Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that are influenced by the university's operations but not directly emitted by the university. There are 15 categories of scope 3 emissions, as defined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol

In June 2020, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution calling for the university to eliminate its scope 3 emissions by the year 2050, including those related to its investment portfolio as well as other activities, while acknowledging this date may move forward as we develop knowledge and experience.  To that end, a new Scope 3 Emissions Program sponsored by the Vice President of Business Affairs and managed by the Scope 3 Emissions Program Manager was launched in 2021. A separate effort is being established to address the investment portfolio. 

The Scope 3 Emissions Program has two principal objectives:

  1. Reduce, mitigate or offset Stanford’s Scope 3 emissions to the maximum extent possible.
  2. Establish a path that other institutions can follow in addressing their own Scope 3 emissions, through the following efforts:
    1. Communications
    2. Campus Engagement
    3. Regional Community Engagement
    4. Collaboration with other Institutions

The  Scope 3 Emissions Program will collaborate closely with multiple Stanford units, especially the Office of Sustainability,  Financial Management Services, Residential & Dining Enterprises, and Stanford’s new school focused on sustainability and climate and is guided by a Scope 3 Emissions Working Group.  The working group will help prioritize the categories to be addressed, review and approve measurement methodologies, and advise on communication and mitigation efforts.  The Working Group is initially comprised of 6 faculty, 4 staff, 1 undergraduate student, and 1 graduate student, and is staffed by the Scope 3 Emissions Program Manager. 

The Scope 3 Emissions Program will initially build on work conducted in 2019-20 (and earlier in some cases) by staff in the Office of Sustainability, which was also supported by student researchers. During this time, Office of Sustainability staff evaluated calendar year 2019 (CY2019) data for six scope 3 emissions categories, which were selected based on data availability, estimated magnitude of impact, and student interest. Emissions and associated mitigation strategies in the following categories are currently under evaluation:

  • Business Travel
  • Student Travel
  • Employee Commuting
  • Waste
  • Fuel & Energy Related Activities
  • Purchased Goods & Services

Additional categories will be explored in coming years, including emissions from facility construction, campus leaseholders, and properties outside the main campus, among others. The Scope 3 Emissions Working Group will advise on mitigation strategies for all categories, including offsets, and will recommend and approve approaches to assessing mitigation effectiveness. Many scope 3 emissions mitigation initiatives are already underway at Stanford in conjunction with the university's other sustainability goals; these will be expanded upon in coming years using the approach described above. Final definitions, calculation methodologies, results, and mitigation strategies for all categories will be shared widely in support of the program's goal to establish a path others can follow. If you have inquiries or suggestions regarding scope 3 emissions, please feel free to contact scope3emissions@stanford.edu