Understanding Scope 3 GHG Emissions: A Bakery’s Journey from Cradle to Grave

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions part of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, are a central focus of environmental sustainability efforts, particularly for businesses striving to reduce their carbon footprints. GHG emissions are categorized into three scopes by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used international accounting tool.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling, and Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain. Scope 3 emissions are often the most extensive and the least understood, especially regarding their calculation and implications for sustainability.


The Concept of Shared Emissions

One common misconception about Scope 3 emissions is that they involve double counting of emissions. However, these are better understood as shared emissions along a supply chain. Each entity in the supply chain accounts for its own direct emissions and the indirect emissions relevant to its activities, but Scope 3 allows companies to consider the full impact of their operations, from the production of raw materials to the disposal of their products.


A Bakery’s Scope 3 Emissions

Consider a bakery that specializes in cakes, which sells directly to customers and uses a van for larger deliveries. To fully account for its environmental impact, the bakery must look beyond its direct operations (Scope 1) and the electricity it purchases (Scope 2), delving deep into its supply chain.


1. Raw Material Acquisition

The bakery needs to account for the emissions involved in growing ingredients like wheat and sugar, and in producing eggs and dairy products. This includes the emissions from agricultural activities, processing raw materials into usable forms, and transporting these ingredients to the bakery.


2. Manufacturing Processes

The equipment used in a bakery, such as ovens and mixers, involves significant emissions from their manufacture. This includes the extraction and processing of metals and other materials, the actual manufacturing processes, and the transportation of this equipment to the bakery.


3. Energy Production

If the bakery uses renewable energy, such as from a windfarm, Scope 3 also include the construction of these energy sources, including the extraction of necessary raw materials, construction of the facility, and connection of the energy source to the local grid.


4. Transportation

The bakery’s delivery van, whether it uses diesel or another form of energy, embodies emissions from the extraction of crude oil or other raw materials, refining them into fuel, manufacturing the vehicle, and the eventual operations of delivering cakes to customers.


5. End-of-Life

Finally, Scope 3 emissions include the disposal of the bakery’s products and packaging. This involves considerations on how the packaging is discarded by customers and the decomposition or recycling processes involved.


The Mega-Business Perspective

The bakery, in considering its Scope 3 emissions, must adopt a perspective akin to operating as a “mega-business” that is responsible for every aspect of its operations, from the cradle to the grave. This comprehensive approach allows the bakery to fully understand and take responsibility for its environmental impact, even for activities not directly under its control.

By managing and reducing these Scope 3 emissions, businesses can significantly enhance their overall sustainability efforts, while also potentially driving improvements in the environmental practices of their suppliers and partners. It encourages a more holistic view of a product’s environmental footprint and fosters collaboration along the supply chain to reduce total emissions, making it an essential tool for businesses serious about sustainability.


In Conclusion

Scope 3 emissions are not about double counting but recognizing and addressing the shared environmental responsibilities that extend beyond a company’s immediate operations. This understanding enables businesses to implement more effective and comprehensive sustainability strategies.


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