schemes put in place to meet net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2021 alone the UK government fined over 30 companies 

Now more than ever, businesses ought to make concerted efforts to lower their carbon footprint and reduce upstream and downstream carbon emissions where possible.


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