Scope Three Emissions: Upstream Vs Downstream

What’s the Difference? 

A green-minded company knows about its emissions across all scopes: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. There are many intricacies in identifying the different types of emissions, specifically Scope 3. Typically, Scope 3 emissions are considered “value chain emissions”, as these are not directly related to your business, but are produced at other parts of the value chain associated with your product or service. Depending where on the value chain these emissions fall, they are considered “upstream” or “downstream”, and knowing the difference between the two can be tricky. However, it is an important distinction to make if one wishes to minimize their carbon footprint. A good rule of thumb to follow is that generally if you bought it, the emissions generated are “upstream”. If someone bought it from you or helped you deliver it, the emissions generated are “downstream”. Don’t worry—we know that description is a tad vague, so we’ve provided some examples for each. 

What are Upstream Emissions?

Typically, companies produce upstream emissions through suppliers. This means that any operations that occur via a third party before reaching your business, but still eventually help your business create goods or deliver services are upstream, Scope 3 emissions. These can look like the following:

  • Inputs and materials that enable production 
    • Emissions produced when obtaining materials or ingredients that help your business create whatever it creates. 
  • The production of any goods or services that your business purchases to help with its operations.
    • Any emissions produced when, for example, shipping your work computer, manufacturing your printer, or even making the pen you’re writing with (you are taking notes, aren’t you?). 
  • Business travel facilitated by third-party vehicles 
    • That flight your employees took to the big conference? Yes, that classifies as Scope 3
  • Emissions produced by employee’s daily commutes
    • Gasoline emissions from employee vehicles contribute very much to the amount of carbon emissions in our environment, but because they don’t directly relate to your business operations, they are Scope 3. 

What are Downstream Emissions?

Downstream emissions are the emissions related to your business after customers utilize your product or service. These can look like:

  • Emissions produced by usage of sold product
    • Especially if you are a supplier, any emissions generated by a buyer once they use your supplies for their operations are downstream Scope 3. 
  • Transportation and distribution of product
    • Produced in moving or delivering the finished product are considered Scope 3.
  • End-of-life treatment
    • Emissions that are produced by end-of-life treatment processes for a product once it has worn down or the purchaser no longer has use for it are considered Scope 3.

How To Control Scope 3 Emissions

Now that you’ve identified Scope 3 emissions, how can your business control them? Completely controlling Scope 3 is very hard, but there are steps you can take to minimize their impact, such as partnering with environmentally-conscious suppliers and vendors. For more details, check out our previous blog on Scope 3 emissions here:

To learn more about environmentally friendly solutions and offsets for your operation, contact Guttman Renewables at 724.489.5199.

Written by:

As Director of Marketing for Guttman Holdings, I lead our advertising, digital marketing, branding, and public relations strategies, and share my expertise to communicate key messaging to all our stakeholders. With my diversified leadership background, I also drive innovation and cutting-edge business practice and results, to generate interest in Guttman Energy, Guttman Renewables, and Source One service offerings.

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