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Scope 1-2-3 emissions explained

Scope 1-2-3 emissions explained


Greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere are warming the planet, fuelling a concerning and destructive pattern of extreme weather events. To reduce emissions, climate action goals such as the Paris Agreement (limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius) are implemented. As companies strive to align with these goals, understanding and managing scope 1-2-3 emissions is vital. In this article, we will delve into the details of these emissions, guiding companies to make informed decisions towards climate action.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) was established by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This internationally recognized framework provides guidance and tools for organizations to quantify and report their greenhouse gas emissions accurately.

The GHG Protocol categorizes emissions into three scopes: scope 1, 2, and 3. The protocol suggest reporting on scope 1 and 2 emissions, whereas scope 3 reporting is optional and often poses the greatest monitoring challenge, necessitating data collection beyond company-owned sources. However, for complete transparency, it is considered best practice to calculate scope 3 as well. Companies that effectively report on all three scopes of emissions showcase a deep understanding of their environmental impact, earning trust and credibility. Moreover, they stay ahead of the curve by aligning with upcoming regulations like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This proactive approach not only meets shifting consumer demands but also positions them as sustainability leaders, ensuring their resilience and competitiveness in today's dynamic business world.

Scope 1-2-3 emissions categories explained

  • Scope 1 emissions refer to direct greenhouse gas emissions originating from sources owned or controlled by a reporting company. These emissions typically result from activities like combustion of fuels in owned or controlled equipment, such as company vehicles, machinery, or facilities. In essence, scope 1 emissions are those produced directly by the operations of the reporting entity itself. They are considered the most immediate and controllable emissions within an organization's carbon footprint.

  • Scope 2 emissions entail indirect greenhouse gas emissions linked to the consumption of purchased energy, such as electricity, heat, or steam. While these emissions occur off-site, they are associated with the activities of the reporting entity. Scope 2 emissions are generated as a consequence of energy consumption but originate from sources outside of the reporting entity's direct control. They are often categorized separately to provide a comprehensive understanding of an organization's carbon footprint and to facilitate targeted reduction efforts.

  • Scope 3 emissions encompass all other indirect greenhouse gas emissions that occur throughout the value chain of a reporting company. This includes both upstream and downstream emissions. Upstream emissions stem from activities related to the extraction, production, and transportation of purchased goods and services, such as raw material extraction or transportation of products to the company. Downstream emissions arise from the use and disposal of products sold by the reporting entity, including emissions generated during product use, from investments, and the processing of products sold. Scope 3 emissions are often the most challenging to quantify and control as they extend beyond the direct operations and immediate control of the reporting entity.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol - Scope 1-2-3 emision categories

How to Measure Scope 1-2-3 Emissions

To effectively measure scope 1-2-3 emissions, a systematic approach and access to relevant data are essential. Important steps are:

  1. Begin by identifying emission sources within each scope. Collect data on energy consumption, fuel usage, and relevant business activities.
  2. Utilize the emission factors provided by the GHG Protocol to accurately calculate emissions.
  3. Once the data is gathered, the company’s carbon footprint can be calculated. For a more detailed guide on calculating your company’s carbon footprint, you can read this knowledge article.
  4. After calculating the carbon footprint, implement strong monitoring and reporting systems for ongoing emission management, and track progress towards reduction targets diligently.


Businesses have a crucial role to play in aligning with climate action goals. By measuring and reducing scope 1-2-3 emissions, businesses can minimize their carbon footprint, enhance operational efficiency, and build resilience in the face of climate challenges. Begin your journey towards achieving net-zero emissions today – we are here to support you every step of the way.

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Boris Bekkering

Boris Bekkering Head of Climate Impact