5 steps to get started with your scope 3 footprint

Sunny orange beach with line of footprints and a cliff.

We’ve all heard of carbon footprints, but have you heard of scope 3 footprints? With scope 3 often accounting for most of an organisation’s carbon emissions, measuring, reporting and reducing scope 3 emissions is crucial to a credible sustainability strategy and achieving Net Zero. In this article, we’ll discuss what scope 3 emissions are, their importance, and how to get started within your organisation.

What is scope 3?

Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occur within the value chain of your organisation, including upstream and downstream emissions. Crucially, they give a much more complete picture of environmental impact compared to scope 1 & 2 alone and often represent between 80-95% of your GHG emissions.

The importance of scope 3

Whilst scope 3 is therefore more complex than scope 1 & 2 emissions, understanding scope 3 emissions are important due to the following reasons: 

  • The breadth and depth of scope 3 emissions offer completely new insights and allow you to view your organisation through a different lens. If done in the right way, this provides the opportunity for better commercial decisions based on the demands of stakeholders. 
  • Stakeholders such as suppliers and customers are increasingly asked  about their Net Zero plans. They want to ensure they are working with organisations aligned to their own ambitions. If you don’t know your scope 3 emissions, or have plans in place to reduce them, then there may be an increasing pressure to do so, or risk losing commercial opportunities. 

Scope 3 carbon footprints are an essential part of a Net Zero target and plan. It isn’t possible to achieve Net Zero without scope 3, if we are to align to the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting pre-industrial warming to 1.5 degrees. 

The process of compiling a scope 3 footprint

Compiling a scope 3 carbon footprint is in-depth; however, we recommend breaking the process down into five steps: 

  1. The first step is to conduct a screening exercise. This is to understand what categories of the GHG Protocol are relevant to your organisation and give you an idea of what the most important categories are likely to be.

  2. Assess the quality of data available for each category, what form the data will come in and who to ask. 

  3. Collect the data. This includes both internal data and, if you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need to collate the relevant emission factors for every type of activity under each category. It’s crucial that sources of data, calculations, any assumptions and estimations are documented for an audit trail at this stage. This will not only help you next time around, but you will also be prepared for any third-party verification, and you can easily assess how to improve in the future.  

  4. Use the data to compile a database of carbon records, categorised according to the GHG Protocol. Once again, a robust audit trail is essential so that your work can be checked internally and externally. 

  5. Upon completion of the scope 3 inventory and report, keep the momentum going in your organisation. Full benefits can be achieved when time is permitted which then provides the opportunity to plan reductions in GHG emissions. We recommend starting a data improvement plan for next year immediately. Consider: how can you move from spend-based to actual figures? How can you minimise estimations and is it worth doing? 

Whilst the process of measuring and reporting your scope 3 emissions is ongoing, we hope these steps have made the process less daunting. For further information on scope 3, including a webinar recording and our introductory guide, click below to access your resources. You can also get in touch with our expert team at hello@energise.com, who will be able to answer any questions you may have. 

Written By    Emma Lane

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