Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

A detailed breakdown of the different categories of emissions


If you’re looking to start, or are already on your net-zero journey, you'll have probably already encountered the terms “Scopes 1,2 and 3” when measuring your carbon footprint. Whilst it's not always clear what these scopes are, you’ll be an expert by the end of this article.

Under the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Corporate Standard, the foundations of carbon accounting methodology, a company’s emissions are categorised into three ‘scopes’;

Scope 1 - Direct Emissions

What are they? Emissions from sources that your business owns or controls.

Examples? Heating, fuel for your company vehicles, air conditioning and industrial processes.

Scope 2 - Indirect Emissions

What are they? Emissions related to your company’s activities that are generated on your behalf.

Examples? Electricity generated by your suppliers coming to you through the grid.

Scope 3 - Value Chain Emissions

What are they? Emissions that come from other sources within your supply chain that are not owned or controlled by your company.

Examples? Operational waste, business travel, commuting, investments.

Follow this link to find out more about the Greenhouse Gas Protocol

What are 'Scopes'?

These scopes help companies understand the boundaries of the greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for, and help track emissions reductions. Reporting of Scopes 1 and 2 is mandatory under the GHG Protocol; whilst Scope 3 reporting is voluntary, it is now widely considered best practice and critical to achieving net-zero.

It is not uncommon for Scope 3 emissions to account for 70-90% of an organisation's total footprint! Therefore, Scope 3 calculation and reporting are encouraged to develop a resilient sustainability strategy on your pathway to net-zero. That’s why we’ve developed Ecologi Zero to break down your emissions by Scope, sector and supplier; making it easy to understand your business and your supply chain.

Scope 1 - Direct Emissions

Scope 1 emissions are Direct emissions from sources that your business owns or controls. These can be split into four categories;

  • Stationary combustion refers to emissions emitted from your company premises from the burning of fuels and other heating sources.

  • Mobile combustion refers to emissions from vehicles which are owned and operated by your company. If your company owns any electric vehicles these are accounted for under Scope 2.

  • Fugitive emissions are GHG leakages from your refrigeration or air conditioning units.

  • Finally, process emissions, are emissions released during any industrial processes that your company undertakes.

Currently, Ecologi Zero can measure both your mobile combustion emissions and emissions from stationary emissions generated from burning natural gas in heating systems. We’re working hard on incorporating your remaining Stationary Emissions (when necessary) and Fugitive Emissions; this will be captured on your dashboard in the coming months. As we extend to more sectors, we will begin to include Process Emissions when applicable.

Scope 2 - Indirect Emissions

Scope 2 emissions are Indirect Emissions related to your company’s activities; consider these as emissions generated on your behalf!

Scope 2 emissions are generated away from your company premises and are primarily emitted as a consequence of generating electricity (but also the offsite generation of heat and steam) for use by your company.

As an example, if your company uses any electric vehicles (EVs) for business purposes, the electricity used to charge the EV will be included under Scope 2.

Ecologi Zero can capture your Indirect Scope 2 emissions when electricity is supplied to your business. We’re working hard to incorporate Scope 2 emissions when electricity (or other Indirect Emissions) is provided as part of a rental agreement.

Scope 3 - Value Chain Emissions

Scope 3 emissions are where things can get tricky! These emissions come from other sources, not owned or controlled by your company, and are called Value Chain Emissions.

These emissions are generated within a business's supply chain; both upstream (things that help you get your work done) and downstream (things that your product is used for). Scope 3 should capture all emissions related to your company that are not captured by Scopes 1 and 2.

Examples of Scope 3 emissions include; Waste generated in operations, business travel, transportation and distribution, commuting, and investments. In total, the GHG Protocol lists 15 categories of value chain emissions.

For many organisations, Scope 3 emissions will make up a huge portion of their carbon footprint; often up to 90% of their emissions! If you’re one of these businesses, understanding your Scope 3 emissions is a vital step to take.