Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions of a carbon footprint explained

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Many companies are working on reducing carbon emissions. Insight into emissions forms the basis for structural reduction. This insight can be obtained by calculating a carbon footprint. When calculating a carbon footprint, the scope and boundaries set by an organization are important. This makes it clear for which greenhouse gas emissions an organization itself is responsible. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (worldwide the most used protocol to calculate greenhouse gas emissions) refers to three scopes: Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. In this article we briefly explain which emissions are included in the different scopes.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

Scope 1: direct emissions

Scope 1 includes direct emissions: emissions from sources that an organization owns or controls, for example emissions from its own buildings, transport and production-related activities.

Scope 2: indirect emissions

Scope 2 concerns indirect emissions, through the generation of purchased and consumed electricity or heating/cooling.

Scope 3: indirect emissions from other companies

Scope 3 also concerns indirect emissions, but then caused by the business activities of other organisations. It is important that they are related to the activities of the company. Typically, these are emissions caused by suppliers in the supply chain, outsourced activities, and employee commuting.

Visualisation of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions © Greenhouse Sustainability

Mapping the different scopes

According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an organization in any case takes responsibility for carbon emissions caused by scopes 1 and 2. The emissions in scopes 1 and 2 are easier to calculate than scope 3 emissions. For example, for energy consumption, companies can request the data needed to convert direct purchases of gas and electricity into a value for the associated greenhouse gases.

However, for many organizations scope 3 emissions make up the largest part of the total emissions. The reason for this is that today many activities are outsourced and few companies know the value chain of its products. Do you want to be aware of your scope 3 emissions? Request a footprint calculation from your suppliers. Do you want to reduce emissions? It often helps to sit down with your suppliers and customers, so you can look for the best solutions together. There are also more and more collective initiatives that are committed to sustainability together with chain partners, such as the Horti Footprint Chain Program or the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative in the horticultural sector.

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