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Scope 3 Emissions and Business Travel: Explained

Climate action needs to be taken now. Between COVID providing an opportunity for a more sustainable return to operations, the recent COP26 event in Glasgow, and the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report bringing urgency to addressing climate change, many corporates are coming to terms with the importance of setting climate targets.

Part of setting climate targets is calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

You might be wondering, ‘’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 corporate companies needs to be calculating those emissions. These are often broken down to three levels, namely Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3, 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. SAF can be used to help corporates reduce their Scope 3 travel emissions. Scope 3 emissions are also the only emissions from the three Scopes that are not required to be reported according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Why Scope 3 Emissions Matter

Now, let’s talk about Scope 3 emissions. What makes them important?

Scope 3 emissions can at times be tenfold those of Scope 1 and 2 combined, making up the majority of businesses’ carbon footprint. By including Scope 3 emissions in their calculations, companies are taking responsibility for the full extent of their activities.

However, Scope 3 emissions can be difficult to quantify and calculate due to the number of variables. But with the right strategy and target setting, addressing these emissions can contribute to climate goals and create an additional push towards cleaner supply chains.

Measuring Scope 3 emissions can provide value to your organization beyond GHG emission reduction. Monitoring indirect GHG emissions and carbon reduction opportunities from the organization’s activities can even:

  • Identify energy efficiency and cost reduction opportunities.
  • Positively engage employees on the company’s journey sustainability journey.
Looking at Business Travel and Scope 3 Emissions

With travel restrictions lifting, this last benefit becomes important, following a rising interest in a sustainable return to business travel. The dramatic decline in business travel in 2020, due to COVID, has allowed many companies to re-assess their business travel practices. According to Deloitte, in the past five years, there has been a steady growth in companies interested in finding ways to decrease their business travel-related emissions. This has only spiked in 2021, with business travel set to grow even more, which means addressing these emissions will be more important.

Ways to address business travel-related emissions are by flying less, directly reducing emissions by flying on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) or purchasing carbon credits through trusted carbon offsetting programs.

So, if companies want to set effective net zero targets, they need to include Scope 3 emissions and SAF is there to help reduce these scope 3 emissions. Climate targets are becoming more stringent as addressing climate change becomes more urgent. Plus, in order to be approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), organizations must set Scope 3 targets to be classed as 1.5C compatible and reach a zero-carbon target.

Want to know more about how you can cut down on your business travel-related emissions? Check out How To Reduce Your Business Travel Emissions.