The international greenhouse gas protocol defines 3 types of emissions associated with the operation of a business or in the lifecycle of a product.

Scope 1: covers all direct greenhouse gas emissions by a business. This typically could include use of natural gas for heating, use of diesel or petrol in company vehicles. It also includes fugitive emissions from a process including particular chemicals (refrigerants for example), in agriculture it would include methane emissions from ruminants.

Scope 2: covers the indirect greenhouse gas emissions by a business. This would typically include those arising from the generation of electricity consumed, but might also include purchased steam or heat.

Scope 3: this covers emissions arising from the supply chain of the business upstream (suppliers) and downstream (customers). This can be very challenging to measure accurately, but even estimates might inform environmentally sound decision making. It can often be the case that Scope 3 emissions are many times greater and more sensitive than Scope 1+2 – as such they present both threat and opportunity for a business.

Carbon Footprinting is the process of establishing Scope 1+2+3 emissions. Reporting Scope 1 and 2 is mandatory in Europe and UK for large companies, and good practice for others. Readily available calculators and data sources can supply emission conversion factors for common fuels and electricity which will allow calculations to account for Scope 1 and 2. Much work has also been done to prepared estimated data for common products, service or materials.
Having established emissions, work can start to:

  • reduce those emissions, by means of energy efficiency and control, energy supply, process, product or business model adaptation. Large companies (250+ employees) are required to assess their energy use (ESOS), for others it just good financial and commercial sense to avoid waste.
  • report and where appropriate promote good work to stakeholders
  • if applicable purchase offsets to compensate for unavoidable emissions. Offsets should be seen as a last resort after best endeavours have been applied to reduce gross emissions. Nevertheless it then allows a business to legitimately claim “carbon neutrality”.