Action Guide

Measure and Prioritize Scope 3 Emissions in Agriculture 

Environmental Defense Fund

Measuring and prioritizing Scope 3 emissions in agriculture is a crucial step towards reducing the environmental impact of your supply chain. By using tools to measure emissions and developing effective strategies for reducing agriculture emissions, your company can have a positive impact on the agricultural systems they source from as they weather the impacts of climate change.

Measuring Scope 3 emissions provides you with a better understanding of your environmental impact, including the indirect Scope 3 agricultural emissions generated through your business’s activities. It also helps you identify areas where you can make the most significant emissions reductions, helping you to prioritize your sustainability efforts to create the largest impact. By assessing your agricultural Scope 3 emissions, you can measure your supply chain impact and work to reduce relevant emissions below an established baseline. 

Measure Scope 3 Emissions in Agriculture 

Measuring Scope 3 emissions in agriculture can be complex. A few strategies you can follow to help effectively measure your Scope 3 agricultural emissions include: 

  1. Define your data collection strategy: Deciding on the calculator/methodology you will use to assess Scope 3 emissions in agriculture will help you prioritize data collection and make sure you collect the right data. Think through all potential use cases of this data to make sure you collect the right variables. This is an important first step so that you minimize the data collection burden on your agricultural partners. You should also determine how you will collect consistent data from across your value chain and how you will manage this data.  Also consider the different categories agricultural emissions may fall under and their relevance. According to the CDP, some of the most important and relevant categories in the agricultural sector are purchased goods and services, processing of sold products, and use of sold products.1  
  2. Collect data from your supply chain: This may include collecting information on land use and management practices, fertilizer and manure use, livestock populations and management, and energy use. Collecting this information can be burdensome, but by understanding the scope of impact of the supply chain, a company can determine the right investments to make to help ensure long term production of agricultural products needed to develop consumer packaged goods.  
  3. Determine your Scope 3 emissions in agriculture: Once you have collected all the necessary data, there are a number of ways you can use this information to calculate your Scope 3 emissions in agriculture. You can use a Scope 3 emissions calculator such as the GHG Protocol’s Scope 3 evaluator tool to estimate your emissions. Other tools you could consider include the Cool Farm Tool, which is a free online calculator that helps farmers and growers measure and reduce their carbon footprint, or the Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator, which helps farmers measure the environmental impact of their crop production. In addition to these tools, you can work with your local land grant university and the USDA NRCS to better understand and reduce your Scope 3 emissions in agriculture.  
  4. Improve and expand emissions estimates over time: Over time, your company should try to improve and expand your emissions estimates by using more  primary data sources and more specific calculation methods to assess accuracy. It is important to maintain consistency in your calculation methods for year-over-year comparison, so you may need to make historical adjustments if you make any changes. You can also estimate relevant categories that initially lacked readily available data as you estimate your emissions.   
Danone’s supply chain is complex and global: its milk is sourced directly from 120,000 suppliers, many of which are subsistence farms with fewer than ten cows. Danone has used the Cool Farm Tool to measure the emissions impact of its dairy farms. To generate emissions estimates from its global suppliers, the company developed a framework of representative farms across the globe that are monitored daily and extrapolates data from these farms to similar ones. While recognizing the importance of collecting high-quality data, Danone also sees the importance of identifying which farming practices drive the most improvement in soil carbon sequestration. Instead of striving for exhaustive data collection, which can be costly and overwhelming, Danone’s proxy assessment is more feasible and cost-efficient. The data on soil quality and degradation Danone collects is now quite precise. Though it may not be comprehensive, using a proxy assessment with representative farms is sufficient for Danone to develop strong models to assess the correlation between change in farm practices and soil conditions.2

Agriculture is a complex system with multiple inputs, outputs, and processes, making it difficult to capture all the emissions associated with different activities. Some challenges you may face in measuring your Scope 3 agricultural emissions include: 

  1. Agricultural activities are highly location-specific, and emissions can vary greatly depending on factors such as soil type, crop and livestock system, climate, and management practices 
  2. Many agricultural emissions occur from indirect sources, such as the production of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides 
  3. Many farmers may not have the resources or time to accurately measure and report on their emissions 
  4. Scope 3 agricultural emissions are not only upstream, but could also stem from the distribution of the final product to the consumer downstream 
  5. Emissions from activities such as burning crop residues or using tractors and other machinery can vary significantly depending on the time of year, making it essential to capture emissions data over an extended period to account for seasonal variations. 

Prioritize Scope 3 Emissions Reductions in Agriculture

To prioritize Scope 3 emissions reductions, you should analyze the impact of each emission category on your organization’s total GHG inventory and identify the most significant sources of emissions. How you prioritize emissions reduction interventions will vary depending on your organization’s goals, values, and available resources. 

One approach is to focus on emissions categories with the largest impact on your organization’s GHG emissions. For example, if the use of fertilizers and pesticides in your agricultural supply chain is a significant source of emissions, you may want to focus on reducing emissions in this category. Another approach is to prioritize categories that are most relevant to your organization’s sustainability goals. For example, if your organization’s goal is to reduce water usage, you may want to prioritize interventions related to irrigation practices. 

You will need to consider the feasibility and tradeoffs of your emissions reduction interventions when setting your priorities. Considering not just the feasibility, but associated costs and resulting emissions reductions will help you make a decision on which strategies to pursue. Some types of emissions may be easier to address than others, depending on factors like the availability of technology, funding, and stakeholder engagement and support. 

In addition, it is important to consider the potential co-benefits of emissions reduction strategies in a particular category. For example, an intervention that reduces emissions from transportation may also improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion, leading to a healthier and more livable community. You can prioritize categories where reduction strategies have greater positive outcomes, including co-benefits.  

Ultimately, the prioritization process should be informed by a thorough understanding of your organization’s supply chain and goals, as well as the potential impact of emissions reduction strategies. By setting priorities based on the most significant sources of emissions, you can allocate resources effectively and achieve meaningful progress towards your sustainability goals.


  1. CDP Technical Note: Relevance of Scope 3 Categories by Sector 
  2. SBTi | Best Practices in Scope 3 GHG Management

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