The scopes are used to categorise emissions when measuring a carbon footprint. They differentiate between indirect and direct emission sources, which helps to improve accuracy and transparency in the footprinting process, and enables organisations to set clear goals and targets.
Scope 1 emissions are the direct result of activities that occur from owned or controlled sources. Some examples of Scope 1 emission activities include:
The key factor in determining Scope 1 emissions is the directness of emissions. Looking at the example above; driving a company owned vehicle to and from clients is a Scope 1 emission activity because the travel is a direct part of the company’s operations. On the other hand, driving your own car to and from your place of employment is not a Scope 1 emission activity, but is a Scope 3 activity. This is because employees travelling to and from work is not a direct aspect of the company’s operations, meaning emissions that occur from this activity are indirect.
Scope 2 emissions occur as a result of the consumption of energy and are usually understood as the purchases of electricity, heat, or steam directly from a third-party supplier. Above, we looked at burning coal onsite to generate electricity as a Scope 1 emission activity. If another organisation purchased their electricity from the site in the example, the purchasing organisation would be responsible for the share of emissions that their energy took to produce. However, these emissions would be considered Scope 2. This is because the purchasing organisation did not directly produce the emissions, but they are an indirect result of them purchasing the energy.
Scope 3 emissions cover all other indirect emissions that are not covered in Scope 2. These emissions are usually split into the following categories:
Purchased goods and services
Fuel and energy-related activities
Upstream transportation and distribution
Waste generated in operations
Upstream leased assets
Downstream transport and distribution
Processing of sold products
Use of sold products
End-of-life treatment of sold products
Downstream leased assets
In most reporting frameworks, it is not mandatory to report Scope 3 emissions. This is primarily because Scope 3 emissions are more difficult to accurately measure, report, and benchmark than Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. However, there is a lot of value in measuring some aspects of your Scope 3 emissions, as they can provide you with valuable insights into how your operations indirectly affect your environment.