Why is Scope 3 Difficult? Navigating the Challenges of Indirect Emissions

Scope 3 emissions present unique challenges for businesses. Dive into the complexities of tracking indirect emissions and discover the hurdles companies face in their journey towards sustainability.

Why is Scope 3 Difficult? Navigating the Challenges of Indirect Emissions
Photo by Ronaldo de Oliveira / Unsplash

While many companies have made strides in measuring and reducing their direct emissions (Scope 1 and 2), Scope 3 emissions, which account for all indirect emissions in a company's value chain, remain a challenging frontier. But what makes Scope 3 so intricate? Let's unpack the challenges.

1. Breadth and Depth of Scope 3 Emissions:

Scope 3 encompasses a wide range of activities, from the extraction and production of purchased materials to the end use of sold products. This vast scope means companies often deal with a multitude of sources, each with its own measurement challenge

2. Data Collection Hurdles:

  • Variability in Data Quality: Companies often rely on suppliers for emissions data, leading to variability in quality and granularity.
  • Lack of Standardization: Unlike Scope 1 and 2, there's less standardization in how companies should calculate and report Scope 3 emissions.

3. Dependence on External Entities:

Much of Scope 3 emissions data depends on external partners, like suppliers and distributors. This can make it challenging to:

  • Ensure they have the necessary data collection mechanisms in place.
  • Influence their sustainability practices.

4. Evolving Understanding and Methodologies:

The science and methodologies behind Scope 3 emissions are still evolving. This means that companies often have to adapt to new standards and recalibrate their strategies.

5. Economic and Operational Implications:

Addressing Scope 3 emissions can sometimes mean rethinking business models or supply chain structures, which can have significant economic and operational implications.

6. Perception and Communication Challenges:

Transparently communicating about Scope 3 can be tricky. Companies might fear backlash for high emissions or skepticism about their reduction strategies.


While Scope 3 emissions present a complex challenge, they also offer a significant opportunity. By understanding and addressing these emissions, companies can not only reduce their environmental impact but also uncover efficiencies, foster innovation, and build stronger relationships in their value chain.

For more insights on navigating the complexities of Scope 3 emissions and turning challenges into opportunities, explore our Scope 3 Foundations Series.