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California State House

Scope 3 Emissions Go Prime Time in California


In the United States its often California that leads the country in environmental legislation, including the CAFE standards adopted in 2009. On September 11, 2023, according to the Washington Post, “California lawmakers approve[d] the nation’s most sweeping emissions disclosure rules for big business” – California Senate Bill 253. By “big business” California means companies with a revenue of more than $1 billion. In the U.S., that’s more than 5500 companies (Crunchbase plus Fortune 500). The bill was passed by the California State Assembly, the lower house of the California legislature. To become law the bill needs approval from both the California Senate (the upper house) and the governor.

Many large companies are already on track and reporting their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. What’s different in this legislation is its requirement for these companies to report their indirect emissions – their Scope 3 emissions. Reporting Scope 3 emissions is challenging and potentially a heavy lift for large companies, but the consensus among sustainability leaders is that it is necessary to gain an accurate accounting of global emissions. The consensus is also that “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” which is to say it’s better to get started even if everything can’t be identified initially. The California legislation does not penalize companies that make unintentional mistakes in reporting their Scope 3 emissions.

While opponents to the bill say it is too onerous, tech giant Apple has expressed its support for California’s “climate bill.” Apple’s support is hugely significant in that this support implies that Apple will be held accountable for its supply chain emissions. It’s notable, however, that Apple is already on this path, having set a goal of its entire supply chain being carbon neutral by 2030. That means that all Apple devices will have net zero climate impact. And Apple’s sustainability commitment is inspiring – take a look. For companies not already thinking this way, this legislation needs to serve as a wake-up call. Globally, more required emissions reporting is the agenda.

One upside to buying and using “previously owned” technology equipment is that a huge percentage of the emissions associated with that equipment is attributable to the first owner as part of their Scope 3 accounting. In the case of a laptop, that can be as much as 85%. As organizations find themselves accounting for all the emissions associated with the goods and services they buy, perhaps they’ll find ways to cut their Scope 3 emissions through buying used.

In an effort to forward the movement toward Scope 3 accountability, illumynt can provide the Avoided Scope 3 Emissions associated with finding a new life for the assets we process for our clients. The emissions our clients avoid are also emissions our assets’ new buyers avoid. This indeed is how the circular economy is supposed to work.

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.

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