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What are your business carbon emissions?

The first step to establishing a carbon footprint for your business is to understand exactly what you should measure, and how it relates to your business.  

This page explains emission sources, scopes, and provides advice on how to identify the emissions of your business. 

1. Emission sources

All greenhouse gas emissions including carbon emissions are caused by an action or activity we undertake. They can be split broadly into two categories: 

Direct emissions come from sources you own or control such as driving your car. You own and have full control over your car, including choices in what type of car you buy, what fuel you use, how it is driven, and how it is maintained.  

Indirect emissions are generated by your actions but come from sources you do not own or control. For example, emissions produced from using a taxi are caused by your choice to take that taxi, but you do not influence the type of car or fuel used.  

Knowing what your direct and indirect emissions are, is important when it comes to reducing them. While you have greatest control over your direct emissions, your indirect emissions could account for most of your footprint.  

2. Emission scopes

To help identify and categorise your emission sources for measurement, emissions can be divided into three emission scopes. These are used to help you identify the emission sources related to your business and how much control you have over them. 

What are the three emission scopes?

  • Scope one

    These emissions include all direct emissions from sources that you own or control. These are the ones you have the most control over and can include:

    • using a boiler to heat your business 

    • driving you own car 

    • cooking using gas 

    • leaked refrigerants from your refrigeration 

    • re-gassing your air-conditioning system during maintenance 

  • Scope two

    Specifically covers the indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat or steam. This includes: 

    • electricity purchased from an energy supplier 

    • heat and hot water from district heating scheme or a combined heat and power unit 

  • Scope three

    This scope covers all other indirect emissions linked to running your business. This is usually where most of your emissions will fall under. For businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry, scope three usually accounts from between 75% and 95% of all your emissions. This includes:

    • waste generated in business

    • business travel

    • staff commute 

    • purchased goods and services 

The following is an example of the type of emissions that can be produced by hotels and what scopes the emissions fall under.

infographic showing a hotel's carbon footprint

3. Reporting boundaries

Once we understand our emission sources and the scopes they belong to, the next step is to set boundaries for your carbon footprint.  

Boundaries are where you decide which emission sources you are reporting on in your carbon footprint under each of the three scopes.  

You should collect information from all of your scope one and two emissions and then decide which of the scope three emissions categories are relevant to your business.

This will give you the framework to establish, measure, and report on your carbon footprint. 

Sources that are relevant to your business. For example, devices to heat and power your business. These are 'in bounds' and should be included in your carbon footprint.  

Sources that are not relevant to your business. For example, employee commuting sources if you don't have any employees. These are 'out of bounds'.  

Some scope three emissions maybe difficult to measure, but all businesses should make an effort to identify relevant sources and report on as many as possible when creating their carbon footprint. 

What is or isn't "in bounds" should be regularly reviewed and can be revised at a later date. 

4. Identifying your emissions

Our 1.0 Identify emission sources workbook contains a guide and spreadsheet to help you identify and record the various emission sources associated with your business activities.

While reviewing the sources of emission in your business, you may find it useful to set up a more detailed equipment and lighting inventory. Download our helpful 1.1 equipment and lighting inventory workbook to assist with this task.

1.0 Identify emission sources workbook

Published March 2023

1.1 Equipment and lighting inventory

Published March 2023

Step by step guide to identifying your carbon emissions

  1. 1

    Establish your business energy usage

    Use the 1.0 Identifying emission sources workbook to focus on scope one and two emissions linked closely to your business operations, by establishing what in your business uses energy (e.g. heating, lighting, appliances, vehicles) and how is it controlled.  

  2. 2

    Do a site audit

    Doing an energy audit of your business by doing a site walk round can be a very useful starting point. 

    The Business Energy Scotland website provides a useful energy audit checklist to guide you through and note down observations.

    As you do this you can also note down details for the 1.1 Equipment and lighting inventory workbook.

  3. 3

    Review sources of scope three emissions

    Use the 1.0 workbook to review the sources of indirect scope three emissions. There will be emission sources which should be easier to identify like business travel, waste, and water but it is worth reviewing all possible sources.  

5. Further advice and support

For more guidance and information on identifying where your business's emissions come from and measuring your carbon footprint, visit these pages on the Business Energy Scotland website.