Every business, no matter how small, has an environmental impact. By becoming more aware of these impacts and taking steps to reduce them, businesses can make a real difference for the planet. Few businesses take into account scope 4 emissions, though measuring scope 1 and 2 emissions has become standard for many companies. This article will discuss scope 4 emissions, why businesses should include them in their carbon accounting and how to calculate avoided emissions.
The term "Scope 4" was coined by World Resources Institute, which established the GHG Protocol.
Dating back to 2013, the GHG Protocol identified avoided emissions as emission reductions which occur outside of a product's lifecycle or value chain, but as a result of the use of the product.
There are neither mandatory requirements to report Scope 4 emissions, nor universally recognised standards to measure them for carbon accounting purposes. The identification of emission reduction opportunities are also not officially required by climate regulations, but should be part of a comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions.
Scope 4 emissions should not be counted when calculating or compensating scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions because they are different from those categories.
The term scope 4 emissions refers to emission reductions that happen outside of a life cycle of the product or value chain, but as a result of the use of that product.
Example: Goods and services that avoid emissions could be low-temperature detergents, fuel-saving tires, energy-efficient ball-bearings, and teleconferencing services.
Organisations should be aware of scope 4 emissions and the concept of avoided emissions when developing their sustainability strategies. By understanding scope 4 emissions, organisations can better understand the potential savings from investing in sustainable projects and can make informed decisions about how best to reduce their environmental footprint.
Additionally, scope 4 emissions provide an important measure of the overall impact of an organisation’s activities and help inform the scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 emissions calculations.
Finally, when businesses report avoided emissions, they create an opportunity to develop emissions scenarios and strategies to act on them.
Reducing indirect emissions is an important part of reducing a company's overall environmental footprint. The indirect nature of scope 4 emissions means that they can be difficult to measure, as many companies are unaware of their indirect emissions. By understanding scope 4 indirect emissions, companies can develop strategies to reduce them, such as using low-carbon suppliers or switching to renewable energy sources.
Additionally, including scope 4 emissions in internal carbon accounting process allows businesses to wisely choose suppliers who produce less carbon emissions. They can also take advantage of equipment and technological solutions that can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a rush to progress in the area of climate change and reverse some of the damage or we don't have a chance of staying under a 1.5C increase compared to pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement encourages us to stay well under a 2C increase but if companies want to stay competitive and stakeholders are demanding going further than net zero and becoming carbon negative, then we need to report as many emissions accurately as we can. It is also necessary for value chains to report these emissions to be able to stay competitive in their fields with conscious consumers and investors that ask for ESG reporting data.
For example, if a company creates a product and optimises it to emit less CO2 during its production then emissions can be reported according to the making of the product from the beginning of the value chain until it reaches the end user, and then the estimated calculated emissions of what would be used during the product's cycle. So the overall reduction has been made at the product design stage by optimising the product. (During the manufacturing and logistics processes the scopes 1 and 2 were counted for and scope 3 if they report the up and downstream emissions if the outside companies in the value chain don't count their scopes 1 and 2s). The avoided emissions are what would have been had the product never been optimised or complimented.
Some stakeholders are concerned that the emissions from making a new product will be too much. If the pros outweigh the cons and in the long-term the emissions of the product are less damaging than the former, and all scopes were counted for, then it will improve the environment given the manufacturing process is as clean as efficient as it can be.
If you want to learn more about scope reporting and carbon reductions, check out our free resources:
• Article: What Are Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions?
• Article: Scope 3 Emissions: Contributing Factors, Measurement and Reduction
• Article: 30 most common questions about Scope 3 emissions
• Article: What Is a Carbon Offset and Why Do Companies Need It to Achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions?
Reporting avoided emissions is a powerful way for businesses to accurately account for their impact on the environment, helping them meet sustainability and climate goals.
Although it requires more effort to calculate and analyse avoided emissions because they aren't direct emissions, it is possible to do so.
Calculating avoided emissions can be done in Net0's carbon accounting platform. For more information on these topics, please refer to the GHGP Corporate Value Chain Standard. However, you don't need to know all the intricate details unless you want a greater understanding of each scope emission. Net0 will do the hard work for you by categorising and itemising emission.
The platform automatically calculates the data you provide through utility bills, invoices, and any other activity-based data and enables businesses to analyse their carbon footprint by scopes. The real-time reports also let them compare their avoided emissions data with competitors and track progress over time.
There are many ways to create climate positive value by increasing the number of saved and avoided emissions. Some methods include:
1) Switching to energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs.
2) Conserving energy by turning off lights and electronics when not in use.
3) Recycling and composting instead of throwing away waste.
4) Driving less and taking public transportation or biking when possible.
5) Buying products from sustainable or green companies.
6) Working with green vendors and suppliers who are transparent about how they can help you reduce your own emissions.
Knowing more about avoided emissions will help your company with transparency and help you make better decisions. Reporting them accurately will improve the environment and your company rapport amongst stakeholders and green talent.
Considering all of the facts about scope 4 avoided emissions, you can now take steps to accurately report the emissions within your control.