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Understanding Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions: Your Guide to Climate Reporting

Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions

Understanding and managing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial for organizations aiming to minimize their environmental impact. Emissions are categorized into three scopes: Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as company vehicles and on-site manufacturing. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from purchased energy like electricity and steam. Scope 3 emissions encompass all other indirect emissions, including those from the entire value chain, like business travel and product end-of-life. By addressing these emissions, organizations can reduce their carbon footprint, comply with climate regulations, and demonstrate leadership in sustainability.

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions?

Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are categories defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that represent different sources of indirect and direct GHG emissions. Understanding these categories is crucial for organizations aiming to measure and manage their carbon footprint effectively.

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. This includes emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, and emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment. In simpler terms, these are emissions that occur from sources that an organization owns or controls directly. Examples include emissions from company vehicles and onsite manufacturing operations.

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. This category encompasses electricity, steam, heat, and cooling that an organization buys and uses. Although these emissions physically occur at the facility where the energy is generated, they are attributed to the organization that uses the energy. For instance, if a company purchases electricity from a power plant, the emissions from the production of that electricity are considered Scope 2 for the purchasing company.

Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, both upstream and downstream. This includes emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste, and water. Essentially, Scope 3 emissions cover a broad range of activities beyond the company’s own operations, often involving the entire supply chain and lifecycle of products and services. Key examples of Scope 3 emissions include:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Capital goods
  • Fuel- and energy-related activities (not included in Scope 1 or 2)
  • Upstream transportation and distribution
  • Waste generated in operations
  • Business travel and employee commuting
  • Downstream transportation and distribution
  • Processing of sold products
  • Use of sold products
  • End-of-life treatment of sold products

Measuring and managing these emissions can be challenging, but it is essential for organizations committed to reducing their environmental impact. By differentiating emissions into these three scopes, organizations can better identify areas where they can reduce emissions, set informed targets, and implement effective sustainability strategies. Moreover, understanding Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions helps organizations comply with climate regulations, enhance their reputation, and meet the expectations of stakeholders and customers concerned about environmental impact.

Understanding Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 emissions consist of all direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization. These are emissions released directly into the atmosphere as a result of company activities, making these emissions relatively easier to measure and manage compared to indirect emissions. Understanding Scope 1 emissions is critical as it provides a clear picture of an organization’s direct impact on the environment and forms the baseline for initiating reduction strategies.

These emissions typically come from two main sources:

  1. Stationary Combustion: Emissions generated from the burning of fossil fuels in stationary equipment owned or controlled by the organization. This includes boilers, furnaces, ovens, and other equipment used in manufacturing or production processes. For example, if a factory operates its own diesel generator, the emissions from this generator would fall under Scope 1.
  2. Mobile Combustion: Emissions from transportation mediums that are owned or controlled by the company such as cars, trucks, ships, airplanes, and trains. For instance, if a logistics company owns a fleet of delivery trucks, the emissions from the fuel combusted to operate these trucks are considered Scope 1 emissions.

Other sources of Scope 1 emissions include:

  • Process Emissions: Emissions that are released during industrial processes, such as chemical reactions, that are inherent to production activities. For example, emissions from cement manufacturing or steel production fall into this category.
  • Fugitive Emissions: Unintentional releases of gases such as methane from equipment leaks, refrigerants from air conditioning systems, or the venting and flaring of gases in oil and gas production. These are often more challenging to detect and quantify, but they can significantly contribute to an organization’s overall emissions profile.

Quantifying Scope 1 emissions involves several steps:

  1. Identifying all sources of direct emissions within the operational boundary of the organization.
  2. Measuring or estimating the amount of fuel or materials consumed in these processes.
  3. Applying appropriate emission factors to convert fuel or material consumption data into CO2 equivalent emissions.

Effective management of Scope 1 emissions typically involves investing in more efficient technologies, switching to lower-carbon or renewable energy sources, and implementing best practices for maintenance and operation to reduce fuel consumption and leaks. By focusing on these direct emissions, organizations can make significant strides in reducing their overall carbon footprint and meeting climate targets.

Decoding Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 emissions refer to the indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with the consumption of purchased energy, including electricity, steam, heat, and cooling. These emissions are a critical component of an organization’s carbon footprint as they occur from the generation of energy that the organization consumes but which is produced offsite. Understanding Scope 2 emissions helps organizations gain insight into the environmental impact of their energy use and develop effective strategies to reduce it.

Scope 2 emissions arise from two primary categories:

  1. Location-Based Emissions: These are calculated based on the average emissions intensity of grids (i.e., electricity grids) on which energy consumption occurs. The location-based method reflects the average emissions intensity of the region where the energy is consumed, highlighting the broader impact of energy use in that geographic area.
  2. Market-Based Emissions: These are calculated based on emissions from the specific energy sources that the company has purposefully chosen, such as renewable energy contracts. The market-based method reflects the emissions, if any, from the energy products that companies have actively purchased, often allowing organizations to account for their use of clean or renewable energy.

Measuring and managing Scope 2 emissions involves the following steps:

  1. Identifying all sources of purchased energy within the organizational boundaries.
  2. Collecting data on the amount and type of energy consumed over a given period.
  3. Using standardized emission factors to convert energy consumption data into equivalent CO2 emissions.
  4. Deciding whether to report using the location-based method, the market-based method, or both, depending on the organization’s goals and reporting requirements.

Management strategies to reduce Scope 2 emissions include:

  • Energy Efficiency Improvements: Implementing energy-saving technologies and practices such as upgrading lighting systems, optimizing heating and cooling processes, and improving insulation can significantly reduce the amount of purchased energy required.
  • Switching to Renewable Energy: Procuring electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or hydropower either through direct investment in renewable projects or by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or Guarantees of Origin (GOs) can lower market-based emissions.
  • Engaging in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs):Entering into long-term contracts to purchase electricity directly from renewable energy producers can provide a stable, lower-emission energy supply and support the development of additional renewable capacity.
  • Onsite Renewable Energy Generation: Installing onsite renewable energy systems such as solar panels or wind turbines reduces reliance on external energy sources and decreases both location-based and market-based emissions.

By focusing on Scope 2 emissions, organizations can make strategic decisions on energy procurement and efficiency to achieve significant carbon reductions and demonstrate leadership in sustainability.

Navigating Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions encompass all other indirect greenhouse gas emissions that occur throughout an organization’s value chain, both upstream and downstream. These emissions typically represent the largest portion of a company’s total GHG emissions but are also the most challenging to measure and manage due to their complex and far-reaching nature. Navigating Scope 3 emissions effectively requires a comprehensive understanding of the entire lifecycle of products and services, from raw material extraction to the end-of-life of the products.

There are 15 categories of Scope 3 emissions, which include:

  • Purchased Goods and Services: Emissions from the production of goods and services that the organization buys.
  • Capital Goods: Emissions from the production of capital goods such as buildings, machinery, and equipment.
  • Fuel- and Energy-Related Activities (not included in Scope 1 or 2):Emissions related to the production of fuels and energy purchased and consumed by the organization.
  • Upstream Transportation and Distribution: Emissions from the transportation and distribution of inputs purchased by the reporting company.
  • Waste Generated in Operations: Emissions from the disposal and treatment of waste generated by the organization’s operations.
  • Business Travel: Emissions from employee business travel, which includes air travel, hotel stays, car rentals, etc.
  • Employee Commuting: Emissions from the transportation of employees between their homes and places of work.
  • Upstream Leased Assets: Emissions from assets that are leased by the reporting organization in the upstream activities.
  • Downstream Transportation and Distribution: Emissions from the transportation and distribution of sold products.
  • Processing of Sold Products: Emissions from the processing of intermediate products sold by the organization.
  • Use of Sold Products: Emissions from the use of goods and services sold by the organization.
  • End-of-Life Treatment of Sold Products: Emissions from the disposal and treatment of products sold by the organization at the end of their life.
  • Downstream Leased Assets: Emissions from leased assets that are owned by the reporting organization in the downstream activities.
  • Franchises: Emissions from the operations of franchises that are not directly owned or controlled by the reporting organization.
  • Investments: Emissions from investments made by the organization, such as equity and debt investments.

Managing Scope 3 emissions involves collaborating with stakeholders across the value chain to collect data and identify emission hotspots. Key strategies include:

  • Supplier Engagement: Working closely with suppliers to track and reduce emissions from purchased goods and services.
  • Sustainable Procurement Policies: Implementing procurement policies that prioritize low-emission products and services.
  • Innovation in Product Design: Designing products with lower environmental impact across their lifecycle, including reducing energy consumption during use and improving recyclability.
  • Logistics Optimization: Improving logistics and transportation efficiency to cut down emissions in the distribution phase.
  • Employee Awareness Programs: Promoting sustainable commuting and travel options for employees.

By focusing on these strategies, organizations can effectively navigate the complexities of Scope 3 emissions, ultimately driving significant reductions in their overall carbon footprint and promoting sustainability throughout their value chains.


Successfully navigating Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions is vital for organizations committed to reducing their environmental impact. Understanding these emission categories enables companies to identify key areas for improvement, implement effective reduction strategies, and foster sustainable practices across their operations and value chains. By focusing on both direct and indirect emissions, businesses can achieve significant reductions in their overall carbon footprint, meet regulatory requirements, and enhance their reputation among stakeholders. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach to managing all three scopes of emissions drives progress towards a more sustainable and responsible future.

How we can help

Lythouse can help companies manage their Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions through a variety of comprehensive tools. The Carbon Analyzer accurately measures and manages emissions using AI-powered spend classification for unparalleled accuracy. It supports detailed item-level data collection, ensuring precise carbon accounting for Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions sources. The Green Supplier Network streamlines Scope 3 emissions tracking by automating carbon mapping and simplifying data provision, reducing supplier efforts . The Goal Navigator helps in setting, monitoring, and achieving ESG goals, ensuring that companies track progress effectively towards their sustainability objectives sources.


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