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Unravelling Scope 3 emissions in transport

18 April 2024

Transport & Logistics

Understanding the importance of sustainability

In today's eco-conscious world, the transport industry faces mounting pressure to address its environmental impact. Central to this challenge are Scope 3 emissions, which encompass indirect emissions originating from a company's value chain. In this blog, we delve into the complexities of Scope 3 emissions within the transport sector. 

We'll delve into the challenges transport companies face in tracking and reporting these emissions. Additionally, we'll highlight effective strategies for collecting and analysing Scope 3 data. By emphasising holistic carbon accounting, we aim to guide the transport industry toward its sustainability goals. 


In the journey towards sustainability, the transport industry plays a pivotal role. As we move forward, it's important to grasp the complex aspects of carbon emissions, especially Scope 3 emissions. These emissions, which extend beyond a company's direct operations, encompass a broad spectrum of sources. including supply chain activities and customer use of products or services. 

Scope 3 emissions present a significant challenge for transport companies. Unlike Scope 1 (direct emissions) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased electricity), Scope 3 emissions are often more complex to track and quantify. They encompass a multitude of activities, ranging from upstream transportation of goods to downstream emissions from product use. 

The most relevant scope 3 categories in transport & logistics 

Scope 3 emissions, as defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol encompass indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream activities.  

For a transport and logistics company, several Scope 3 emissions categories are relevant: 

  • Purchased Goods and Services: This category includes emissions associated with the production of goods and services purchased by the transport company, such as vehicles, fuel, materials for infrastructure, and services like maintenance and repairs. 
  • Fuel- and Energy-Related Activities: These emissions are associated with the extraction, production, and transportation of fuels used by the transport company, including both direct and indirect emissions from activities like fuel combustion and electricity consumption. 
  • Transportation and Distribution (Upstream): These emissions encompass the transportation of goods and materials upstream in the supply chain, including emissions from shipping, rail, air freight, and trucking services used to deliver inputs to the transport company. 
  • Waste Generated in Operations: This category includes emissions from waste generated during the transport company's operations, such as emissions from the disposal of tires, vehicle parts, packaging materials, and other waste streams. 
  • Use of Sold Products: For transport companies, this category primarily relates to emissions associated with the use of vehicles and equipment sold or leased to customers. It includes emissions from fuel combustion and vehicle operation during the use phase. 
  • End-of-Life Treatment of Sold Products: These emissions arise from activities related to the disposal, recycling, or treatment of vehicles and equipment at the end of their operational life. 
  • Downstream Transportation and Distribution: These emissions encompass the transportation of goods and materials downstream in the supply chain, including emissions from the delivery of products to customers and end-users. 

One of the primary hurdles transport companies face in addressing Scope 3 emissions lies in data collection and reporting. Unlike direct emissions, which are relatively straightforward to measure. Scope 3 emissions require collaboration and data sharing across the entire value chain. This poses challenges around data availability, consistency, and accuracy. 

However, despite these challenges, there are strategies that transport companies can employ to tackle Scope 3 emissions effectively. One such strategy is to engage with suppliers and partners to gather relevant data on upstream emissions. Establishing clear communication channels is essential. Incentivising suppliers to disclose emission data can help create a more comprehensive picture of the supply chain's carbon footprint. 

Furthermore, leveraging technology plays a crucial role in enhancing Scope 3 emissions tracking and analysis. Advanced data analytics tools and software platforms enable transport companies to streamline data collection processes and identify emission hotspots more efficiently.  

Implementing advanced tracking systems for vehicle fleets, such as GPS and telematics devices, will provide actionable insights. This then paves the way for targeted mitigation strategies, such as optimising routes to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. 

At the heart of addressing Scope 3 emissions lies the concept of holistic carbon accounting. Rather than focusing solely on direct emissions within their control. Transport companies must adopt a broader perspective that encompasses the entire value chain.  

Holistic carbon accounting involves accounting for emissions across all scopes. It also entails actively seeking opportunities for emissions reduction throughout the supply chain. 

In conclusion, tackling Scope 3 emissions is a critical step towards achieving sustainability goals in the transport industry. By acknowledging the complexities of Scope 3 emissions, embracing collaborative approaches to data collection, and leveraging technology for analysis, transport companies can pave the way for a more sustainable future.  

Through holistic carbon accounting, the transport sector can play a leading role in driving positive environmental change and creating a greener world for future generations. 

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Carbon literacy training

Get to grips with your Scope 3 emissions

If you're looking to start tackling emissions across your supply chain, then take a look at carbon literacy training.   

The data required to fully comprehend your scope 3 emissions is often beyond your control, while it can feel like a minefield getting to grips with it all. But don't worry we can support you with your journey! 


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