Carbon Accounting Essentials
GHG Protocol Fundamentals

Scopes 1, 2, and 3

May 28, 2024
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Scopes 1, 2, and 3

The GHG Protocol categorizes emissions across three scopes to categorize different types of activities that generate emissions.

But before going further, let's pause for a minute to understand the difference between direct and indirect emissions.

Direct Emissions

Direct emissions are emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the reporting company. These are also known as scope 1 emissions.

Indirect Emissions

Indirect emissions are produced as a result of the reporting company’s activities, but occur at sources owned or controlled by another entity.

The GHG Protocol further categorizes direct and indirect emissions across three scopes to categorize different types of activities that generate GHG emissions.

Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 emissions include direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the company. As a result, organizations have full transparency and access to track down emissions sources and their related data.


Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 emissions are the indirect emissions generated from purchased energy. Purchased energy is defined as its own category, due to the relative degree of control companies have over their energy use despite the emissions being indirect.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are often simpler to measure than scope 3.


Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions is a catchall category that includes all other indirect emissions (that are not included in scope 2) that occur throughout the value chain of the reporting company. Scope 3 emissions are especially difficult to measure due to challenges in obtaining activity data from complex supply chains. For example, there may be multiple tiers of suppliers upstream and customer use-patterns for products can be difficult to predict.


By leveraging guidance from the GHG Protocol and engaging stakeholders, companies can see the full impact of their value chain. This information enables them to make strategic decisions such as what materials to use and how they can improve their product efficiency. These informed decisions allow companies to save money and reduce business risks.

We will dig into the details of scopes 1, 2, and 3 in a separate module that follows later in this series.

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