Net-zero goals – how to determine what’s in and what’s out?

Your business is considering a net-zero commitment or maybe you have just committed to net-zero emissions – so what’s next? An important part of making this commitment or of developing a net zero plan is to work out what this goal will encompass. To ensure that you are setting a credible target and to avoid reputational damage, you should be very clear in your communications what boundary your net-zero goal relates to.

A net-zero goal can relate to your operational emissions only, or it can extend to your supply chain. It could relate to your whole organisation, or only to part of it.

In this article, we will focus on whether you should include scope 3 emission sources.

Should you include scope 3 emission sources?

If you are reporting under compliance-based schemes such as the NGER legislation in Australia, you will probably be aware of your scope 1 and scope 2 carbon footprint.

Please watch the video below for an explainer of scope 1, 2 and scope 3 emission sources.

However, there are many more emission sources that happen upstream and downstream in your supply chain. For many companies, more than 80% of their emissions occur outside of their own operations[1]. So, if you focus your net-zero efforts on your scope 1 and scope 2 carbon footprint only, you will neglect to address the many emission sources you have in your value chain.

Please watch the video below for an explainer of the 15 categories of scope 3 emissions.

Determining which scope 3 emission sources are relevant for you

Not all of the 15 categories of scope 3 emission sources will be relevant for you. The following is a good checklist, which we have adapted from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol:

  1. Is the emission source large relative to your scope 1 and scope 2 emissions?
  2. Does the emission source contribute to your greenhouse gas risk exposure?
  3. Do key stakeholders such as customers or investors deem the emission source critical?
  4. Could you reduce the associated emissions or at least influence emission reduction?

Steps you could take to determine what’s in and out of your scope

The following is a list of suggestions for how you could determine what’s in and out of your net-zero goal:

  1. Have a meeting with key organisational stakeholders to workshop all your emission sources
  2. Discuss whether these emission sources are relevant for your organisation as per the above checklist
  3. If the emission source is relevant, you could consider including it in your net-zero goal

How you could workshop your emission sources

To ensure that no significant scope 3 emissions sources are lost, we recommend that you go through all 15 categories. Here is how we do it at 100% Renewables:

We usually start by showing emissions sources associated with your organisation’s activities. In most cases, this consists of scope 1 and scope 2 emission sources such as the burning of fossil fuel onsite, or the consumption of electricity. Where you operate air conditioning or refrigeration equipment, fugitive emissions from hydrofluorocarbons should also be taken into account.

Scope 1 and scope 2 emissions sources
Figure 1 – Scope 1 and scope 2 emissions sources

Then, we show you upstream and downstream emissions in your value chain, such as shown below.

Figure 2 – Full value chain emissions sources

Usually, category 1 ‘Purchased goods and services’ is a large emissions source – just ask your Finance department for a General Ledger extract of your expenses and you’ll see what we mean.

It is considered best practice to include upstream fuel and energy, and you should assess whether emissions from outsourced transportation and distribution, such as couriers are relevant to you. Every organisation is generating waste, so that should be included as well. Business travel encompasses activities such as air travel and accommodation. Staff commuting is also an important emissions source, particularly if people mostly use cars to get to your place of work.

Where your products generate emissions when they are being used (say you were selling vacuum cleaners), then you should consider the relevance of this emission source as well. If you have investments in joint ventures, subsidiaries or similar that are not accounted for under scope 1 and 2, you could consider also including them in your scope 3 carbon footprint.

[1] * State of Green Business 2013, GreenBiz

If you need help with your net-zero goal, defining the scope or planning to reach net-zero, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

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