Before any improvements can be made, you have to understand the problem. Emissions are no different. Companies cannot lower their carbon footprint until they actually know what it is. Thus, they need to track emissions.
However, when you have a business that has facilities around the world, it’s not an easy thing to calculate.
When it comes to reporting emissions, most companies use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This divides emissions into three categories, Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. Each one looks at different aspects of the business.
Let’s take a look at what each one entails.
Direct Emissions: Scope 1
Scope 1 is the easiest type of emissions to understand. These are the direct emissions that the company produces in its operations.
The emissions that come from industrial processes are named Process Emissions. This includes all emissions that are released during the manufacturing process of a product, like chemical reactions.
There are also Fugitive Emissions that are the emissions that are unintentionally released. These can include things like refrigerant gases that escape from refrigerators or air conditioners.
Lastly, there are Mobile Emissions that come from company vehicles that burn fossil fuels. This includes all transportation that is owned by the company (cars, trucks, boats, and planes).
Indirect Emissions From Purchased Energy: Scope 2
Scope 2 considers all of the emissions from the energy that the company has paid for.
This includes all of the electricity used to power manufacturing plants, stores, and all other company facilities. It also includes the energy a company may use to charge electric vehicles.
Any energy the company pays for makes them responsible for those emissions.
Indirect Emissions From Everything Else: Scope 3
Scope 3 is where everything gets more complicated. This category includes all the emissions that come from upstream and downstream.
Upstream emissions come from things that the company directly interacts with. For example, emissions that come from employees traveling to work or globally for meetings are the company’s responsibility. This includes the emissions from flying.
In addition, emissions from the waste generated (garbage and wastewater), the goods and services a business purchases such as office supplies, and other sources that the company is indirectly responsible for are considered upstream activities.
Downstream emissions are the emissions that come from investments. A great example of this is franchising. Most people know that popular fast-food chains use franchising to have so many stores around the world. Well, those businesses’ emissions count.
This is also where product emissions are included. For instance, say a company makes a computer monitor. Well, the emissions a consumer will create from using the product are included in the company’s total.
This is by far the most difficult type of emissions to calculate as product usage is completely determined by the customer.
A Company That Can Track Emissions Can Reduce Them
Like all problems, you need to first understand the issues and what is causing them before proper action can be effective.
In the case of large international companies, it can be very difficult to track emissions. Yet, it is just the first step. Once you know where the emissions are coming from, then you can begin creating a plan to reduce them.
As more companies race towards becoming net neutral, even the smallest improvements can have a huge impact.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.