2022: The Year to Tackle Your Company’s Scope 3 Emissions

Steve Evans, CEO & Co-founder
3/2/2022

If you’re anything like me, the New Year brings a burst of positivity. Losing weight, learning to play the piano, giving up drinking wine in the week… we’ve all made those impossible resolutions.

The recent COP 26 conference in Glasgow had a similar feel. Plenty of expectation, loads of hype, and then disappointment. With no strong global mandate for taking climate change, the event was a bit of a damp squib. Yet it did clear some of the fog; cutting emissions is being left to the market.

It is easy to be cynical here and condemn the planet to a fiery future – and, of course, there are plenty of nations and giant corporations that won’t think long term – but I reckon there may be something in letting consumers drive the carbon-reduction train.

Thankfully, companies across the UK and Europe are already, in the main, tackling what’s known as their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. For the uninitiated, that’s the carbon you are responsible for directly, say through production and company vehicles (Scope 1) and your purchased power (Scope 2). To be fair, these things are easy to address for responsible businesses, taking steps such as insulating buildings, switching to EVs and buying greener energy.

The hard bit comes with Scope 3 – the carbon produced indirectly by your company’s operations. That encompasses everything from the emissions generated by suppliers from making your products, the packaging it’s wrapped in and the way you deliver. In the case of an e-commerce business, it’s estimated that this last bit – the simple logistics of getting goods into the hands of customers – accounts for a staggering 93 per cent of their total emissions.

Getting your head around Scope 3 can be pretty daunting, but there are some great online resources available to explain what’s what, and even calculate your emissions. 

It’s cheering to see the way many well-known companies are working with suppliers to get Scope 3 emissions down. Certainly, the key to this is partnership and having a shared vision. Mobile phone giant O2, for example, helps its suppliers get access to cheaper, renewable energy. Meanwhile, fashion house Burberry delivers ‘regenerative agriculture’ to restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity for its overseas producers.

Undoubtedly, the public mood is definitely swinging towards companies that are genuine in their desire to cut carbon emissions. The ‘butterfly effect’ certainly matters – small changes by businesses add up to massive change. Staff and directors are demanding more ethical practices, which creates a virtuous circle, while shoppers want their favourite brands living up to ‘ethical’ standards – everyone is much more switched on to ‘greenwashing’, so failing to step up (or worse, faking it) is a potential death knell for brands. Similarly, complete transparency is a must – being able to prove your credentials makes your company one to take seriously for the future.

As mentioned, at the sharp end of all of this is logistics. The household names in delivery are certainly talking big on their fleet upgrade plans but the fact remains that they are still many years away from being significant EV users. 

There is an obvious problem here. The way forward for any online retailer has to be towards distribution from a network of mini hubs, which allows genuine zero-carbon ‘last-mile’ deliveries in urban areas. Electric vans and pedal power can handle all but the largest items, with the capacity of cargo bikes typically underestimated by potential users.

Already, many small businesses and start-ups are realising the benefits of zero-emissions delivery. These retailers typically are close to their customers, and they have embedded carbon reduction into their strategy, meaning they are eager to leave diesel-powered logistics behind. We see plenty of incoming inquiries for our services from these outlets, so instead spend our proactive marketing aimed at reaching would-be clients that are promoting their own Scope 1 and 2 reductions to customers.

That’s back to where we began – the market, and customer demand, driving a demand for positive change. There’s never been a better time to make a resolution to turn over a new, greener, leaf.