What is the Difference Between Scopes 1, 2, 3 and 4 Emissions

Stopping the climate crisis from having devastating effects across the globe is a group effort. So there needs to be a call for collaborative action across, businesses, states, and the public, to mitigate the problem. 

It wasn’t that long ago that each of these groups was left to regulate their own impact. If each of these groups, had their own way of regulating, measuring, and addressing the issue; therefore creating chaos in establishing successful metrics for this shared goal.

Yet, with environmental crises being bigger than industry or continent, there was a desperate need for unified standards that all parties could be held accountable. Standards that break down the many different variables in the climate crisis, the many different industry specifications, and the hundreds of different countries; so every party can be aligned to the same key metrics for global success. 

That’s where the GHG Protocol comes in. Witnessing the gap in the previous method, and then collaborating with the different groups - allowed them to create measurable standards, identify best practices, and create accountability.

What does this have to do with Scope Emissions? 

When creating the different standards, one of the most prominent standards used to measure GHG (Green House Gases) emissions is the “Corporate Standard”. Within this standard, GHG emissions are broken down into  Scopes.

The introduction of Scope 1, 2, and 3 gives businesses a way to coherently see measure, and reduce their carbon footprint. These metrics are giving businesses key insights into their own carbon footprint and an understanding of the wider impact their business decisions are having. Eco-conscious policies and decisions aren’t just the right thing to do as a business, they help businesses achieve business objectives and create a stronger brand value for their customers. 

What are Scope 1  Emissions? 

Scope 1 emissions allow businesses to quantify those emissions that come directly from the company. The GHG emissions measured in Scope 1 come from sources that are owned or controlled by that organisation. It makes businesses look at their internal actions/procedures and see how they're directly contributing to the issue. Currently, measuring Scope 1 emissions has become habitual practice across all businesses, especially now when large UK companies must report publicly on their Scope 1 (and 2) emissions, through their director's report. 

Example of Scope 1: Scope 1 emissions come from the direct fuel that your organisation is using that emits CO2e. So things like your fleet of vehicles (excluding electric vehicles) to the fuel used within company facilities. 

What are Scope 2 Emissions?

Scope 2 gives businesses a way to quantify the GHG emissions that their electricity, steam, heat, or even cooling, produces. Scope 2 emission metrics are another widely used practice by corporations. Like Scope 1, it is mandatory for UK businesses to report on their Scope 2 emissions. Yet unlike Scope 1, Scope 2 makes businesses look at their indirect GHG emissions.

Scope 2 was introduced after the first Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard to give businesses further clarity on how they should measure energy emissions. These are indirect emissions, as although the business is using this energy to power their business, these emissions occur from the energy provider. Although these emissions are not a direct result of that business, measuring Scope 2 emissions is key to tackling climate change, as energy covers all areas of a business (see example below). By making companies confront their indirect GHG, encourage companies to invest in renewable energy, or even be careful about their energy consumption. 

Example of Scope 2: Across businesses, from the fridge in your coffee room, to the plant, to the computers in the office – all need energy to be powered. This energy comes from a utility provider, rather than that business directly. 

What are Scope 3 Emissions?

Scope 3 emissions are the GHG produced outside of the company itself or assets controlled by them (like energy from Scope 2). Scope 3 further broadens the impact that businesses are having on the environment, as it gives them an understanding and clear methodology to check the GHG from their value chain. These GHG emissions account for 80-95% of business emissions, so providing this method of evaluation can help businesses achieve larger GHG reductions and help them achieve more GHG-related business objectives. Although accounting for Scope 3 GHG emissions would have the biggest impact, reporting on Scope 3 emissions is voluntary. 

Example of Scope 3: Scope 3 emissions have a far reach. From the use and disposal of their own products/supplier products to operational waste, use of their products, company investments, and even franchises. 

The Future of Scope 

Implementing Scope Emissions into business practices has paved the way for businesses to get a better understanding of their carbon impact, and how they can go further. Although Scope 1 and 2 are mandatory to report on, businesses many businesses are continuing to push towards better sustainability practices. Even with the recent development of Scope 4 Emissions (Read all about it here), by setting these standards and methods has allowed a global shift into sustainable practices that will help us towards our common goal of protecting the planet.

Enhance your Scope 4 knowledge   Download our brochure to learn more about how Avoided Emissions fit into your carbon metrics.