What is the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol?

The 2001 GHG Protocol’s guidelines were the first to categorize business GHGs as scope 1 emissions, scope 2 emissions, and scope 3 emissions. The aim of this emission classification system was to help organizations measure and manage their carbon footprint.

To explain scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions further, we’ll take a quote from our previous article Scope 1 2 3 Emissions Explained: Understanding the GHG Protocol’s Emission Classification System:

  1. Scope 1 emissions are GHGs released directly from a business.
  2. Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHGs released from the energy purchased by an organization.
  3. Scope 3 emissions are also indirect GHG emissions, accounting for upstream and downstream emissions from a product or service, and emissions across a business’s supply chain.

Scope 1 2 3 Emissions Explained

Building on this article, we’ll be publishing three articles in a series, each one focusing on a specific emission scope category. This first article explains scope 1 emissions in more detail. We discuss the 4 categories of scope 1 emissions and give real-world examples. We will then outline four ways you can reduce direct corporate emissions (scope 1) in your business.

How to track and categorize Scope 1 direct emissions

Think of scope 1 emissions as the direct emissions released from an organization’s operations – that is, emissions released from company-owned or controlled sources. These are fossil fuels burnt on site. Scope 1 emissions can be split into four groups, as detailed below.

  • Stationary combustion: These are the emissions released from the direct burning of fossil fuels to power heat sources (e.g. a coal burning fire), or a stationary combustion engine.
  • Mobile combustion: These are emissions released from company-owned vehicles (mobile combustion engines). Fossil fuels (e.g. petrol and diesel) are burnt as a result of a company’s activities, directly releasing GHGs into the atmosphere.
  • Fugitive emissions: These are emissions caused by the leakage – or other irregular gas releases or vapors – from pressurized containment. Examples would be fugitive emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning units.
  • Process emissions: These are emissions released during industrial processes or on-site manufacturing.

Scope 1 emissions examples: Comparing Patagonia and Salesforce

Let’s take a look at a real-world example of scope 1 emissions for an improved understanding of this emission category.

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing manufacturer and is well known for their commitment to protecting nature and business sustainability, e.g. they were the winner of the 2019 UN Champions of the Earth award. Yet, as Patagonia notes, more can always be done on the sustainability front. As such, the business is working to reduce their carbon footprint, which begins by identifying and addressing their direct emissions.

Patagonia emissions

Patagonia outlined their 2020 total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (addressing both scopes 1 and 2) in their Climate Crisis Is Our Business report. Looking at this report, the direct emissions identified include:

  1. Material manufacturing (accounting for 54% of emissions),
  2. Trim manufacturing (accounting for 7% of emissions),
  3. Garment manufacturing (accounting for 2.5% of emissions),
  4. Product transportation (accounting for 4% of emissions),
  5. Headquarters, retail, and distribution centers (accounting for 2% of emissions).

Patagonia’s scope 1 emissions will be substantial if compared to a service-sector organization that doesn’t make anything. E.g. emissions from manufacturing (process emissions) account for 63.5% of Patagonia’s total direct emissions.

Now, let’s compare Patagonia’s direct emissions to the direct emissions of Salesforce, a software provider. Because Salesforce doesn’t make physical products, we can expect – unlike Patagonia – scope 1 (process) emissions to be a lower percentage of the organization’s total emissions.

Salesforce emissions

In 2020, Salesforce reported their total scope 1 and 2 emissions which equated to 297,000 MTCO2e, with the majority of these emissions occurring from inhouse data centers (scope 2). Of this total, 6,000 MTC02e are reported to be from scope 1 sources. This means for Salesforce, their direct emissions account for 2.02% of their total scope 1 and 2 emissions. Hence, our prediction is supported.

How to reduce Scope 1 business direct emissions

The good news is that scope 1 emissions are the easiest GHGs to reduce. This is because these are emissions your business has full control over. To summarize how you can cut scope 1 emissions in your business, let’s come back to those four scope 1 emission groups.

How to reduce corporate emissions: Stationary combustion systems

Rather than burning fossil fuels to power stationary combustion systems, look for alternative technology that uses renewable fuel and energy sources.

For instance, the technology company Wartsila manufactures and services engines and other equipment to marine and energy markets. Some of Wartsila’s products run using 100% synthetic and carbon-neutral methane and biofuels, and the company is also working on a pure hydrogen solution. Hence, the technology is out there to move away from the fossil fuel combustion engine.

Thinking about heat sources, there are also less carbon-intensive options in this market. These include geothermal energy heat pumps, air-source heat pumps, and solar water heating systems.

How to reduce corporate emissions: Mobile combustion systems

Scope 1 emissions also include GHGs released from company-owned diesel or petrol-powered vehicles. To reduce emissions, electric vehicles come as your best alternative here.

Plus legislation change in the U.S. is about to enforce the electric vehicle switch. A newly signed executive order states half of all new vehicles sold in the US must be zero-emission by 2030.

It must be noted that, if electricity is sourced from the grid, then your vehicles will be powered by a mixture of fossil fuel and renewable sources. In this instance, it’s vital you transfer counted emissions from scope 1 to scope 2. Then, look to support renewable energy projects that are feeding the grid using a sustainable energy supply – these projects will contribute to your carbon offsetting program.

If you want to directly eliminate scope 1 emissions from vehicles, then source your own clean energy. You can plug your automobile directly into a renewable energy source (e.g. a solar power or wind turbine).

Although the technology is still being refined, electric vehicles give us hope that we can move past our dependence on finite fossil fuels.

How to reduce corporate emissions: Fugitive emissions

As mentioned, fugitive emissions are GHGs that escape from pressurized containment. Common appliances responsible for these emissions include refrigerators, air conditioning units, and heat pumps. It’s estimated that these appliances leak ~10-40% during their operational end of life. Listed below are some simple steps you can implement to reduce fugitive emissions in your business:

  1. Replace old, outdated valves: Valve leakage accounts for more than half of the fugitive emissions from a given appliance. However, such a figure is attributed to equipment not designed using the latest materials and technologies. Test valves on devices and replace ones causing high levels of fugitive emissions.
  2. Install valves correctly: Call in technicians to check that the valves on devices have been installed correctly.
  3. Properly maintain equipment: Regularly maintain and check devices to ensure they’re functioning as efficiently as they can.
  4. Replace outdated equipment: Newer systems will be more efficient and better designed to reduce fugitive emissions.
  5. Regularly monitor equipment: Monitor appliances, checking for system leaks and errors to prevent excessive gas leakage.

How to reduce corporate emissions: Process emissions

Reducing process emissions is a complex affair. For one, it’s industry-specific. As a general rule though, switching to a renewable energy provider will significantly reduce an organization’s process emissions across all industries.

On top of this, implement lean manufacturing and waste reduction strategies. Lean manufacturing methodologies focus on production techniques that demand less. This means less materials, time, and of course, energy.

It was the Toyota Production System (TPS) that drove (pun intended) the lean manufacturing methodology into the mainstream. It’s a true success story. From TPS we have a host of lean methodologies and frameworks such as Muda, Gemba, Hansei, Heijunka, Jidoka, and Just-In-Time production. By driving efficiency, these frameworks reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing processes, while also benefiting a business’s bottom line.

Measure, manage and report your business emissions with the Green Business Bureau

At the Green Business Bureau, we want to help you reduce your business emissions across all three scopes. This is why we’ve designed a plethora of initiatives that work to reduce an organization’s carbon footprint. You can find these initiatives in GBB’s EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner – your guides to becoming a greener business.

Once more, on signing up to the Green Business Bureau you’ll gain access to your very own carbon footprint calculator. This will allow you to easily measure, report and manage your GHG emissions, and track progress as you work to lower your carbon footprint. You’ll gain certification for your efforts, which you can showcase on your website with your very own Green Seal.

Here’s to creating greener businesses together for a brighter, carbon-neutral future.

For further guidance on reporting business emissions, check out the GHG Protocol’s Guidance page here.

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