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Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Introductory Overview of Scope 1, 2, and 3

Reducing Greenhouse gas emissions: the biggest environmental challenge right now

Organisations are keen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for obvious environmental reasons. However, there are regulatory requirements for a growing number of firms to report on environmental impact, which includes the reporting of Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG). These regulations are increasing rapidly and will require reporting on GHG Scopes by all commercial enterprises. We hope that our iGHG scopes overview article will explain the foundations of the concept.

Measuring an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions is complex, and finding effective and least harmful methods to reduce them can be complicated. For example, a UK manufacturing company could reduce their emissions by shutting down their plant and buying from a foreign manufacturer. This may be more efficient at the manufacturing point, but factoring in the product life cycle emissions from cradle to grave, the overall impact may be worse environmentally and economically.

So to best get a representation of how these emissions are produced, they have been divided in to three categories, or scopes.

Source: WRI/WBCSD Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard (PDF), page 5.

Scope 1

Emissions are the emissions made directly by the company. For example, this would include vehicle emissions for a transport company, or on-site emissions from gas boilers or other polluting equipment. These are the Greenhouse Gasses that the reporting company is actually producing themselves in carrying out their business.

Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions are greenhouse emissions caused by generating the power used by the company. So a “clean” organisation producing no pollutants themselves are still held accountable for the emissions generated by the local power station. This will of course depend on the fuel source of the power generated  – renewables are generally not reportable, which is a huge encouragement for companies to go renewable.

Scope 3

Scope 3 gets a little harder to define, as this is ALL the indirect emissions caused by the company. This can include emissions caused by employee commuting, purchased good or services, even the waste materials generated on site and their subsequent disposal.

Scope 3 also includes “downstream” emissions, such as the cost of shipping a company’s products to the end user, the emissions generated by their use, and the end of life treatment of sold products.

Measuring all of these scopes of emissions can be complex and difficult. For this reason, the EPA and various other bodies have defined how these emissions are to be measured. Without actually sitting above your building and measuring all the gasses that come out of it, these measurements are based on metrics and measurements based on the equipment running and the activities being conducted by the company. This means that the only way to get reliable information as per the required reporting regulations is to have a detailed knowledge of everything that is happening.

This enforced reporting isn’t just a burden. The required measurements required by companies adhering to these standards will allow many companies to find and address where energy is being wasted, saving money and resources for the company and improving environmental conditions. GHG emissions are no longer simply about reducing energy. It is now key to understand everything going on within a facility to maximise operational efficiency. Measuring energy use can be done at a granular level with Pressac’s Current Sensors, but it is necessary to know how and why energy and resources are being used.

Occupancy sensors can determine not only which areas of a facility are in use, but when combined with targeted energy sensors and environmental sensors, also how and why areas or resources are being used. Simple dashboards can help you to see what is going on, but reporting tools can also tell you where improvements are to be made, and the whole system working together can generate much of the information required for the reporting standards.

Smart buildings were, until recently, a luxury for those wishing to save energy and increase the efficiency of their facilities. Before long, they will be a requirement for the environmental reporting standards to be properly followed.


What are greenhouse gas emissions?

The main greenhouse gases are:

  • carbon dioxide,
  • methane,
  • nitrous oxide, and
  • the fluorinated gases (used in refrigerators and air conditioners).

When these gases are released into the atmosphere, they trap heat and impact climate.

Global warming is caused by human activities, specifically the increase of emissions from burning fossil fuels. These fuels are burned for energy to heat homes, power cars, cook food and operate industries.


Chris Green

A customer-facing Technical Support Engineer, passionate about delivering innovative solutions to complex problems through the use of IoT. With nearly two decades of experience in the electronics industry, Chris has developed a customer-first approach and his product expertise, combined with his sense of humour makes him a well-respected authority on intelligent workplaces.

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