Scope 3 Emission - What does it mean for apparel brands?

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What Is Scope 3 Emission and What Does It Mean for Apparel Brands.

What are Scope 3 Emissions?

Scope 3 emissions are important to understand when looking at your company’s overall sustainability and conduction Life Cycle Analysis. Carbon reporting is increasingly focused on indirect emissions that arise in the supply chains of different companies. [1]

Greenhouse gas emissions are categorized into three 'Scopes' by the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol which is the most widely used international Greenhouse Gas accounting tool [2]. Scope 1 are emissions which come directly from owned or controlled sources i.e., they occur directly at the facility or company in question [1] [2]. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions associated with electricity consumption from the generation of direct purchases of electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by a company [2] [1] [3]. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur both upstream and downstream in a company’s entire supply chain [2][3].

Why should an organization measure its Scope 3 emissions?

It is important to consider Scope 3 Emissions for similar reasons that carrying out a Life Cycle Analysis is important. These practices promote sustainable design and redesign of products and processes and help a company on their path to sustainability. Scope 3 Emissions are crucial to consider on top of Scope 1 and Scope 2 because on average more than 75% of an industry sector’s carbon footprint is attributed to Scope 3 sources [3].

For many companies, the majority of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and cost reduction opportunities lie outside their own operations. Measuring Scope 3 Emissions helps companies to assess where the emission hotspots are in their supply chain and pursue emissions mitigation projects, as well as identity and resource and energy risks [2][3]. It can also help an organization to identify which suppliers are leading in sustainability practices and make operational decisions based on the outcome. Without monitoring Scope 3 Emissions, organizations could miss opportunities to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs in their products and supply chains. [2]

How do you measure Scope 3 Emissions?

One way to measure Scope 3 Emissions is to use a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) model to identify upstream emission sources [3]. If you want to learn more about Life Cycle Analysis, you can read our blog post here.

Although it is an important process in a company’s sustainability journey, determining a company’s Scope 3 Emissions accurately and comprehensively can be complex. A lot of companies look to consulting companies to lead them confidently and capably in completing an LCA.

What does this mean for apparel brands?

Scope 3 Emission monitoring is not one-size-fits-all across all industries. For example, employee commuting, and air transportation might be more important for the services industries, but for manufacturing industries it should not be a main focus of detailed Scope 3 footprint estimates because it will contribute a much lower proportion of the analyzed carbon footprint (<1% of the total analyzed footprint on average). [3]

While many apparel brands are motivated to help prevent catastrophic climate change, scope 3 emissions along the supply chain are significant for brands and retailers [4]. The greenhouse gas emissions of the textiles industry are significant; given the environmental and business consequences of increasing global emissions, companies in the sector should actively pursue a comprehensive strategy to limit their climate impacts. [4]

For apparel brands, it is possible to capture a large portion of their total upstream carbon footprint by collecting full emissions information from direct suppliers [3]. Hopefully, sector-specific categorization will improve Scope 3 emissions footprint capture rates considerably [3]. There is mounting pressure for protocol organizations to actively make more specific Scope 3 guidelines available in the form of sector-specific categorizations for as many sectors as possible can and creating broader industry-specific protocols [3].



E. G. Hertwich and R. Wood, "The growing importance of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from industry," Environmental Research Letters , 2018.


Carbon Trust, "Briefing: What are Scope 3 emissions?," 2020. [Online]. Available:


Y. A. Huang, C. L. Weber and H. Scott, "Categorization of Scope 3 Emissions for Streamlined Enterprise Carbon Footprinting," Environmental Science and Technology, 2099.

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