From Understanding to Action: Navigating Scope 1, 2, 3 Emissions and Carbon Removal

In the evolving landscape of corporate sustainability, understanding the intricacies of Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions is more than just an exercise in categorisation – it’s a fundamental step towards achieving carbon neutrality.

In 2001, The Greenhouse Gas Protocol laid the groundwork for this segmentation, offering businesses a structured approach to taking stock of their carbon footprint. However, the journey from quantification to action is paved with challenges, opportunities and the potential for innovative solutions such as carbon removal technologies.

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions?

Understanding the different categories of emissions is crucial for businesses aiming to reduce their environmental impact. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as fuel combustion in company vehicles. Scope 2 emissions cover indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, heating and cooling that the company consumes. Scope 3 emissions, often the largest share, encompass all other emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, including both upstream and downstream activities, like the production of purchased materials and the use of sold products.

Identifying these emissions helps companies pinpoint opportunities for sustainability improvements and effective climate action.

Scope 1 Emissions: Direct Emissions from Owned or Controlled Sources

Addressing Scope 1 emissions is a pivotal step for businesses in their emission reduction initiatives. This category encompasses the emissions directly stemming from activities within a company’s control, making it a critical focus for environmental responsibility and sustainability strategies.

Stationary Combustion: Involves the emissions from burning fuels in boilers, furnaces, or other stationary sources on worksites. Businesses need to optimise energy use in these operations, potentially by switching to cleaner energy sources or improving energy efficiency, to reduce their carbon footprint.

Mobile Combustion: Covers emissions from vehicles owned or controlled by the company, such as cars, trucks and planes used for business operations. Strategies to minimise these emissions include adopting fuel-efficient vehicles, exploring electric options and optimising logistic routes to reduce fuel consumption.

Fugitive Emissions: The unintentional releases from refrigeration, air conditioning, and the use of industrial gases require diligent management and regular maintenance to prevent and minimise leaks, contributing significantly to a company’s overall emissions reduction efforts.

Process Emissions: These are released during the manufacturing or processing of materials and demand innovative approaches to modify production processes, implement cleaner technologies, or use alternative materials with lower emission profiles.

For businesses and enterprises, understanding and mitigating Scope 1 emissions is not just about compliance; it’s a step towards sustainability, operational efficiency and a stronger corporate image. By focusing on these direct emissions, companies can make substantial contributions to their environmental goals, benefiting both the planet and their bottom line.

Scope 2 Emissions: Indirect Emissions from the Generation of Purchased Energy

With Scope 2 emissions, businesses are tackling the indirect emissions associated with their energy consumption. Scope 2 emissions stem from:

Electricity: These are emissions generated in the production of electricity that a company consumes. It encompasses all the greenhouse gases released during the generation of electricity that businesses use to power their facilities, machinery and equipment.

Heating and Cooling: This category includes emissions from the production of heating, cooling or steam services that a company purchases from external suppliers. Unlike direct emissions from on-site boilers or furnaces, these emissions occur at the utility provider’s facilities.

Scope 2 emissions must be taken into account for businesses that wish to assess their carbon footprint fully. By quantifying the emissions from purchased energy, companies can identify significant opportunities for reducing their environmental impact through strategic choices in energy procurement and consumption.

This includes opting for energy from renewable sources, enhancing energy efficiency and engaging in energy conservation measures. Recognising and addressing Scope 2 emissions allows for a more comprehensive approach to carbon management and sustainability reporting.

Scope 3 Emissions: All Other Indirect Emissions

Scope 3 emissions imply the broad spectrum of indirect emissions linked to a company’s activities, extending beyond direct operations to encompass the entire value chain. These emissions, often more challenging to quantify and abate, play a critical role in a comprehensive environmental strategy.

Scope 3 Upstream Emissions Activities:

Purchased Goods and Services: Emissions stemming from the production of materials, goods and services a company acquires.

Employee Travel: Emissions related to business travel, commuting and any other employee transportation.

Waste Generated: Emissions associated with the disposal and treatment of waste generated in the company’s operations.

Scope 3 Downstream Emissions Activities:

Product Use: Emissions resulting from the use of a company’s products by the end consumer.

End-of-Life Treatment: Emissions related to the disposal or recycling of a company’s products after their useful life.

How Critical is Carbon Removal in Addressing Emissions Across Different Scopes?

In the effort to address emissions across all scopes, carbon removals emerge as a crucial element, offering a path to counterbalance emissions that are difficult to eliminate.

High-quality, high-permanence carbon removal technologies become particularly significant, providing a sustainable method to achieve net-zero targets. These solutions, including innovative approaches like enhanced rock weathering that accelerate natural carbon sequestration processes, are essential for businesses looking to comprehensively manage their carbon footprint.

After first rapidly decarbonising, companies can effectively address their residual emissions with durable carbon removal, particularly in the challenging Scope 3 category, demonstrating a robust commitment to environmental sustainability and climate action.

Ready to achieve net zero?

Discover how UNDO's nature-based carbon removal technology can empower your business to effectively address emissions across all scopes and work towards a sustainable, net zero future.