Scope 1, 2, 3 emissions explained

Calculating your company’s carbon emissions isn’t, arithmetically speaking, too complicated. The challenge, however, is the source of emissions data. To help you in identifying different sources of emissions in your travel business, it helps to think of them in three scopes: Scope 1, 2, and 3.
Scope 1,2,3 emissions_Unsplash_Veeterzy
Written by Team Oncarbon
Carbon management platform for air travel, API-first
April 1, 2022

As an entrepreneur or a travel professional, you have probably encountered lines such as “reducing carbon emissions is a business imperative.” You know that the travel industry is responsible for about 8% of global carbon emissions, and therefore you might already be offering your customers a choice of more sustainable travel options and help them make informed decisions. You may have already thought about communicating the carbon footprint of your products – but to truly understand the impact and challenge of reducing emissions, you need to know where they come from.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol

Knowing the source of emissions is a key objective of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) – a comprehensive global, standardized framework for measuring and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the private and public sectors, value chains and mitigation actions.

The GHG Protocol is the most common GHG accounting standard in the world and it is widely used in companies, organizations, countries, and cities. The latest version was developed in 2016 in a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol divides emissions into three scopes:

Scope 1

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from activities owned or controlled by an organization. They include on-site fossil fuel combustion and the fuel consumption of the vehicles used in the company’s operations.

Examples of scope 1 emissions are:

  • Buildings’ onsite energy use (e.g., space heating)

  • Emissions from the fuel consumed by the vehicles owned and leased by the company

  • Waste

For a travel company, scope 1 can include:

  • Fuel for company vehicles

  • Fuel used for heating or cooling the office

Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions are referred to as indirect emissions that result from the generation of electricity, heating, steam, and cooling, purchased from a utility company. They are a consequence of a company’s activities, but come from sources not owned by the company.

Examples of scope 2 emissions are:

  • Electricity use

  • Heating

  • Air conditioning

Scope 3

Scope 3 emissions are other indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in your company’s value chain. These emissions result from the operations of suppliers, from business travel, capital expenditures, employees' commuting, leased goods and services, and waste disposal.

Examples of scope 3 emissions are:

  • Employee travel and commuting

  • Business travel

  • Purchased goods and services

  • Upstream and downstream transportation & distribution

  • Leased assets

  • Waste generated in operations

  • Investments

What are upstream and downstream activities?

“Upstream activities” refer to what happens to products and services you purchase, before they arrive at your office or facility.

“Downstream activities” include emissions from delivering your products to your customers, like as distributing catalogs to your customer's doorsteps.

Why should you measure scope 3 emissions?

Measuring your scope 3 emissions may seem difficult, but for travel companies, it is often the most crucial step to better level of sustainability. For travel companies that sell third-party products and services – airline and ferry tickets, hotels, packaged tours – scope 3 emissions can account for up to 99% of their total footprint.

Here at Oncarbon, we can help you calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of travel products you sell and equip your customers with a power to make informed travel decisions. Today, over 80% of European passengers would like to get environmental information for flights they take. If you want to join the vanguard of positive change in the industry, contact us. Together we can make a step towards a more sustainable future.

Original cover picture: veeterzy/Unsplash.

Team Oncarbon
We’re on the mission to show you that we need – and we can – travel more consciously. We bring closer to you the topics of carbon footprint, sustainable travel and aviation, and transparency in emissions reporting.