Climate change has become an increasingly essential aspect of modern socio-economic and political discourse. The burgeoning reality is that global warming caused by greenhouse gases and excessive carbon emissions has put the world in a race against time; in order to curtail the disastrous effects of climate change and save the Earth as we know it from complete destruction, it is imperative to work now. All corners of human society have a carbon impact that is of consequence, and additionally, everyone in society can take steps to erase the more damaging realities of their carbon footprint. Megacorporations and businesses form the bedrock of modern economic relations. The existence of conglomerates and big industries is crucial for the existence of the free market. Despite best intentions, these entities have also had a lion’s share of the exploits of climate change, and in many unfortunate incidents happen to be the primary instigators or allies of global warming. However, there are still innumerable actions that big business can partake in to reverse the desolation caused by climate change; and as we have seen this past year, the wrath of nature knows no boundaries and so no one is safe from global warming until we are all safe from global warming. In a positive turn of events, we are seeing greater numbers of organizations and industries doing their part to reduce their carbon emissions. Many businesses have gone on to set carbon emission reduction targets that can be seen as ambitious. The GHG Protocol Standards is one guiding force that is helping organizations navigate their greenhouse gas emissions and reduction targets.

Why are the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Standards So Essential?

The instrumentality of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Standards in aiding organizations and businesses in meeting their carbon emission reduction goals is par excellence. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Standards effectively provide a precise and clear guide to corporations and organizations on how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, it employs an expansive and well-researched categorization to clearly indicate the ambit, or Scopes of greenhouse gas emissions. These ‘Scopes’ all include fair descriptions of those activities which contribute to a given company or organization’s excessive greenhouse gas emission. The GHG Protocol Standards broadly classify three scopes – namely Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3, which provide the most in-depth and internationally recognized manual on understanding the activities, indirect or direct, that cause greenhouse gas emissions. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is the most widely used and globally accepted accounting tool, and so the employment of the three Scopes to deal with a company’s carbon footprint is not just adequate but recommended. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol proves invaluable to organizations for measuring and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with their specific value chains. In this article, we shall take a deeper look at the three scopes and their particular directions.

What are the 3 Scopes?

Every organization has a carbon footprint, and most have high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Some organizations have increased levels of emissions at certain stages of their daily activities while very little in others. The three scopes help us to investigate and understand where the majority of a company’s carbon footprint exists or stems from. For this clarity, the GHG Protocol Scopes distinguish between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ sources of emissions. Having this distinction enables an organization to efficiently find the sources of their greenhouse gas emissions, saving not only time and money but also manpower and resources. The three scopes provide an elaborate guide that helps an organization pinpoint the epicenters of its carbon footprint with great effectiveness and ease.

The following are the three Scopes –

Scope 1

The first scope includes all emissions that directly originate from sources that are under the direct control or possession of a company. These are the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the fuel combustion in a company’s factories, furnaces, and the vehicles used for official company business. The most fundamental level of pollution is included in the Scope 1 emissions.

GHG Protocol Scope 1

Scope 2

The second scope lists out all the indirect emissions that are credited to an organization or company. These Scope 2 emissions consist of the organization’s purchase of electricity, heating, cooling, steam, etc. that cause greenhouse gas emissions. They are considered ‘indirect’ emissions because while the organization does not own the machines or apparatuses that cause such emissions, they are still used to complete the work of the organization, and as such are involved in its activities. Thus, these emissions are understood to be included in an organization’s energy use.

GHG Protocol Scope 2

Scope 3

The third scope consists of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the activities from channels that are not under the control nor ownership of a particular company but are nevertheless used in the activities of that organization. Scope 3 emissions consist of all the indirect emissions that take place in an organization’s value chain, this includes the energy spent in activities such as business travel, the commute of employees, transport and distribution of the company’s products, waste generated by the activities, purchased goods, and services, etc. These are all operations that are not directly conducted by the particular organization but are inherent aspects of the organization’s functioning. These activities are to the benefit of the organization and so the greenhouse gas emissions generated are also accounted to the organization. Scope 3 emissions are also classified as being all the emissions that are not included in Scope 1 and Scope 2. They are often known as value chain emissions and tend to create the majority of a company’s total greenhouse gas emissions due to their nature of being indirect and including diverse processes. Despite this, Scope 3 emissions also tend to be the area of greenhouse emissions that a company has the least control over due to the broad spectrum of activities it includes. The GHG Protocol separates the Scope 3 emissions into 15 categories :

  1. Purchased Goods and Services
  2. Capital Goods
  3. Fuel- and Energy-Related Activities Not Included in Scope 1 or Scope 2
  4. Upstream Transportation and Distribution
  5. Waste Generated in Operations
  6. Business Travel
  7. Employee Commuting
  8. Upstream Leased Assets
  9. Downstream Transportation and Distribution
  10. Processing of Sold Products
  11. Use of Sold Products
  12. End-of-Life Treatment of Sold Products
  13. Downstream Leased Assets
  14. Franchises
  15. Investments

These are classified so as to make it easier for organizations to analyze which actions are causing the most emissions, which operations are pertinent to them which helps to further cut back on needless activities and the emissions they cause.

GHG Protocol Scope 3

In conclusion, we can see that the GHG Protocol Standards are an effective and useful mechanism to understand the carbon footprint of a given organization or company. It provides guidance on identifying the major areas wherein an organization’s greenhouse emissions are rocketing and thus provides a clear stethoscope to decipher where the problem lies and what changes need to be brought forth. It is an invaluable resource in an organization’s journey to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and reaching reduction targets that are otherwise seen as overly ambitious.

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