As climate change becomes a more pressing issue, more and more companies are seeking to minimize their carbon footprints. This has led to increased focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from businesses. There are different types of emissions to consider, including Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions, as well as lifecycle and operational emissions. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at each of these types of emissions, and explore why they are important in the context of emissions reduction.
Scope 1 Emissions
Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from an organization's own sources, such as burning fossil fuels on-site for heating, or emissions from company-owned vehicles. These emissions are under the direct control of the company and typically include emissions from physical operations like factories, equipment, and buildings. Scope 1 emissions are the most visible and easy to measure of the three scopes, and usually, the easiest to reduce.
Scope 2 Emissions
Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from an organization's energy use, which occur during the production of electricity or heat that the company has purchased and consumed. They are not emitted on-site, but rather at another facility where the energy is produced. An example of Scope 2 emissions is emissions from the electricity grid that powers a company's operations. Scope 2 emissions are often easier to reduce than Scope 3 emissions since they are under the control of a single organization.
Scope 3 Emissions
Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that occur from sources that are outside a company's direct control, but which are connected to the company's activities. These may include emissions from the production and transportation of raw materials, production and distribution of purchased products, use of products, and their end-of-life and disposal management. Scope 3 emissions are typically the largest source of a company's GHG emissions but are difficult to quantify since they involve emissions from all parties along the supply chain. Nonetheless, Scope 3 emissions are important to consider for true emission reduction efforts as it considers the full life cycle of a product.
Lifecycle emissions account for all emissions associated with the production, use, and disposal of a product over its entire lifespan. This includes emissions from the production of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, and end-of-life disposal. Lifecycle emissions analyze all the emission sources from “cradle to grave.” This means it requires gathering data on all Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and some secondary impacts, including biodiversity loss and water consumption. Some companies are starting to incorporate lifecycle thinking into their decision-making processes.
Operational emissions are the subset of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions that occur from an organization's operations, exclusive of emissions related to the supply chain or product usage. This includes emissions from heating and cooling buildings, lighting, appliances, and service vehicles. As the name implies, these emissions are entirely within the control of an organization.
Improving environmental outcomes requires identifying all types of emissions and understanding what measures are needed to reduce them. Now that you have a better understanding of what Scope 1, Scope 2, Scope 3 and Lifecycle vs. Operational emissions are, your organization will be better equipped to develop an emissions reduction plan to address all of your organization's emissions, boosting transparency, and ensuring that the necessary steps are taken to achieve emissions reductions targets. Remember, the goal of understanding these different types of emissions is to ensure that the control and understanding of GHG emissions are beyond what happens on-site. Ultimately, emissions reductions require comprehensive organizational effort.