Scope 1 2 3 Emissions Explained with Diagram (GHG Protocol)

In 2001, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol sought to categorize corporate emissions – greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) – using three buckets, named: Scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3. In this article we will explain each scope emission category using our scope 1 2 and 3 emissions diagram.

The GHG Protocol’s aim was to provide a globally recognized reporting system, making it easier for organizations to account for, report, and manage their corporate emissions.

To better understand this emission classification system, you can use the 3 B’s acronym burn, buy, and beyond – as we explain:

  • Scope 1: GHGs are released from an organization burning fossil fuels directly. This could be from company-owned vehicles or onsite processes.
  • Scope 2: GHGs are released due to the energy bought by an organization, for instance, electricity purchased.
  • Scope 3: These are released GHGs that go beyond an organization’s control. GHGs are emitted across an organization’s value chain (both upstream and downstream emissions).

To learn more about the GHG Protocol’s GHG emissions classification system, read: Scope 1 2 3 Emissions Explained: Understanding the GHG Protocol’s Emission Classification System.

Scope 1 2 and 3 emissions diagram

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a simple diagram of a company’s typical value chain and operations with scope 1, 2, 3 emissions overlaid.  This infographic provides a simple mental model for a company’s emissions.



The greenhouse gas emissions diagram explained

Scope 1 emissions

As you can see from the diagram above, scope 1 emissions are released directly at the organization in question. For this reason, these emissions are usually the easiest to reduce as the business has direct control over them.

The diagram above depicts a factory, which releases GHGs directly into the atmosphere from operations occurring onsite. The factory-owned vehicles also contribute to the organization’s total scope 1 emissions.

You can learn more about scope 1 emissions and how to reduce them by reading – GHG Protocol: Scope 1 Emissions Explained.

Scope 2 emissions

Scope 2 emissions are separated from the organization in question, making it more difficult for businesses to reduce these emissions. In our diagram, the scope 2 emissions for this business come in the form of electricity purchased. But there are other scope 2 emission sources to be aware of, namely steam, electricity, heat, and cooling.

Businesses looking to reduce scope 2 emissions will often choose a renewable energy tariff to supply their electricity needs. Yet, this switch does not guarantee the energy you receive is from a renewable energy source. You’ll gain electricity from the grid which does not separate energy by source.

For ultimate transparency over how much of your business’s energy comes from renewables, you can purchase Offsite-Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), Renewable Energy Certificates, or install your own renewable energy source (e.g. solar panels).

For more information on scope 2 emissions and how to reduce these emissions, read – GHG Protocol: Scope 2 Emissions Explained.

Scope 3 emissions

Scope 3 emissions are even more far removed from the entity in question (relative to scopes 1 and 2). This makes this emission scope the hardest to track and manage.

In our diagram, the scope 3 GHG emissions identified are from business travel, investments, and end-of-life product processing. Yet, scope 3 emission sources stretch beyond these examples, with the GHG Protocol identifying 15 categories to group scope 3 GHGs. As such, this is the broadest scope category.

And so it comes with little surprise to learn that scope 3 emissions account for ~70% of an organization’s carbon footprint. It’s clear that any organization wanting to reduce their climatic impact needs to address their scope 3 emissions.

To learn more about scope 3 emissions and how to reduce them, read – GHG Protocol: Scope 3 Emissions Explained.

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Take control of scope 1 2 3 emissions with an effective carbon accounting strategy

The processes you use to measure how much CO2e your business releases (whether that’s scope 1, 2, or 3 emissions) are part of the wider discipline known as carbon accounting.

Carbon accounting works to provide a data-driven and factual ground for making carbon-related decisions. This is helpful for businesses looking to lower their climatic and environmental impact.

The Green Business Bureau has a range of resources you can use to help you get started and implement an effective carbon accounting strategy. Use these articles to supplement those listed above covering scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

When you sign up for the Green Business Bureau, you’ll gain access to your very own carbon footprint calculator. This calculator makes it easy for organizations to accurately estimate their carbon emissions and footprint. The software tool uses automation which reduces the manual labor and time needed to measure and report your organization’s GHG emissions accurately.

Once you’ve measured your organization’s GHG emissions, you can use GBB’s EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner to implement actionable solutions that work to reduce these emissions. GBB provides over 400 green initiatives your business can choose to implement to create greener operations with a reduced environmental impact. Once more, you can showcase your efforts using GBB’s Green Seal of approval and your public EcoProfile.

Sign up for the Green Business Bureau, and let’s create a greener business future together.

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