Data Center

Carving out Scope 3 Emissions from IT Operations and Data Centers

When governing agencies initially created the three emission scopes as part of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) protocol for reporting guidance, I bet the initial Scope 3 was somewhat narrow and clear. I am speculating but it seems like more and more important reporting categories came up as afterthoughts and they all seem to have ended up in Scope 3 – the kitchen sink of emissions categories! Scope 3 is broad and it is almost completely dependent on partners of the core business and their ability to report comprehensively and accurately. The more partners and suppliers that you have, the more complicated this process will become.

Yes, I am being snarky but only because a consistent reporting framework for IT across all organizations is crucial to benchmark and ultimately achieve net-zero carbon sustainability goals. Reporting on Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions is pretty straight forward, some would even say intuitive. But Scope 3 is the opposite and if you don’t have any idea what I am talking about, as Chevy Chase’s character Fletch once famously said, “Maybe you need a refresher course.” 

Know your Scopes

  • Scope 1 emissions are released directly from a business operation (like CO2 from a generator in a data center).
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirectly released from the energy purchased by an organization (like CO2 from a fossil fuel burning power turbine that generates grid electricity).
  • Scope 3 emissions are the indirect upstream and downstream emissions of a product or service and emissions across a business’s value chain. (There are 9 categories of these from GHG protocol: Purchased goods and services; Capital goods; Fuel- and energy-related activities; Upstream transportation and distribution; Waste generated in operations; Business travel; Employee commuting;  Upstream leased assets; and Downstream leased assets.)

3 categories of GHG emissionsYou can’t fix what you can’t measure

It is clear that Scope 3 is the most complicated. And, depending on your industry, it could also be the largest bucket of GHG emissions by far. Many companies are embarking on the journey to gather data with the goal of accurate Scope 3 reporting because, as the saying goes, you can’t fix what you can’t measure.

Your organization will most likely want to report sustainability by business function in addition to the 9 Scope 3 categories. For example, breaking out sustainability of your factories, breaking out sustainability of your office buildings, and yes, breaking out sustainability of your IT operations and data centers. Data center architecture has become increasingly hybrid with servers residing in company owned facilities and colocation facilities (some with different business models), then procuring cloud services. To report the carbon footprint of all your IT resources, you must account for the carbon emissions from all three data center types that apply to your organization.

New white paper to assist in identifying Scope 3 emissions from IT operations

Scope 3 reporting is quite challenging but there is help. Schneider Electric’s Energy Management Resource Center has just released White Paper #53: Recommended Inventory for Data Center Scope 3 GHG Emissions Reporting. We have taken GHG protocol’s high level 9 category, standardized Scope 3 framework and broken it down into more granular categories applicable to IT reporting. This will assist companies in identifying their Scope 3 emissions from all of their IT operations. Using this framework will help develop complete, accurate, and consistent Scope 3 emissions accounting and reporting, which are essential to benchmark and achieve net-zero carbon sustainability goals.


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