Scope 3 Emissions and Employee Commuting: The Hidden Impacts of Solo Driving

A car stuck in traffic with visible exhaust fumes
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The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol has unveiled a comprehensive framework for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions, casting a spotlight on Scope 3 emissions. While Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions capture direct and indirect emissions from an organization’s owned or controlled assets, Scope 3 emissions encompass a broader range of indirect emissions that arise from activities outside the organization’s direct operational control.  Why does it matter? Your employees daily commute forms a significant portion of these elusive Scope 3 emissions. By comprehending and acting upon emissions from employee commuting, your company can pave the way towards a significantly smaller carbon footprint. Let’s discover how you can be part of the solution. 

Decoding Emission Scopes

The carbon footprint of an organization is split into scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Each of these scopes resides at different junctions of an organization’s value chain, as shown in the graphic below these emissions. Scope 3 emissions can be identified when looking upstream and downstream the value chain. Employee transportation only belongs to the upstream activities. 

Scope 3 emissions
Own illustration based on Greenhouse Gas Protocol

Within all scopes a wide range of greenhouse gasses is emitted. Whereas carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse gas in terms of quantity, some other greenhouse gasses have a large impact on the global climate even in small quantities. Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) have a potential for global warming that is 27-30 respectively 273 times bigger over a 100-year period than carbon dioxide. 


Combustion cars are major culprits of the emission loads of CO2, CH4 and N2O, amongst other gasses and particles. Thus, curbing the usage of private vehicle use needs to be a major priority in the activities of an organization to cut its carbon footprint.

Understanding scope 3 emissions from employee commuting

The narrative of Scope 3 emissions unfolds a significant chapter related to employee commuting. These emissions arise from the transportation activities of employees, mainly their daily commutes to and from work. Despite the availability of various strategies to reduce these emissions, such as promoting sustainable transportation modes and encouraging behavior change, a large number of employees still rely on single-occupancy vehicles, leading to increased congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions.


A significant part of emissions generated by employees’ daily travel to and from the workplace is due to the use of private cars. According to a study in the US 76% of American commuters use their own car to move between home and work. 11% use public transportation and 10% ride their bike to work. As shown in the graph below cars emit almost twice as much carbon emissions as buses per capita, and almost 5 times as much as trains. An average passenger car produces roughly 4.6 metric tons of CO2 annually. Riding a bike doesn’t emit any greenhouse gasses at all. Therefore it is of utmost importance for climate-aware organizations to start organization-wide initiatives to shift daily commuter behavior towards climate-friendly options.  

Carbon footprint of travel per km

Within the field of employee transportation, business travel also adds to the scope 3 emissions of an organization. This includes attending meetings, conferences or client visits. Outside the field of employee transportation, scope 3 emissions include 

  • emissions associated with the transportation of goods and services used by the organization, including their procurement, production, and distribution,
  • and emissions related to waste disposal, recycling, and other waste management practices associated with the organization’s operations.

How organizations mitigate scope 3 emissions from employee commuting

Reducing Scope 3 emissions requires a proactive approach and a commitment to promoting sustainable transportation practices. Here are key strategies that organizations can adopt to address commuter-related Scope 3 emissions effectively:


  1. Alternative Transportation Modes: Encourage employees to choose greener transportation options, such as carpooling, cycling, walking, or using public transit. Promote the benefits of these alternatives, including cost savings, reduced traffic congestion, and improved employee well-being.
  2. Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Embrace remote work options and flexible schedules to minimize the need for daily commuting. Telecommuting not only reduces carbon emissions but also enhances work-life balance and increases employee satisfaction.
  3. Incentives and Rewards: Implement incentive programs to motivate employees to adopt sustainable commuting practices. These can include subsidies for public transportation passes, preferred parking for carpoolers, or recognition programs for commuters that achieve significant emissions reductions.
  4. Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaborate with local transportation authorities, transit agencies, and other organizations to improve transportation infrastructure, expand public transit options, and promote sustainable commuting initiatives.
  5. Education and Awareness: Conduct awareness campaigns and educational programs to inform employees about the environmental impact of their commuting choices and encourage behavior change.

How organizations measure and report scope 3 emissions from employee commuting

Accurate measurement and reporting of scope 3 emissions related to employee commuting is essential for monitoring progress and setting meaningful targets. Organizations can take various first steps and employ various methodologies, such as surveys, data analysis, and emission factors, to quantify and track their emissions. By regularly assessing and reporting these emissions, organizations can identify areas for improvement and evaluate the effectiveness of their sustainability initiatives.


Pave Commute applies advanced algorithms to measure CO2 emissions from commuting regardless of the transport mode. As a turnkey tool for organizations of all sizes it aggregates the CO2 savings from sustainable commuting on company level. Exporting and adding them to the sustainability reporting of the organization is possible within a few clicks. Read up about how B&R saved XY tons of CO2 within just a few months!

The bigger picture of cutting GHG emissions in an organization

As organizations strive to reduce their environmental impact and embrace sustainable practices, addressing Scope 3 emissions related to commuter transport becomes paramount. By implementing strategies to promote greener transportation choices, supporting alternative modes of commuting, and fostering a culture of sustainability, organizations can make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change. Embracing the principles of the GHG Protocol and adopting a holistic approach to Scope 3 emissions management will not only benefit the environment but also enhance corporate social responsibility and stakeholder engagement. 

How Pave Commute helps employees save CO2 on their daily commute

Pave Commute is one of the world’s most advanced commuter apps. It helps employees share rides, log bike trips or use public transportation on their daily commute to work. Further features such as automatic GPS-based trip validation and rewards distribution makes it easier than ever before to shift commuter behavior towards carbon-neutral commuting. 


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