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What are the 15 Scope 3 categories?

The Scope 3 categories

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol – which provides the most widely recognised accounting standards for greenhouse gases (GHGs) – categorises emissions into three ‘scopes’.

Scopes of GHG emissions

Scope 3 refers to emissions that are associated with an organisation's activities but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organisation.

These emissions are considered indirect emissions and encompass a wide range of sources, making Scope 3 emissions one of the most challenging aspects of carbon accounting and reporting.

In all, Scope 3 spans 15 categories, broken down into upstream and downstream emissions. Depending on your industry and business operations, different categories make up different proportions of your overall footprint.

Category 1: Purchased goods and services

Emissions generated by producing the products a company purchased or acquired. Products include both goods (tangible products) and services (intangible products).


  • Production-related products including materials, fresh ingredients, components and parts

  • Non-production-related products including office furniture, office supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Services including accounting services, cloud storage and IT support

Category 2: Capital goods

Emissions from capital goods purchased or acquired. This category only includes emissions that occur from making the goods – not those from using them.


  • Equipment

  • Machinery

  • Buildings, facilities

  • Vehicles

Category 3: Fuel and energy-related activities (not included in Scope 1 or 2)

Emissions from the extraction, production and transportation of fossil fuels and energy consumed by the organisation but occurring off-site.


  • The extraction, production and transportation of coal, fuels, natural gas or biofuels

  • Losses from transmitting and distributing that happen when generating electricity, steam, heating and cooling

Category 4: Upstream transportation and distribution

Emissions from the transport and distribution of products you’ve bought in the reporting year, between your direct (tier 1) suppliers and your own operations in vehicles not owned or operated by your organisation.


  • Air transport

  • Rail transport

  • Road transport

  • Marine transport

  • Storing purchased products in warehouses, distribution centres and retail facilities

Category 5: Waste generated in operations

Emissions from the disposal and treatment of waste generated during the organisation's operations.


  • Disposal in a landfill

  • Recovery for recycling

  • Incineration

  • Composting

  • Wastewater treatment

Category 6: Business travel

Emissions from the transport of employees for business-related activities during the reporting year (in vehicles not owned or operated by the reporting company).


  • Air, rail, bus travel

  • Car travel in rental cars or employee-owned cars (other than commuting)

  • Business travellers staying in hotels

Category 7: Employee commuting

Emissions from the transport of employees between their homes and their worksites during the reporting year (in vehicles not owned or operated by the reporting company).

Category 8: Upstream leased assets

Emissions from operating assets your organisation leases that are not already included in your Scope 1 or Scope 2 inventories. This category is only relevant to companies that operate leased assets.


  • Leased office buildings

  • Leased vehicles

Category 9: Downstream transportation and distribution

Emissions that occur from transportation and distribution of sold products in vehicles and facilities not owned or controlled by the company. This category also includes emissions from retail and storage. Examples:

  • Warehouses and distribution centres

  • Retail facilities

  • Air transport

  • Rail transport

  • Road transport

  • Marine transport

Category 10: Processing of sold products

Emissions from processing your intermediate products by third parties, such as manufacturers, that your organisation has sold.

Intermediate products are those that need more processing or need to be included in another product before an end consumer can use them.


  • Manufacturing T-shirts from textile fabric

  • Processing plastic resin into plastic bottles

  • Producing confectionery using an intermediate product like sugar

Category 11: Use of sold products

Emissions from the use of goods and services sold by your organisation. The Scope 3 Standard divides emissions in this category in two types:

  • Direct use-phase emissions (required): Products that directly consume energy (fuels or electricity) during use, such as cars, motors or electronics

  • Indirect use-phase emissions (optional): Products that indirectly consume energy (fuels or electricity) during use, such as clothing (requires washing and drying) or food (requires cooking and refrigeration)

Category 12: End-of-life treatment of sold products

Emissions from the waste disposal and treatment of products sold by your organisation at the end of their life.


  • Landfilling

  • Recycling

  • Composting

Category 13: Downstream leased assets

Emissions from the operation of assets that are owned by your organisation and leased to other entities that are not already included in Scope 1 or Scope 2.

This category is relevant to you if your organisation owns assets and receives payments from lessees.


  • Leasing vehicles

  • Leasing office spaces

Category 14: Franchises

Emissions from franchised operations that the organisation does not directly own or control. This category is relevant if your organisation is a franchisor that grants licences to others to sell or distribute goods or services in return for payments.

Category 15: Investments

Emissions associated with reporting your organisation’s investments that aren’t already included in Scope 1 or Scope 2. This category is relevant to investors and organisations that provide financial services.


  • Equity investments

  • Debt investments

  • Project finance

  • Managed investments and client services

Why should organisations measure Scope 3 emissions?

Scope 3 emissions are often the largest component of an organisation's overall carbon footprint, particularly for industries with complex supply chains.

They are also challenging to quantify accurately because they involve data collection and reporting from a wide range of sources beyond the organisation's immediate control.

Nevertheless, measuring Scope 3 emissions has several benefits. For most organisations, the majority of their carbon emissions and cost reduction opportunities are outside their own operations. Therefore, addressing Scope 3 emissions can help not only advance an organisation’s sustainability journey, but also identify cost savings too.

5 reasons why you should start carbon accounting

How to start measuring Scope 3

Assessing carbon emissions across the entire value chain can be complex. For companies just beginning to assess their scope 3 emissions, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Here are some steps to take as you begin shaping your company’s Scope 3 strategy:

  • Implement a robust and comprehensive carbon accounting system. Manual carbon accounting for businesses can be tricky though, particularly for those with complex supply chains. Top tip is to utilise technology and software wherever possible to help save time and resources.

  • Engage the executive and leadership teams early on. Make sure that everyone understands the implications of Scope 3 and how it will affect their area of the business. Gaining this buy-in will aid data collection and help to drive decarbonisation initiatives later on.

  • Identify low-carbon opportunities through the insight provided by your carbon accounting data. For example, manufacturing companies may find these opportunities in product design, sourcing and production.

  • Collaborate with your suppliers to measure and manage Scope 3 emissions. Carefully consider how you will engage with suppliers to get the information you need – they will be an important part of your decarbonisation journey. For example, educate them on the processes your business is going through and help them establish concrete metrics to reliably measure their own emissions.

Reach out to our team for more information about how we can support your organisation's carbon accounting - we are here to help you decarbonise with confidence.


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