Scope 3 Emissions: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses

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In the quest for sustainability, businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of measuring and mitigating their carbon footprint. GHG inventories are a key tool for companies to design their own pathway to sustainability customized to their real operations and activities. It helps you manage what matters.

While Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are relatively straightforward to quantify, Scope 3 emissions present a more nuanced challenge. But it's important not to ignore, because most of a company's emissions (up to 90%) and most high-impact cost-savings opportunities lie in your Scope 3 activities.

Here at Impacti, we've seen the ups and downs of faced by our clients as they tackle Scope 3 emissions. In this article, we share our insights by providnig simple explanations of the different types of Scope 3 emissions that companies may measure and real-world strategies to navigate this critical aspect of sustainability management.

What are Scope 3 Emissions?

Scope 3 emissions encompass indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that occur throughout a company's value chain, beyond its direct control. Basically, it's everything beyond the fuel and energy used to power, heat and cool your own facilities and vehicles. These emissions are associated with what you buy to make your products or services, how you transport those materials to your site, what services you contract, how you travel in flights, taxis and boats, activities such as the extraction and production of purchased materials, transportation and distribution, use of sold products, waste generated, and other upstream and downstream processes.

Understanding and managing Scope 3 emissions is essential for companies committed to achieving comprehensive sustainability goals and minimizing their environmental impact.

Types of Scope 3 Emissions

Here's the quintessential visualisation from the GHG Protocol that shows the 15 different types of Scope 3 emission categories:

WRI/WBCSD Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard

We can group them into five main categories:

  1. Upstream Emissions: These emissions result from activities upstream in the value chain, including the extraction, processing, and transportation of raw materials and inputs used in production. Examples include emissions from the extraction of fossil fuels, deforestation associated with agricultural products, and energy consumed in manufacturing processes.
  2. Downstream Emissions: Downstream emissions occur as a result of product use and end-of-life disposal. This category includes emissions from the use of products by consumers, as well as emissions generated during the disposal, recycling, or treatment of products at the end of their life cycle. Common examples include emissions from energy use in appliances and electronics, as well as emissions from waste disposal in landfills or incineration facilities.
  3. Transportation and Distribution: Emissions from transportation and distribution activities encompass the transportation of goods and services between various stages of the supply chain, including shipping, road transportation, and air travel. These emissions can vary significantly depending on the mode of transportation, distance traveled, and efficiency of logistics operations.
  4. Business Travel: Business travel emissions arise from employee travel for work-related purposes, including flights, train journeys, and commuting. As companies increasingly embrace remote work and virtual meetings, assessing and reducing business travel emissions has become a priority for sustainability efforts.
  5. Value Chain Activities: Other value chain activities, such as outsourcing, subcontracting, and investments, may also contribute to Scope 3 emissions. These emissions can be challenging to quantify but are nonetheless important to consider for a comprehensive understanding of a company's carbon footprint.

Strategies for Managing Scope 3 Emissions

Measuring and managing Scope 3 emissions require a proactive and holistic approach. As a sustainability consultancy, we work closely with businesses to develop tailored strategies for addressing Scope 3 emissions, including:

  1. Supply Chain Engagement: Collaborate with suppliers to promote sustainable practices, reduce emissions, and optimize resource use throughout the supply chain.
  2. Product Lifecycle Assessment: Conduct lifecycle assessments to identify emission hotspots and opportunities for improvement across product lifecycles, from sourcing raw materials to end-of-life disposal.
  3. Transportation Optimization: Implement efficient transportation and distribution strategies, such as route optimization, modal shifts, and use of low-emission vehicles, to minimize emissions associated with logistics operations.
  4. Employee Engagement: Engage employees in sustainability initiatives, promote eco-friendly behaviors, and incentivize alternatives to business travel, such as video conferencing and telecommuting.
  5. Stakeholder Collaboration: Foster partnerships with industry peers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to advocate for policies and practices that support emission reductions and promote sustainable development.


As businesses navigate the complex landscape of sustainability, addressing Scope 3 emissions is essential for achieving meaningful progress towards environmental stewardship and climate resilience. By understanding the different types of Scope 3 emissions and implementing targeted strategies to manage them, companies can enhance their sustainability performance, mitigate risks, and seize opportunities for innovation and growth. As your trusted sustainability partner, we are committed to guiding businesses on their journey towards a more sustainable future, one emission at a time. Still have questions? Contact us at