Understanding and Reducing Scope 1 Emissions: A Guide for Businesses


As the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change, businesses play a crucial role in these efforts. Understanding a company’s carbon footprint, which is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that it produces, is vital. Yet, comprehending the intricacies of carbon footprints can be complex.

To simplify this, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol was developed in 2001, providing a systematic approach to categorizing and managing business GHGs. The GHG Protocol classifies emissions into three categories: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions. This classification system aids organizations in measuring their carbon footprint more effectively.

Scope 1 emissions, the focus of this blog post, are the direct GHGs released by a business. These emissions come directly from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, such as the burning of fossil fuels for heating or the use of company-owned vehicles. Understanding and managing Scope 1 emissions is a critical step towards running a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business.

Measuring Scope 1 Emissions

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Understanding and measuring your company’s Scope 1 emissions is an essential step towards managing and ultimately reducing your environmental impact. Scope 1 emissions, as we’ve discussed earlier, are direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by your company. These include emissions from fossil fuels burned on-site, emissions from company vehicles, and emissions from industrial processes. But how can a company accurately measure these emissions?

The process begins with the identification of sources of Scope 1 emissions within your organization. This involves a comprehensive audit of all company activities that result in the release of greenhouse gases. It may include stationary combustion sources like boilers and furnaces, mobile combustion sources like company vehicles, and industrial process emissions that occur from chemical reactions in the manufacturing of products.

Once these sources are identified, the next step is to quantify the emissions. This can be a complex task, requiring specific knowledge and tools. Emission factors, which represent the average emission rate of a given pollution source relative to units of input, are often used. These factors can be found in greenhouse gas protocol standards or obtained from governmental environmental agencies. It’s important to note that these factors are often updated, so businesses need to ensure they are using the most recent factors to get accurate measurements.

The amount of emissions is then calculated by multiplying the activity data (like the amount of fuel used) by the emission factor. For example, if a company’s fleet of vehicles used 1,000 gallons of gasoline in a year, and the emission factor for burning gasoline is 8.8 kg of CO2 per gallon, the emissions from the company vehicles would be 8,800 kg of CO2.

Finally, the results of these calculations should be documented and reported. This not only serves as a record of a company’s environmental impact, but also can be used to track progress over time as the company implements measures to reduce its emissions. Many businesses report their greenhouse gas emissions publicly as part of sustainability reports or disclosures to environmental agencies.

In the next section, we will discuss strategies for reducing Scope 1 emissions and examples of businesses that have successfully done so​

Understanding Scope 1 Emissions

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Scope 1 emissions are the direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are released from a business. This makes them different from Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, which are indirect GHGs released from the energy purchased by an organization and from upstream and downstream emissions of a product or service, respectively.

When it comes to Scope 1 emissions, they come from sources that are owned or controlled by the company. This means that these emissions are a direct result of a company’s operations and activities. Scope 1 emissions can be broadly divided into four groups:

  1. Stationary Combustion: These are emissions released from the direct burning of fossil fuels to power heat sources (e.g., a coal-burning fire) or a stationary combustion engine.
  2. Mobile Combustion: These emissions are released from company-owned vehicles (mobile combustion engines). Fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel are burned as a result of a company’s activities, directly releasing GHGs into the atmosphere.
  3. Fugitive Emissions: These emissions are caused by the leakage or other irregular gas releases from pressurized containment. Common examples would be fugitive emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning units.
  4. Process Emissions: These are emissions released during industrial processes or on-site manufacturing.

Understanding these categories and identifying where these emissions come from in a company’s operations is the first step in managing and ultimately reducing Scope 1 emissions​.

Real-World Examples of Scope 1 Emissions

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To better understand Scope 1 emissions, let’s take a look at how they manifest in the operations of two very different businesses: Patagonia and Salesforce.

Patagonia, an outdoor clothing manufacturer known for their commitment to business sustainability, has a significant portion of their emissions coming from Scope 1 sources due to the nature of their operations. In their 2020 total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions report, they identified direct emissions from:

  • Material manufacturing (54% of emissions)
  • Trim manufacturing (7% of emissions)
  • Garment manufacturing (2.5% of emissions)

These manufacturing processes, which fall under Scope 1 emissions, account for a substantial 63.5% of Patagonia’s total direct emissions. As a manufacturing company, Patagonia’s Scope 1 emissions are expected to be higher than those of a service-sector organization that doesn’t manufacture physical products​.

On the other hand, Salesforce, a software provider, has a much smaller percentage of its emissions coming from Scope 1 sources. In 2020, Salesforce reported their total scope 1 and 2 emissions which equated to 297,000 MTCO2e, with the majority of these emissions occurring from inhouse data centers (scope 2). Of this total, 6,000 MTCO2e are reported to be from scope 1 sources. This means for Salesforce, their direct emissions account for only 2.02% of their total scope 1 and 2 emissions​.

These examples illustrate how the nature of a business can significantly influence the proportion and volume of Scope 1 emissions it generates. Understanding these emissions is the first step towards formulating strategies to reduce them.

How to Reduce Scope 1 Emissions

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Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Reducing Scope 1 emissions can seem daunting, but the good news is that these are the emissions that a business has the most control over. By addressing each of the four categories of Scope 1 emissions, businesses can make significant strides toward sustainability.

Stationary Combustion Systems

Instead of burning fossil fuels to power stationary combustion systems, businesses can explore alternative technologies that use renewable fuels and energy sources. For example, Wartsila, a technology company, manufactures equipment that runs on 100% synthetic and carbon-neutral methane and biofuels. Other less carbon-intensive options for heating include geothermal energy heat pumps, air-source heat pumps, and solar water heating systems​1​.

Mobile Combustion Systems

Scope 1 emissions also include GHGs released from company-owned diesel or petrol-powered vehicles. To reduce these emissions, electric vehicles are the best alternative. In the U.S., new legislation mandates that half of all new vehicles sold must be zero-emission by 2030. It’s important to note that if the electricity for these vehicles is sourced from the grid, the emissions should be counted under Scope 2. To eliminate Scope 1 emissions from vehicles, businesses can source their own clean energy, such as from solar power or wind turbines​.

Fugitive Emissions

Fugitive emissions are GHGs that escape from pressurized containment, such as refrigerators, air conditioning units, and heat pumps. It’s estimated that these appliances leak about 10-40% during their operational end of life. To reduce these emissions, businesses can replace old, outdated valves, which account for more than half of the fugitive emissions from a given appliance​1​.

Process Emissions

Reducing process emissions often requires changes to the manufacturing or operational process itself, and the solutions can vary widely depending on the industry. For example, businesses could switch to less carbon-intensive materials or improve efficiency in the manufacturing process.


Scope 1 emissions, as direct emissions from a company’s owned or controlled sources, represent a significant portion of a business’s carbon footprint. They are also where a business can have the most immediate and tangible impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Understanding what Scope 1 emissions are, how to measure them accurately, and identifying strategies to reduce them, is a critical step towards a more sustainable business model. It’s a journey that begins with awareness, continues with measurement and management, and never really ends as there will always be opportunities for improvement.

Reducing Scope 1 emissions not only contributes to the global fight against climate change but also can bring about operational efficiency, cost savings, and enhance a company’s reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. In the increasingly environment-conscious marketplace, taking proactive steps towards sustainability is becoming less of an option and more of a business imperative.

The transition to a low-carbon economy is under way, and businesses have a crucial role to play in this transition. The measurement and reduction of Scope 1 emissions are critical pieces of this puzzle. By actively managing and reducing these emissions, businesses can not only help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change but also unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation in a sustainable, low-carbon future.

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Wastebits is a pioneering technology company founded in 2014, dedicated to revolutionizing the waste management industry through innovative software solutions. Our mission is to simplify and streamline waste management processes, promote environmental sustainability, and enhance regulatory compliance.

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Wastebits provides innovative waste management software that revolutionizes the way businesses handle their waste disposal and recycling needs. The platform serves as a one-stop-shop for waste generators, haulers, and disposal facilities, connecting them in real-time and providing transparency throughout the entire waste management process. With Wastebits, companies can ensure regulatory compliance, optimize waste diversion strategies, and make data-driven decisions for a more sustainable future.

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