The diagram above shows the different scopes of a carbon footprint:

Scope 1. The emissions from your operations and activities - typically from the fossil fuels you buy for heating and vehicles;

Scope 2. The emissions from the generation of electricity you use;

Scope 3. The emissions of your supply chain - all the scope 1 and 2 emissions from your suppliers. And their suppliers. And their suppliers... you get the picture;

Scope 4. The emissions from the use of your product or service once it is outside the control your organisation eg if you sell cars, this represents the emissions of the cars in use (this scope isn't usually considered part of a carbon footprint, but it should be).

Most of this is understood from the point of view of one particular organisation. But it is worth putting yourself in the position of your clients and customers. Your scope 1-4 emissions become part of their carbon footprint - your problem becomes their problem.

For example, the UK's NHS has a scope 3 footprint which is 50% bigger than its 'internal' scope 1 & 2 emissions. This means that, to hit the UK Government's target of a 80% reduction in footprint by 2050, even if they somehow managed to reduce the emissions from 1 & 2 to zero, they would still need to cut scope 3 by two thirds. If you're one of their suppliers then either you have to slash your footprint or they'll find someone else who will.

This is why 'green' is becoming a key source of competitive advantage. Big purchasers like the public sector and the big supermarkets are selecting greener suppliers - the former are typically awarding 10-15% of tender points to environmental performance. But don't forget you still have to compete on the other 85-90% to take advantage.

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