Explained byWBCSD

Improve your company's scope 3 accounting maturity 

How to prioritize your company accounting maturity efforts

Over time, companies should seek to improve the data quality of their inventory by replacing lower quality data with higher quality data. In particular, companies should prioritize data quality improvement for activities that have:

  • Relatively high emissions (based on proxies or measures)

  • Relatively low maturity / data quality

To support this prioritization effort, you can run a maturity mapping exercise (i.e., assessing the maturity of each scope 3 categories) and identify for each category (or specific emissions source), what should be a realistic maturity improvement target for the next inventory cycle(s).

What is product-level accounting and how can it be leveraged to increase your company's accounting maturity?

By gathering product carbon footprints from suppliers to get primary cradle-to-gate data as well as pursuing product-level accounting of their products, companies can increase their overall accounting maturity. This will also help to identify decarbonization action levers at a more granular level.

1. Leverage product-level accounting to increase your accounting maturity 

GHG accounting can be applied on two different levels: the organizational level and the product level. Organizational level carbon accounting is the focus of this chapter, but product-level carbon accounting is increasingly used by companies. Both approaches are based on the company’s value chain and use similar data sources to calculate scope 3 and product emissions (e.g., information from suppliers) providing the opportunity to make use of synergies (e.g., one-time data collection efforts). However, the sum of emissions from both approaches differ as product level carbon accounting does not include emissions categories unrelated to individual products (e.g. employee commuting).


Emissions coverage

Organizational level GHG accounting

Accounting for total corporate GHG emissions including value chain (i.e. scope 1 + scope 2 + scope 3)

Covered: scope 1, 2, 3

Product level GHG accounting

Accounting for life-cycle emissions of a company’s individual products (i.e. attributable processes along life cycle stages)

Covered: attributable processes along lifecycle of products

Not covered: non-attributable processes e.g., employee commuting

Relationship between a scope 3 GHG inventory and a product GHG inventory (for a company manufacturing Product A):

Corporate value chain (scope 3) and product-level accounting are highly interrelated: the emissions resulting from a company’s products make up a large share of a company’s corporate Scope 3 emissions. Therefore, life cycle product emissions data is very valuable for scope 3 accounting and collecting product-level GHG emissions data can enable emissions transparency and improve scope 3 emissions data. Beyond improving your company's scope 3 emissions data - and so advancing your accounting maturity - product-level accounting can create significant value pools for you company due to:

  • increased supply chain efficiency and decarbonization opportunities

  • optimized product portfolio via utilizing emissions data to create detailed product footprints

  • improved material flow transparency allows better end-of-life management

  • enhanced brand and marketing opportunities based on accurate product-level environmental metrics

  • stimulate innovation via product-level sustainability R&D criteria

However, all companies aiming to tackle value chain emissions face a common challenge: access to sufficiently granular, accurate, and verified primary data. Such data inadequacy impedes quality accounting and data exchange for product life-cycle emissions (and, therefore, also for scope 3 emissions). For this reason, WBCSD is working to enable the exchange of product lifecycle emissions between industry players.