Skip to content

Determining Scope 3 Emissions: Collaboration is Key


For a while now, we’ve been talking about Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions. They are the measuring methodology that allows organizations to quantify their emissions and take tangible actions to reduce them. As we’ve talked about, both Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are under the direct control of an organization. An organization can, for example, move from natural gas, coal or oil heating to electric heat, thus reducing Scope 1 emissions. Organizations can choose to source their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind, reducing the emissions associated with electricity generated from non-renewable resources such as coal, thereby reducing their Scope 2 emissions.

Getting to Scope 3 accounting is proving to be gnarly. By definition, Scope 3 emissions are outside the direct control of the organization consuming the products and services. What’s an organization to do? The answers lie in partnerships and collaboration.

A proven strategy in the furthering of sustainability goals has been that large sustainability-inclined organizations put pressure on their suppliers to make their products and services more sustainable. For example, they may demand that certain toxic chemicals be eliminated from products, or that packaging comply with specific guidance, or that the supplier organization itself show progress in its own sustainability journey.

But quantifying Scope 3 emissions may not yield itself so easily to the same kind of demands. This is because quantifying Scope 3 emissions relies on other organization’s data – data that may simply not exist. And the smaller the supplier, the less likely that such data is available.

Certain kinds of Scope 3 emissions may be easier to estimate. For example, emissions associated with business travel, where miles traveled and mode of transportation are known. However, how do you calculate the emissions associated with the goods you purchase? In theory, one would need to know the embedded emissions associated with the product as well as the emissions associated with its distribution and ultimate disposal. Determining the Scope 3 emissions associated with everything an organization consumes is a daunting task.

Yet, to get a clear picture of the GhG emissions the world is generating, and then in turn, trying to reduce them, quantifying Scope 3 emissions is necessary. According to Deloitte, Scope 3 emissions may represent as much as 70% of the emissions attributable to an organization. Said another way, without Scope 3, accounting for only Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions could be off by orders of magnitude.

One kind of data that is integral to quantifying the emissions associated with a given product is the lifecycle assessment that we have talked about in earlier blogs. Not all organizations are pursuing this methodology, but its growing adoption is helping organizations to both help make their products more sustainable and to help them choose more sustainable products.

In trying to help our customers quantify the Scope 3 emissions that they can avoid by giving their technology assets a new life, illumynt has embedded a Scope 3 emissions calculator into our customer portal. We envision refining the calculator over time as more lifecycle data becomes available and as newer assets find their way to illumynt. In the ongoing quest to better quantify the Scope 3 emissions associated with technology, illumynt welcomes all LCA data associated with the kinds of technology we process.

Be sure to read my continuing blog series as I discuss all things related to sustainable electronics.


Carol Baroudi has been focused on sustainable electronics for more than 15 years and is recognized for her prominent work as lead author for Green IT for Dummies. Carol is a contributing guest blogger for illumynt and consulting to support new sustainability initiatives.

Reach out to get started