The most popular suite of tools to measure and manage greenhouse gases just got a lot more complete — allowing companies to track the impact of their products from natural resources and raw materials, through manufacturing, use and disposal, and providing a detailed framework to measure companies’ “everything else” Scope 3 emissions.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) finalized its two newest global greenhouse gas standards on October 4. The GHG Protocol are the most widely used suite of accounting tools for measuring, managing and reporting greenhouse gas emissions — for instance, in 2010, more than 85% of the nearly 2,500 respondents to the Carbon Disclosure Project survey used these standards. With the addition of the two new standards — the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard and the Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard — companies have more guidance on a methodology and common language to report the impacts of their operations as they span the supply chain and the life cycle of their products. The GHG Protocol website even includes a cute video to explain what Scope 3 emissions are and why they claim these new protocol will save the world.
The new standards, which have taken three years to develop, involved the input of close to 2,500 partners, and were actively road-tested by 60 companies from 17 countries. The final standards have been influenced by the many comments received since they were published in draft form last November, and are intended to build upon the GHG Corporate Standard from 2004 which details how to report Scope 1 emissions (direct emissions from sources a company owns or controls, like factory smokestacks and company-owned cars) and Scope 2 emissions (indirect emissions attributable to the electricity, heat and cooling the company directly consumes).
Scope 3 emissions, which include everything else, are the great unknown variable in greenhouse gas reporting. They contain the vast majority of emissions, and accordingly, have the biggest opportunities for reductions. The authors of these new standards hope that they provide companies with a “treasure map” to identify and locate these opportunities to help both the environment and the business’s bottom line. At the very least, these protocol will simplify and reduce the costs for companies taking on a Scope 3 inventory, and improve the relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency and accuracy of the emissions reported each year.