What are Scope 1 emissions?

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Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources. In other words, they are emissions released into the atmosphere directly resulting from a set of activities.

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources. In other words, they are emissions released into the atmosphere directly resulting from a set of activities.

Examples can be on-site combustion, organisation-owned fossil-fuel power plants, or the emissions from the company fleet.

Although Scope 1 often accounts for the smallest amount of greenhouse gas emissions a company emits, it is also the scope most directly under a business’s control. Understanding where Scope 1 emissions originate can offer a clear starting point for decarbonisation. 

What are emissions ‘scopes’?

Before we dive more deeply into Scope 1, it is important to understand what we mean by scopes. In 2001, the GHG Protocol’s guidelines categorised business greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions. These scopes define where within the wider supply chain that emissions occur. Meanwhile, the guidelines were created to give businesses a framework to measure, track, and reduce their emissions. The graph below explains the various three scopes and their respective emissions sources:

An overview of scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions.
Scopes 1, 2 & 3 emissions.
Credit: Plan A based on the GHG Protocol

What are Scope 1 emissions?

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources. In other words, they are emissions that are released into the atmosphere on-site as a direct result of a set of activities at a firm level. 

According to the GHG Protocol, Scope 1 emissions consist of the following four categories:

Stationary combustion

Stationary combustion covers emissions released from the direct burning of fossil fuels to power heat sources (e.g. a gas-powered water heater) or stationary combustion engines.

Mobile combustion

Mobile combustion covers emissions released from all vehicles owned or controlled by a firm (e.g. cars, vans, trucks). However, only vehicles running on fossil fuels (gas or diesel) fall under Scope 1. The increasing use of “electric” vehicles (EVs) means that some of the organisation’s fleets could fall into Scope 2 emissions.

Fugitive emissions

Fugitive emissions are leaks from greenhouse gases (e.g. refrigeration, air conditioning units). It is important to note that refrigerant gases can be anywhere from one hundred to ten thousand times more dangerous than CO2 emissions. Companies are strongly encouraged to report these emissions. 

Process emissions

Process emissions are those released during industrial processes and on-site manufacturing (e.g. production of CO2 during cement manufacturing, factory fumes, chemicals).

Whether a business’ Scope 1 emissions reflect a small or large portion of their total corporate carbon footprint (CCF), taking action to reduce such emissions plays a significant role in reducing harmful emissions associated with refrigeration, air conditioning, fire suppression and industrial gases. These emissions are often composed of synthetic gases with greenhouse warming potentials much higher than carbon dioxide

How does Scope 1 vary from business to business?

Not all Scope 1 emissions are equal, as different companies have different operational emissions. For the majority of companies, decarbonising across Scope 1 will mean ensuring their office space is energy efficient, is well insulated, and heating and cooling valves and pipes are not leaking and are in optimal condition. It could also mean transitioning from fossil fuel to an electric vehicle fleet. For such companies, the majority of emissions are happening in their Scope 3 emissions, which can often account for over 90% of greenhouse gas emissions

However, for some companies, the majority of their emissions are indeed Scope 1. For instance, a manufacturing company within the building or material transformation sector that is producing steel will be producing most of its emissions on-site. For these kinds of businesses, Scope 1 decarbonisation will require innovation, new technologies, and a deep commitment to new ways of doing business. 

How do Scope 1 differ from Scope 2 and 3 emissions?

While Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources across four categories - stationary combustion, mobile combustion, fugitive emissions and process emissions, Scopes 2 and 3 consist of emissions created across the wider business value chain. 

Scope 2 emissions are owned, indirect emissions. Scope 2 emissions generated from purchased energy - from a utility provider. In other words, all GHG emissions released in the atmosphere, from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling.

Scope 3 are not owned, indirect emissions that are not included in Scope 2. These emissions occur in the value chain of the reporting company and include both upstream and downstream emissions. In other words, emissions are linked to the company's operations. According to GHG protocol, Scope 3 emissions are separated into 15 categories.

For a comprehensive guide to scopes 1, 2 & 3 emissions, read here.

Why should businesses measure and reduce scope 1 emissions?

There are clear financial and non-financial advantages to measuring and reducing Scope 1 emissions. Not only are businesses save money by reducing inefficiencies, but also are able to ensure compliance with new sustainability rules and regulations, avoid immense costs associated with carbon taxes, and appear more attractive to internal and external stakeholders, employees, and consumers. 

More specifically, businesses who measure and reduce Scope 1 emissions are able to achieve the following.

Energy efficiency and waste reduction

Organisations that prioritise sustainability through tracking and measuring their carbon emissions will be able to identify areas with excessive energy usage and waste. The identification of such bottlenecks via technology such as sustainability software allows businesses to implement actions to drastically reduce their energy consumption, water usage and waste; thus significantly reducing their internal costs.

Compliance with ESG regulations

Businesses that do not prioritise sustainability expose themselves to immense non-compliance risk. The financial consequences of non-compliance with sustainability and ESG regulations can be severe, with OECD findings stating that fines and penalties, on average, cost $2 million. As such, businesses must ensure they are up-to-date with the latest ESG, sustainability and reporting requirements to mitigate the harmful risks of non-compliance.

Improved employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement

In line with the increased value that employees are placing upon sustainability, ensuring that sustainability is a strategic focus is key to reaping the benefits of improved employee attraction, satisfaction, retention and engagement. Businesses that implemented a sustainability strategy were found to achieve an increase in employee satisfaction, productivity, retention and engagement, with Verizon research finding up to a 13% increase in employee productivity.

Increased stakeholder trust

Harvard Business Review found that for a 15-year period, sustainability programs on average have increased shareholder value by $1.28 billion. As such, prioritising sustainability is a fundamental step for any business looking to leverage the opportunity of increased trust among internal and external stakeholders.

Increase in brand value

The implementation of effective ESG & sustainability programs was found by Nielsen to have enabled companies to see up to a 60% increase in customer commitment. Meanwhile, sustainable product sales have grown four times more than conventional product growth since 2014. Therefore, as consumers are increasingly looking to support sustainable businesses, making sustainability a strategic priority is vital for businesses wishing to see an increase in brand value. 

Enhanced competitiveness

MDPI research found that acting on corporate sustainability holds a positive correlation with long-term financial performance and ROI. Sustainability is vital for businesses wishing to reap the long-term financial and non-financial benefits associated with enhanced competitiveness.

Best options to reduce Scope 1 emissions

Scope 1 is the first place to look when seeking out decarbonisation strategies. The solutions tend to be in-house and there are usually clear and well-defined changes that companies can make to reduce emissions. Scope 1 is also the scope most under a business’s control and therefore, understanding it can offer a clear start to decarbonisation. As such, when committing to sustainability, Scope 1 is a natural starting place for many businesses.

The most exciting aspect of Scope 1 is that companies can take immediate and tangible actions today to lower this set of emissions. Why? Because, unlike Scope 3 emissions that fall either up or downstream along the supply chain, the actions needed to decarbonise Scope 1 fall within the jurisdiction of the company itself, and the solutions tend to be in-house and there are usually clear and well-defined changes that companies can make to reduce emissions. Therefore, lowering Scope 1 is immediately actionable and creates an immediate impact. Scope 1 is the first place businesses focus on when seeking out decarbonisation strategies.

The three key tenets for reducing Scope 1 emissions include:

  • Optimise: Whether it is manufacturing or a service sector, optimising the amount of fuel consumed to get work done reduces emissions substantially. Depending on the type of Industry, the reduction potential is at least 20%
  • Electrify: Replacing traditional fossil fuels by electrifying them enables us to reduce Scope 1 emissions completely.
  • Decarbonise: Shifting to 100% renewable energy for all operations reduces emissions in purchased electricity.

Some specific ways to lower Scope 1 emissions could include:

  • Switching to energy-efficient appliances
  • Turning down the thermostat in winter
  • Insulating your office
  • Proper maintenance of your gas heater or heat pump 
  • Switching the company fleet from combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles
  • Checking AC and refrigeration units for leaky valves or pipes
  • Replacing inefficient appliances

Scope 1 emission is often the first set of emissions a company uses to measure, reduce and report greenhouse gas emissions on. This is because businesses have full oversight and control over emission sources, as everyday decisions within a business can impact Scope 1.

Plan A has powerful decarbonisation tools to measure, track and reduce your emissions across scopes 1, 2 and 3. If you are interested in getting an initial assessment of your carbon footprint, try out our free carbon scanner

Use a software to manage your scope 1 emissions

As found within a SAP Insights survey, under one-third of mid-market executives are completely satisfied with the quality of data at their disposal to drive sustainable transformation. At the same time, this survey reported that 86% of organisations still use spreadsheets to measure emissions data. Accordingly, it is clear that a large proportion of businesses are caught-up using inefficient spreadsheets to collect, track and analyse their scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions.

However, an increasing number of businesses are leveraging the power of carbon accounting software to maximise the accuracy and reliability of data, along with the overall efficiency of carbon accounting and sustainability oriented processes. Carbon accounting software allows companies to streamline and automate their carbon accounting, with comprehensive sustainability softwares enabling businesses their entire decarbonisation journey on a single platform. 

Plan A is the industry leading provider of corporate carbon accounting, decarbonisation, and ESG reporting software. The green-tech pioneer hosts a data-driven SaaS platform that combines cutting-edge technologies and the latest scientific standards and methodologies (certified by TÜV Rheinland and GHG Protocol compliant) that allows businesses to efficiently and effectively collect data, measure emissions, and reduce their carbon footprint.

Using carbon accounting software to manage scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions
Gain a detailed understanding of your scopes 1, 2 & 3 emissions using Plan A's leading sustainability software.

The end-to-end software solution automates CO2 emissions calculation, carbon reduction planning, as well as regulation and audit-proof ESG reporting, empowering businesses to manage their entire net-zero journey in one platform. Subsequently, Plan A provides end-to-end carbon analysis that allows businesses to efficiently measure, and reduce scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, decarbonise operations and value chains, comply with ESG regulations, and communicate performance to internal and external stakeholders. Additionally, Plan A boasts an in-house team of experts in sustainability, carbon accounting, decarbonisation, policy, and customer success, ensuring the sustainability journey of their clients is seamless.

If your business is ready to measure, track, and reduce across your supply chain, reach out to Plan A to book a demo today.

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