More than four in five sustainability professionals say they are not familiar with scope 4 emissions, according to survey data from Sustainable Future News.
The survey, which polled members of the Sustainability Professionals LinkedIn community, asked what respondents’ levels of familiarity were with scope 4 emissions within their organisation. Almost two thirds of those polled (61%) said they were ‘not familiar at all’, while a further 21% said they were ‘not very familiar.’
Only one in five of the 62 survey respondents said they had a level of understanding with the term. 13% of those polled said they were ‘somewhat familiar’, with only 5% saying they were ‘very familiar’.
Scope 4 is a term coined by the World Resources Institute, which established the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, for avoided emissions. The category focuses specifically on emission reductions that ‘occur outside a product’s life cycle or value chain but as a result of the use of that product’, according to the definition. This differentiates it from scopes 1 to 3, which concentrate on produced emissions.
Examples of potential scope 4 emissions include emissions saved from reducing customer travel – such as an event going virtual, or if a company installs teleconferencing software – or if a product or technology promotes reduced energy usage over time. A company who develops and sells plant-based meat products could claim avoided emissions due to less methane produced through meat production and consumption, or a company developing energy-efficient battery technology could save emissions avoided by less frequent phone charging.
To date, avoided emissions are not currently required by any major reporting standards, such as the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which underpins the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).
Yet, various vendors and consultancies are noting the increased importance of scope 4 from an ESG reporting perspective. Carbon accounting platform Greenly has described scope 4 emissions as ‘a secret weapon for companies trying to stay ahead of their climate game.’
“If more companies seek to understand their scope 4 emissions, it can help them to create new ideas on how to reduce this lesser known source of emissions – and ultimately encourage more sustainable tactics like cultivating a more efficient supply chain, or making the switch to the use of renewable energy,” the company noted.
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