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Scope 1,2,3 emissions vs Co2 footprint

Colloquially, the Co2 footprint is often equated with Co2 emissions. However, these are two different issues. The Co2 emissions (Scope 1, 2 and 3) refer to the Co2 emissions caused by a company. While the Co2 footprint describes the Co2 emissions of a product/service (from cradle to grave) and is usually based on Scope 3 emissions. The Co2 footprint of a product is usually reported in grams of Co2e. While the Co2 emissions for Scope 1,2 and 3 are usually measured in tonnes of Co2e.

The carbon footprint includes all emissions associated with the production and use of a specific product (from cradle to grave), including emissions from raw materials, production, transport, storage, sale, use and disposal (usually based on Scope 3 emissions).

Example: One litre of Coca-Cola causes 346 grams of carbon dioxide emissions (Co2e) on its way from the farm to the bottler to the refrigerator in the supermarket. That is less than half the 771-gram Co2 footprint left by a mega-roll of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper from the trees to the toilet, according to the environmental organisation Natural Resources Defense Council.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (company-related)

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are defined as follows:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from sources owned by the organisation;
  • Scope 2: Indirect energy-related emissions arising from the generation of electrical power, heating and cooling energy, etc;
  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions occurring outside the organisation (including emissions from upstream and downstream processes).

Example: BASF 2020: In accordance with the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard, BASF reports Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions separately. The listing of Scope 3 emissions is based on the GHG Protocol Scope 3 Standard (Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard).

Scope 1: 16.860 million tonnes of Co2e; Scope 2: 3.279 million tonnes of Co2e; Scope 3: from “Purchased goods and services” 47.8 million tonnes of Co2e


Co2e: CO₂ equivalents indicate the climate impact of the different greenhouse gases.  I.e. the emissions are multiplied by the Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor.

Reporting Co2

Co2 emissions in corporate reporting include the disclosure of direct (Scope 1) GHG emissions and indirect (Scope 2 and 3) GHG emissions – in CO2 equivalents – of the standards adopted by the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and the “GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard”:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • Methane (CH4);
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O);
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs);
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6);
  • Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

GHG emissions are major contributors to climate change and are subject to the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the subsequent United Nations Kyoto Protocol. Some GHGs such as methane (CH4) are also air pollutants that have significant negative impacts on ecosystems, air quality, agriculture and human and animal health. Therefore, various national and international regulations and incentive schemes (such as tradable emission permits) aim to regulate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and reward emission reductions.

For some organisations, the amount of GHG emissions generated outside the organisation or through the use of its products is much greater than the amount of its direct (Scope 1) or indirect energy-related (Scope 2) GHG emissions. By quantifying and publishing its efforts to reduce further indirect (Scope 3) emissions, the organisation can take a lead in the fight against climate change.

Other indirect emissions (Scope 3) are a consequence of the organisation’s activities, but do not come from sources owned or controlled by the organisation. Some examples of activities that cause Scope 3 emissions are: Extraction and production of purchased materials, transport of purchased fuels in vehicles that are neither owned nor controlled by the organisation.

Wrap Up

The calculation of Co2 emissions is a specialised field that requires a longer preparation time to be able to perform accurate calculations. Companies usually focus on Scope 1 and 2 emissions, while Scope 3 emissions are often only reported after a few years in addition to Scope 1 and 2 due to the complexity of measuring emissions from upstream and downstream processes. However, the Sustainable Finance Regulations in Europe include Scope 3 reporting from 2023, onwards. Contact us to measure Co2 emissions and implement them in corporate reporting.

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Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Europe, focusing on top-management consultancy, projectmanagement, corporate reporting and fundingsupport. Dr. Georg Tichy is also trainer, lecturer at university and advisor on current economic issues. Contact me or Book a MeetingView Author posts