The purchase of goods, services and works can account for more than 70% of a public body’s overall greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland. These are referred to as indirect scope 3 emissions. Targeting these could result in significant emissions reduction across public bodies.

However, there are many challenges for public bodies in measuring, comparing and reporting these emissions. The goal of this research was to provide evidence for practical approaches and tools that public bodies can use to better understand and thereby reduce their indirect scope 3 emissions.

Methods included interviews and surveys with 72 public bodies and 67 suppliers, review of 75 relevant supply chain emission and related methodologies and tools.

Summary of findings

  • Spend-based methodologies, which estimate emissions based on the financial value of goods and services, are the most commonly used. These can be useful to identify the areas of spend on procurement that produce the most estimated emissions. However, they only focus on lowering spend, rather than on reducing emissions, and do not provide sufficient detail on emissions throughout the supply chain. They are of limited use in that they can be used to identify emission hotspots but are not suitable for trends. They can also deter a ‘spend to save’ approach and perversely favour procurement of cheaper, less environmentally friendly options.
  • Public bodies rely on spend-based methodologies due to limited availability of supply chain emissions data, and lacking time or resources to implement more sophisticated models.
  • Public bodies are increasingly seeking emissions data from suppliers to help with more detailed understanding of emissions.
  • Tools such as analytical tools and software improve data accuracy and detail, and may allow public bodies to integrate supplier data, where available.
  • Tools used range from free to very costly. Some public bodies may seek to offset the cost by using the data to identify cost savings, which may also result in emissions reduction.
  • A better understanding of supply chain emission methodologies and tools, and their limitations would be beneficial to some public bodies.
  • There is varying confidence in applying relevant climate requirements within contracts, with some uncertainty regarding relevant clauses and limited use of climate related supplier selection requirements.
  • Challenges faced by suppliers include how to assess and reduce their emissions, and public body requirements, which may include reporting of their emissions into multiple portals or systems.

For a full list of findings and further details please read the report.

If you require the report in an alternative format such as a Word document, please contact or 0131 651 4783.