Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions Explained

Understanding the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, the benefits for businesses and how to decarbonise your organisation. 

The term Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) is used to describe the gases that are emitted into the air by various sources, trapping heat into the earth’s atmosphere. This is usually caused by the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.

The GHG protocol, which sets the standard for measuring and managing carbon emissions, divides emissions into three separate Scopes. Scope, 1 includes direct emissions from the organisations operations, Scope 2 includes indirect emissions that arise due to the organisations operations but are not wholly in their control, for example from generated fuels. Scope 3 includes emissions produced from an organisations value chain, upstream and downstream.

These Scopes create a framework for organisations to understand their direct and indirect emissions created in the running of their organisation. Essentially, they define who ‘owns’ and therefore has control of the emissions. This helps businesses to manage and reduce the emissions that they are responsible for and require the reduction of their indirect (Scope 2 and 3) emissions from other organisations.

What are Scopes 1, 2 and 3?

To help you tackle decarbonisation within your organisation and to reach net zero carbon emissions, the first step is to understand the different Greenhouse Gas Scope Emissions.

Direct emissions that come from an organisations operations and are under their control, including:

  • Fuel combustion on site such as gas boilers
  • Fleet vehichles
  • Air Conditioning

Indirect emissions generated by the purchase of electricity, including:

  • Steam
  • Heating and cooling consumed by an organisation

Indirect emissions, including:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Waste disposal
  • Transportation and distribution
  • Investments
  • Leased assets and franchises
  • Use of sold products

Why should I report on my emissions?

Reporting on your emissions is important to establish a scope, set a baseline for your CO2 emissions, determine any carbon reduction targets and track your success. To be able to do this you need to be regularly capturing your carbon emissions data.

Schemes such as Streamlined Energy Carbon Reporting (SECR) and the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) already require organisations to capture and report on their emissions data, but with the potential for more schemes to be announced in the next few years, including the possibility of ESOS Phase 4, reporting emissions will become increasingly more difficult to avoid.

Scope 3 emissions reporting

Many organisations already report on their Scopes 1 and 2 emissions, but reporting on Scope 3 can be more challenging due to the multitude of different sources that must be considered and the difficulties with obtaining reliable data to support it. However, as they can account for 90% of an organisations emissions it’s important to be able to understand these emissions to be able to identify how to reduce them.

The importance of reporting on your organisation’s Scope 3 emissions is that it requires supply chains and third parties to report on their own Scope 1 and 2 emissions, causing a snowball effect in carbon reporting. The hope is that businesses will want to report and reduce their carbon emissions to ensure they do not get left behind and show any positive progress they are making to reach the national net zero targets. In an era of net zero, it can help your organisation stand out if you are open and transparent with your GHG emissions.

It is likely that over time, there will be an increasing requirement to include Scope 3 emissions as standard in addition to Scopes 1 and 2. Putting a robust framework in place to manage the ongoing capture, tracking and reporting of these emissions is key, helping it become business as usual rather than a burden.

What are the benefits? 

  • Identify peaks in emissions in your organisation and supply chain
  • Better understand your organisation’s carbon emissions and opportunities to reduce them
  • Ensure reporting is in line with acceptable industry practices and regulatory requirements
  • Make operational cost savings through understanding your energy use
  • Gain approval of your organisation’s Science Based Targets
  • Differentiate your organisation from competitors by demonstrating best practice in carbon reduction and energy efficiency
  • Demonstrate improved performance year on year by establishing ongoing monitoring of GHG emissions
  • Build your organisation into a leader of sustainability, and become a more attractive investment to customers, stakeholders, and future employee talent
  • Fulfil your customers’ requirements in proving your sustainability credentials
  • Elevate your organisation’s reputation through your contribution to achieving zero carbon emissions, positive environmental change and investment in future generations
  • Contribute to reducing environmental pollution, supporting the UK Government’s Net Zero 2050 target

How TEAM can help you understand your Scope emissions

Our team of carbon reduction consultants support organisations to capture, manage and report on their Greenhouse Gas emissions, and create a bespoke strategy to help them achieve their sustainability targets.

To find out how our consultants can help transform your organisation into a carbon neutral business, get in touch, or learn more about some of our services and solutions.

Speak to us

Speak to a consultant on 01908 889801 to learn how our Net Zero and Carbon Reduction Consultancy services can help you 


Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting


Net Zero and Carbon Reduction Consultancy


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