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Scope 1 2 3: What are the perimeters of a carbon footprint?

Summary

In a world facing new climate challenges, the carbon footprint is crucial for quantifying organizations' greenhouse gas emissions.
Discover Scope 1 2 3, which encompass different categories of emissions. Each Scope presents specific calculation methods, from the easiest to the most complex.
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Everything you need to know about scope 1, 2 and 3 of the carbon footprint

With the new climate challenges, a carbon footprint, which quantifies an organization's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is becoming a valuable source of insights. "Scope 1, 2 and 3" represent the three key perimeters of this assessment, each encompassing different categories of CO2 and GHG emissions. Find out everything you need to know about these different scopes, their challenges and their calculation methods in this article.

mountains symbolizing scope 1 2 3

Scope 1 2 3: definition

With the new climate challenges, a carbon footprint, which quantifies an organization's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is becoming a valuable source of insights. "Scope 1, 2 and 3" represent the three key perimeters of this assessment, each encompassing different categories of CO2 and GHG emissions. Find out everything you need to know about these different scopes, their challenges and their calculation methods in this article.

Scope 1 - Direct emissions

This first scope concerns all emissions directly from sources owned or controlled by the entity.

Scope 2 - Indirect energy-related emissions

Scope 2 includes all emissions generated indirectly by the entity through its consumption of electricity, steam, heat, or cold.

Scope 3 - Other indirect emissions

Scope 3, on the other hand, encompasses all other indirect emissions generated throughout the entity's value chain, including both upstream and downstream activities. This scope is broad and can include many different sources of emissions.

What are the differences between scopes 1, 2, 3?

Each scope of the carbon footprint is distinct in terms of its nature, its sources of emissions, and its calculation methods. Thus, Scope 1 only takes into account the organization's direct emissions, while Scope 2 focuses on emissions generated during energy production. Scope 3 includes indirect emissions produced upstream and downstream from the company's direct activities.

Each scope is more or less complex to measure. Scope 1 is relatively easy to assess because the sources of emissions are directly controlled by the organization. Scope 2 has an intermediate complexity, since it requires taking into account the energy mix and the emission factors of the energy supplier, which can vary in time and space. Finally, Scope 3 is generally the most complex to assess and manage, as it concerns emissions generated by third-party entities.

Each scope of the carbon footprint is distinct in terms of its nature, its sources of emissions, and its calculation methods.

a drawing showing scope 1 2 3

Carbon footprint: Scope 1

Scope 1, direct emissions

Scope 1 occupies a central place in an organization's carbon footprint, reflecting its direct greenhouse gas emissions. These come from sources owned or controlled by the entity itself. Scope 1 encompasses all direct GHG emissions from an organization's activities, such as:

Fuel combustion

This includes fuels burned in the organization’s facilities, but also vehicles that it owns or controls.

Process emissions

Those that come directly from production processes, such as chemical reactions in the manufacture of products.

Fugitive emissions

These include GHG leaks, such as freon from air conditioning systems or methane losses during the distribution of natural gas.

Scope 1: Calculation methods

To accurately calculate direct Scope 1 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is necessary to identify the different sources of emissions and apply an emission factor to them. It is essential to collect accurate data on each emission source, such as the amount of fuel consumed, the hours of operation of the machines or the quantities of raw materials used. Next, an emission factor must be chosen. These are coefficients that allow activity data to be converted into GHG emissions, in tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

It is essential to collect accurate data on each emission source.

It is essential to collect accurate data on each emission source, such as the amount of fuel consumed, the hours of operation of the machines or the quantities of raw materials used.

Scope 1 emissions are generally calculated according to the following formula:

GHG emissions in tonnes of CO2 equivalent = activity data * emission factor Each emission source must be calculated separately and then summed to obtain the total Scope 1 emissions.

What are the different categories of Scope 1?

Scope 1 can be divided into several categories, each reflecting a particular type of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

Stationary combustion, which refers to emissions resulting from the combustion of fuels for energy production in stationary installations, such as boilers, furnaces or generators.

Mobile combustion, which refers to emissions produced by vehicles and mobile machinery owned or controlled by the organization (cars, trucks, planes, boats, etc.).

Process emissions, those that do not result from the combustion of fuel but are emitted directly during the manufacture of products.

Fugitive emissions refer to unintentional emissions that escape from equipment during normal use or malfunction.

The use of biomass fuels, encompassing emissions resulting from the combustion of biomass (such as wood or biogenic waste).

Other direct emissions that do not fall into the previous categories, such as emissions from solvent use or land management (for example, in the agriculture and forestry sectors).

Carbon footprint: Scope 2

Scope 2, indirect emissions

Scope 2 refers to indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to the consumption of electricity, heat, water vapor and cooling purchased and consumed by the organization. Thus, Scope 2 encompasses emissions from the production of purchased energy, which is produced outside the organization but consumed within it, such as:

Emissions related to the production of electricity that the organization purchases to run its equipment, offices, factories, etc.

GHG emissions from the production of heat, steam and cooling purchased and used by the organization for its thermal and energy needs.

Scope 2 emissions highlight the indirect impact of external energy consumption. Identifying Scope 2 emissions allows organizations to prioritize renewable energy and improve their energy efficiency.

Scope 2: calculation methods

Scope 2 emissions, which mainly concern the consumption of electricity, but also of heat, cold and steam purchased and consumed by the organization, can be calculated using several methods.

There are two methods of calculation: the geographical approach  and the contractual approach . In both cases, it is a matter of calculating the impact of consumption in kilowatt hours, or any other similar unit of measurement. However, they differ in the emission factor used.

The geographical method focuses on the energy mix of the country where the energy is produced. Indeed, electricity is produced using means of production such as nuclear, coal, natural gas or solar radiation, the ratios of which differ from one country to another. For example, the French energy mix and the associated emission factor will be different from those of China. In France, nuclear is the main production method, while in China, it is coal. This explains why the emission factor of the French energy mix is lower than that of China.

Scope 2 emissions (tCO2e) = Energy consumption (kWh) * Emission factor of the national or regional energy mix (kgCO2e/kWh))

The contracting method recognizes that organizations can choose energy sources with different emission profiles, such as choosing a 100% renewable electricity contract. In this case, if the organization purchases electricity via renewable energy certificates or guarantees of origin, this can be taken into account to calculate Scope 2 emissions with a lower or even zero emission factor. Organizations that have Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for specific energy sources may also use particular emission factors for those sources

Scope 2 Emissions (tCO2e)=Energy Consumption (kWh) * Specific Emission Factor (kgCO2e/kWh)

When conducting a carbon footprint, it is possible to report Scope 2 emissions using both the geographic-based and contractual method, for maximum transparency and a better understanding of emission reduction efforts. However, the Bilan Carbone® method developed in France by the ABC does not recognize the contractual approach. This is only valid under the GHG-Protocol method.

What are the different quality criteria for Scope 2?

In order to establish the most accurate carbon footprint possible and to consider effective GHG emission reduction strategies, Scope 2 data must meet several quality criteria:

Accurate data

Ensure the accuracy of energy consumption data and emission factors used.

Full coverage

Include all relevant and applicable emission sources within Scope 2.

Stable methodology

Consistently apply calculation methods and approaches throughout reporting periods.

Comparability

Data should be presented in a way that allows for reliable comparison over time and with other organizations.

Clarity

Clearly explain calculation methods, data sources, and assumptions.

Choice of methods

Use the most relevant and specific emission methods and factors available.

Carbon footprint: Scope 3

Scope 3, indirect non-business emissions

Scope 3 encompasses a wide range of indirect emissions occurring within the company's value chain, including both upstream and downstream sources that are not covered by Scope 1 and 2. These are emissions generated by the company's activities, but from sources that do not belong to it and are not under its control, but for which it is responsible through its consumption:

Upstream emissions

Production of raw materials, transportation of goods, packaging, subcontracted activities, etc.

Downstream emissions

These refer to the later phases of the product's or service's life, such as the use of the products sold, their end-of-life, and the treatment of the waste generated.

Not directly controlled

These emissions do not originate from sources that are owned or under the direct control of the company, but result from its activities.

What emissions are taken into account in Scope 3?

The Scope 3 of the carbon footprint includes a wide range of indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that take place in a company's value chain, excluding those covered by Scopes 1 and 2. These emissions are considered indirect since they relate to entities separate from the company, but are induced by its activities. Scope 3 emissions are generally grouped into different categories to help identify, measure and manage:

Purchases of goods and services, such as raw materials, semi-finished products, and outsourced services.

Emissions related to the production and delivery of capital goods.

Transportation and distribution of goods upstream in the supply chain.

Employee travel.

Transportation and distribution of sold products.

Use of Products Sold. These are the emissions produced during the use of the products or services by the end customer, for example, the emissions generated by the use of a household appliance.

Emissions related to end-of-life product management, collection, treatment and disposal.

Upstream or downstream leasing.

Emissions from the treatment of waste generated by the company, for example, in its offices and factories.

Scope 3, the different calculation methods?

As Scope 3 is the largest and most complex of the three scopes, the calculation of the indirect emissions it encompasses requires approaches and methods tailored to each emission category and data source. Methods for calculating Scope 3 emissions can vary widely and often need to be tailored to the specifics of each company and industry.

The emission factor method is based on multiplying the activity (such as kilometers traveled or tonnes of raw materials purchased) by a specific emission factor. It is mainly used for emissions related to transportation (upstream and downstream), employee travel, etc.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method evaluates emissions throughout the life cycle of a product or service, from the extraction of raw materials to its disposal.

It is relevant for the analysis of emissions related to goods and services purchased, the use of products sold and the end-of-life of products.

The economic expenditure method is based on the multiplication of financial expenditure by sectoral or regional economic emission factors. It is useful for estimating emissions from Scope 3 categories where accurate activity data is difficult to obtain.

The value chain method evaluates emissions by moving up or down the entire value chain of a product or service. It is used to obtain a comprehensive and integrated view of emissions along the value chain.

Scope 3: Data collection and management

Scope 3 carbon footprint emissions, due to their indirect nature and their extensive scope within the value chain, require data collection and management that is both diverse and complex. A precise methodology must be put in place in order to collect the necessary data, to quantify these emissions exactly and to avoid double entry of data.

Carrying out a relevant carbon footprint requires a good understanding of the challenges of each scope, as well as a detailed and precise calculation of the different levels of emissions.
The D-Carbonize tool is the perfect software to help you effectively measure all your direct and indirect emissions, and set up an effective carbon strategy tailored to your organization.

Request a free demo today to  learn more about our tool to measure and reduce your CO² emissions.

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