Action Guide

Measure and Map Scope 3 Emissions

Environmental Defense Fund

Measuring and mapping Scope 3 emissions can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is crucial for gaining a complete understanding of your company’s carbon footprint and identifying areas for improvement. By measuring and mapping Scope 3 emissions, as well as other associated ESG issues such as human rights across your supply chain, your company will be positioned to create a holistic sustainable strategy.

Measuring Scope 3 emissions is essential because it provides a complete understanding of the carbon footprint of a company, which you can then use to develop a reduction strategy. By understanding your carbon footprint along the entire value chain, you can target emissions hotspots, comply with regulations and standards, and identify opportunities for innovation and growth. In addition, measuring and mapping your Scope 3 emissions can help bring to light additional factors, such as human rights, that are important to consider across your supply chain as you develop a reduction strategy.

Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions associated with a company’s products or services. These emissions occur because of your company’s activities, but they are not owned or controlled by the company. Examples include the extraction and production of raw materials, transportation, and disposal of products.

Image source: EPA

How to Measure and Map Scope 3 Emissions

Below are some details on how to measure and map Scope 3 emissions. Tools and frameworks available in the Resources section can also assist you with measuring your company’s Scope 3 emissions.

  1. Identify relevant categories: The first step is to identify the categories of Scope 3 emissions that are relevant to your business. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol outlines 15 categories and 7 criteria to determine relevance, but not all categories will be relevant to every business. For instance, if you are a service-based company, you may not have emissions associated with the use of sold products. Beyond referencing the GHG Protocol’s Scope 3 calculation guidance, you can use Scope 3 screening tools such as the Scope 3 Evaluator Tool or rely on expert advisors to help you identify the most relevant categories for your business.  It is essential to understand which categories are relevant to your company and focus your efforts accordingly.
  2. Collect data: Once you have identified the relevant categories of emissions, you will need to collect data from your suppliers, industry benchmarks, and other sources. Data collection can be challenging, as you will likely need to work with multiple suppliers to gather the necessary information, such as the type and quantity of GHG emissions For example, you will want to ask your suppliers about their Scopes 1, 2, and 3 data. You can make data collection easier by creating a questionnaire, or using GHG management software to standardize input. Establish a clear and transparent data collection process to ensure that you are getting accurate and reliable data. Work with your suppliers to help them understand the process and what information you need from them. Establishing a strong relationship with suppliers during this phase can help later on when you work with your suppliers to change practices and reduce emissions.
  3. Calculate and map emissions: After collecting the necessary data, you will need to calculate the emissions associated with each category. This can be done using various methods, which the Greenhouse Gas Protocol describes in detail.  In general, you should balance the effort required to calculate emissions with the magnitude of those emissions. For example, you may use more intensive calculation methods for emissions related to your core operations, while a less intensive method may be sufficient to understand less significant emissions for your business.  To improve the accuracy of your company’s GHG inventory for Scope 3, you can follow an iterative approach by gathering more specific and precise data for emission hotspots. Many companies new to assessing their Scope 3 emissions start by using spend data, but by digging deeper into emission hotspots you can uncover more nuance and make more informed decisions about how to reduce your company’s emissions.

Once you have mapped your emissions against your company’s supply chain, you can use this information to report and disclose your Scope 3 emissions. You can also use this as you identify emissions reduction opportunities to help meet your sustainability targets.

Other ESG Issues

You should also consider other ESG issues present in your supply chain as you measure and map your Scope 3 emissions. This includes a number of environmental and social impacts such as pollution, biodiversity, water quality, human rights, and community engagement. As you work to better understand your supply chain and its effects on the environment, you have an opportunity to design solutions that create multiple benefits.

If you find that your supply chain touches down in places with weak labor laws and unsafe working conditions, your company should work to ensure that your supply chain is free from labor abuses. This can be achieved through audits and partnerships with suppliers to improve working conditions.  You can also use tools like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for guidance on how to respect and support human rights.