The findings of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Synthesis Report again emphasize the importance of taking effective climate action. Organizations play an important role in this respect and should exploit opportunities how to run their business more sustainably. But where to start?
Taking climate action starts with calculating your organization’s Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and setting reduction targets for each. Of these scopes, Scope 3 emissions might be the most complex to measure, but could sum up to more than Scope 1 and 2 combined. This article addresses Scope 3 emissions and the environmental impact of business travel.
But what are Scope 3 emissions and why do they matter?
The Basics: Scope 1, 2 and 3
Let’s start with the basics. To lower emissions, the starting point for companies needs to be calculating those emissions. These are broken down into three levels according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
Scope 1 emissions: these emissions include all direct emissions from the activities of an organization. Examples could include company-owned facilities or vehicles.
Scope 2 emissions: these emissions cover indirect emissions from electricity, steam, heat and cooling purchased and used by the organization.
Scope 3 emissions: these emissions cover all other indirect emissions from activities of the organization, occurring from sources they do not own or control. These can include use of products, business travel, transportation, and distribution. More and more companies are starting to report their Scope 3 emissions due to increasingly rigid reporting requirements.
Business travel typically falls under Scope 3 emissions because it involves activities that are not owned or directly controlled by the company, but have an impact on the company’s carbon footprint. It includes emissions from flights, hotel stays, rental cars and other travel-related activities that employees undertake on behalf of the company.
Why Scope 3 Emissions Matter
Now, let’s talk about Scope 3 emissions. What makes them important and why should companies measure their Scope 3 emissions?
Scope 3 emissions can at times be tenfold those of Scope 1 and 2 combined, making up the majority of businesses’ carbon footprint. By addressing Scope 3 emissions, companies are taking responsibility for the full extent of their activities.
But it does not stop there. Measuring Scope 3 emissions can provide value to organizations beyond GHG emission reduction:
- Identify energy efficiency and cost reduction opportunities.
- Positively engage employees on the company’s journey sustainability journey.
- Enhance reputation and strengthen relationships with customers, investors and other stakeholders.
- Stay ahead of future regulations and compliance requirements.
- Differentiate from competitors.
Having addressed the importance of Scope 3 emissions, let’s talk about how to calculate them.
How to Calculate Scope 3 Emissions?
Scope 3 emissions can be difficult to quantify and calculate due to the number of variables. That’s why we have made a simplified step-by-step guide to get you started:
- Identify all the Scope 3 emission categories, including business travel, employee commuting, waste and more. Clarify descriptions and boundaries of each category.
- Gather relevant data, such as travel distances and modes, and employ emission factors (check out the website of the UK government for more guidance) to convert activities into emissions.
- Sum up these emissions and ensure data accuracy through a verification process.
- Report your findings transparently, recognizing that Scope 3 calculations can be complex due to the variety of activities involved.
It is important to cover all emission categories, but you can start with key categories and expand over time, for example by collaborating with partners for more accurate results.
How to Reduce Scope 3 Emissions from Business Travel?
Now let’s dive into emissions from business travel specifically.
As we all know, air travel plays a crucial role for societies worldwide. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the aviation industries’ contribution to global carbon emissions is projected to rise from 3% today to over 20% by 2050. This figure underscores the urgency of taking measures to tackle emissions from air travel, which is often a common mode of transport for many businesses.
To support your organization in addressing these emissions, we have listed several steps you can take:
- Set targets: as said, the first step is to calculate your carbon footprint from business travel and set measurable and science-based targets. Publicly sharing your vision on sustainability will engage employees and other stakeholders in reaching your targets.
- Fly less: the most effective way to reduce your footprint is simply by flying less. Make this happen by considering the necessity of a trip, encouraging video conferencing and rewarding more sustainable modes of travel.
- Fly smarter: if flying is inevitable, look for smarter and more sustainable ways of flying. Booking direct flights, packing lighter and choosing economy class instead of business class are some of the ways to reduce the footprint of a flight.
- Use Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF): after flying less, SAF is the most effective way to significantly decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions in the foreseeable future.
- Offset: finally, purchasing high quality carbon credits through trusted offsetting programs can compensate your emissions from air travel. While carbon offsets are part of the “mix”, they do not offer a lasting solution. To tackle the problem at the root, we need to fly less and reduce within the sector, rather than compensating elsewhere.
Conclusion: Addressing Business Travel Emissions is Important and Possible
Recognizing the importance of Scope 3 emissions, including business travel, is essential, as they can surpass the impact of Scope 1 and 2 emissions combined. Fortunately, multiple solutions to reduce business travel emissions are available today, including flying less, flying smarter and using Sustainable Aviation Fuel for your next business flight.
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