Scope 3 greenhouse gas accounting guidance for social care

The LGA webinar, Scope 3 greenhouse gas accounting guidance for social care, was organised as part of the LGA’s green webinar series.


Local Partnerships were commissioned by the Local Government Association to produce guidance for local authorities on measuring and managing scope three greenhouse gas emissions. This set specific guidance for social care services, scope three greenhouse gas emissions, covering all the main aspects of social care spend, and applicable to both outsourced and in-house services. You can find out more through the accompanying slides and the blog below.

Local Partnerships is a joint venture between the Local Government Association, HM Treasury and the Welsh Government. Working solely for the benefit of the public sector bringing public and private sector experience that provides confidence, capacity and capability, helping councils achieve and maintain financial resilience working with experts to provide trusted, professional support and advice over multiple disciplines, helping councils make best use of limited resources as demand for services continues to rise.

This overview provides a summary of what each speaker presented on.

Over 80 people attended the webinar with three speakers presenting their thoughts and reflections on the importance of scope 3 greenhouse gas accounting for social care.

The session was chaired by Councillor Andrew Cooper, Joint Leader of the Green/Valley Independent Group at Kirklees Council. He was joined by Jenny Coombs and Rachel-Toresen-Owuor from Local Partnerships who provided more detail on Scope 3, Katrina Browning, Senior Procurement Business Partner, Suffolk County Council, on the commercial ask and Victoria Buyer, Programme Lead, Care Providers Alliance talking about the providers’ perspective.

Rachel Toresen-Owuor, Programme Director – Climate Response and Jenny Coombs, Programme Director – Health and Social Care, Local Partnerships gave an overview of the guidance and toolkit.

In relation to the Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool, some additional guidance has been developed to complement the work done so far. The Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool was developed and launched in 2020 to fill a gap in the reporting tools for councils since the end of CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and National Indicator 185. The tool aims to bring a standardised approach to reporting to the sector and to allow benchmarking. The toolkit is there to help councils with the calculation and storing of their baselines in a consistent manner year on year.

 Rachel explained how the Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool can capture scope one, scope two, and scope three emissions. Scope one is for directly combusted fuel emissions from heating fuels and vehicles. Scope two are indirect emissions from grids and electricity and scope three is around indirect emissions that are largely outside the control of an organisation, but, for a council, they count for a significant part of the overall greenhouse gas accounting baseline. The tool is linked to the UK government conversion vectors and the emission factors and when the tool was launched last year, the focus was on scopes one and two.

Why report on scope three activity at all? The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the guidance for social care, follows the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for scope three reporting. It puts these as the main drivers for reporting on scope three and helps to identify additional greenhouse gas reduction opportunities, be able to set reduction targets, track performance, and meaningful reduction targets. It gives councils the opportunity to engage with their suppliers and partners in greenhouse gas management.

Why report on social care specifically? It is a very public-facing service, it has a lot of touchpoints across the community, and one of the challenges is that there are many individual contracts and suppliers. In general, councils have one or two large contractors in place for outsourced contracts such as highways maintenance or waste management but for social care, there can be hundreds of individual contracts.

Jenny Coombs talked about why the tool is aimed at different people including climate sustainability officers, people who commission social care in local authorities, and social care providers working with local authorities. The guidance contains introductory information about what scope three emissions are - a beginner's guide on how to start screening, undertaking scope three reporting, and some technical information to help organisations interpret the accounting protocol, the importance of the commissioning cycle and the ability to be able to set KPIs and data collection requirements as part of contract management.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol sets out guiding principles to support scope three boundary settings. The five guiding principles and brief descriptions are:

Relevance – to be able to prioritise commissions from those services and contracts that have the most impact across your care provision

Completeness – to be able to evidence mapping of service provision, goods and equipment purchased to create a social care value chain

Consistency – a base year for social care reporting should be set

Transparency – be clear as to what has been excluded and justify that

Accuracy – specify whether it is estimated or averaged data

Katrina Browning, Senior Procurement Business Partner, Suffolk County Council on the Commercial Ask case study

Suffolk County Council declared their climate emergency in March 2019 with the aim to be carbon neutral by 2030. One of the council commitments was to introduce mandatory carbon reporting in all contracts. The carbon footprints as an organisation turned out to have more than half of the carbon output with the supply chain. With 1,400-odd contractors as a local authority, the main grouping of contractors is within the care sector, across the spend in adult services, to children's services, and public health.

Suffolk County Council came up with a clear ‘ask’ of their suppliers/supply chain and council staff in commercial roles. The council have also created an annual social value ask regarding their impact on the environment, the climate impact of contracts and to work with their contractors to reduce this and for staff to give a really clear message in market engagements.

Some examples of further information can be found on the Carbon Charter website which provides support and recognition to small and medium sized businesses that commit to and adopt carbon reduction measures and sustainable business practices throughout Suffolk and Norfolk.

Victoria Buyer, Programme Lead, Care Providers Alliance gave some information about The Providers’ Perspective.

Understanding scope two and scope three can be difficult, but providers have been on a journey to address climate change more broadly as they understand the mutual benefit for people that draw upon services, the resilience of our communities, and the sustainability of care services in the long-term.

We were already in a climate emergency by the time the pandemic hit. Processes that we might have been doing to mitigate and to increase the scope three practices to encourage better emissions practice across services were suddenly tipped on their head, particularly things like single-use PPE, and changing the way that care staff might have travelled to work.

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians and Pediatrics and child health report stated that there were 40,000 deaths resulting from exposure from outdoor pollution, and many of the scope one, two, and three emissions processes are the mitigants and the contributors to this untimely death. This is costing providers and local government an estimated £20 billion every year. The pandemic gave a good example of lowering emissions and, reaching a carbon-neutral position.

Education is key, reporting is central, but there is a need to be incentivised with practical solutions and a commissioning framework that supports.