Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 Emissions

You have probably seen the terms Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 thrown around by now but, what do they mean and why are they used?

Image showing scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 activities

The scopes are used to categorise emissions when measuring a carbon footprint. They differentiate between indirect and direct emission sources, which helps to improve accuracy and transparency in the footprinting process, and enables organisations to set clear goals and targets.


Scope 1


Scope 1 emissions are the direct result of activities that occur from owned or controlled sources. Some examples of Scope 1 emission activities include:

  • Driving a company owned vehicle to and from clients
  • Burning coal onsite to generate electricity
  • Using diesel to power onsite generators
  • Fugitive emissions from air conditioning units

The key factor in determining Scope 1 emissions is the directness of emissions. Looking at the example above; driving a company owned vehicle to and from clients is a Scope 1 emission activity because the travel is a direct part of the company’s operations. On the other hand, driving your own car to and from your place of employment is not a Scope 1 emission activity, but is a Scope 3 activity. This is because employees travelling to and from work is not a direct aspect of the company’s operations, meaning emissions that occur from this activity are indirect.


Scope 2


Scope 2 emissions occur as a result of the indirect consumption of energy and are usually understood as the purchases of electricity, heat, or steam directly from a third-party supplier. Above, we looked at burning coal onsite to generate electricity as a Scope 1 emission activity. If another organisation purchased their electricity from the site in the example, the purchasing organisation would be responsible for the share of emissions that their energy took to produce. However, these emissions would be considered Scope 2. This is because the purchasing organisation did not directly produce the emissions, but they are an indirect result of them purchasing the energy.


Scope 3


Scope 3 emissions cover all other indirect emissions that are not covered in Scope 2. These emissions are usually split into the following categories:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Capital goods
  • Fuel and energy-related activities
  • Upstream transportation and distribution
  • Waste generated in operations
  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Upstream leased assets
  • Downstream transport and distribution
  • Processing of sold products
  • Use of sold products
  • End-of-life treatment of sold products
  • Downstream leased assets
  • Franchises
  • Investments

In most reporting frameworks, it is not mandatory to report Scope 3 emissions. This is primarily because Scope 3 emissions are more difficult to accurately measure, report, and benchmark than Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. However, there is a lot of value in measuring some aspects of your Scope 3 emissions, as they can provide you with valuable insights into how your operations indirectly affect your environment.


Through ESI Monitor’s Environmental Business Operations Framework you can:

  • Measure your footprint across Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 using our online data collection module and receive an informative carbon footprint report showing you where your emissions come from.
  • Compare your footprint against those of other companies in your industry through our benchmarking data.
  • Commit to international sustainability targets and develop your own environmental policies.
  • Minimise your impact by using our step-by-step guidance resources.
  • Build a consciousness of continual improvement and set up systems and commitments that allow for these processes to continue effectively.


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