CPO Crunch: Collaboration the key to progress on Scope 3

David Rae

Only by working together will procurement teams find a way to solve the Scope 3 conundrum

Scope 3 data has emerged as an increasingly important topic within the Procurement Leaders community as supply chain sustainability has evolved from being a nice to have to a procurement imperative.

Yet preliminary findings from our ESG glide path research (participate in the survey) indicate that more than one-quarter of procurement teams do not currently collect upstream emissions data about their suppliers and, of those that do, only half use primary data obtained from suppliers directly.

While several respondents said this was because they are not legally required to gather this information, others said they lacked the processes or capabilities to do so. Even among those organisations that are working on Scope 3, procurement teams face any number of challenges – whether it be navigating the scale and complexity of the topic, ensuring data accuracy, or overcoming skills gaps, to name but three.

Last week, we gathered some of our most mature members for a unique invite-only roundtable to deep-dive into the issue. This tremendously insightful small-group session provided those on the call with an opportunity to lean on one another to help identify solutions to common challenges.

As the discussion progressed, three things became increasingly apparent: First, there are a variety of approaches to calculating Scope 3 emissions and there is no single formula for success. Some companies have started by focusing on raw materials or certain product lines, others on their highest-emitting suppliers or vendors with whom they spend the most money. With regulations such as the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism now transitioning into force, it is a matter of when – not if – your company will have to start reporting on Scope 3 emissions, so there’s no better time to start on this journey, if you haven’t already.

Second, is the sheer complexity of the issue. We can all appreciate the idea that it is difficult to attempt to calculate the emissions of a specific raw material, or the product carbon footprint of particular goods comprising numerous components made from different materials. There’s no escaping the fact that this is a technical subject and precision is crucial. But, again, inaction is the enemy of progress here. 

Third, and most importantly, collaboration is critical. This is a shared challenge, and procurement acting alone cannot expect to have all the answers. Only by bringing suppliers on board – so this is something you do with them, not to them – and ensuring they know both what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, can you expect to make progress.

Then there’s the need for collaboration between buying organisations – whether it be through dedicated industry groups, such as Together for Sustainability in the chemicals industry – or conversations within the Procurement Leaders community to share best practice, ask and answer questions, and bridge any knowledge gaps. Working together is by far the most effective way to make progress. 

As one leader on the call said: “We know it’s going to be a journey, we’re going to keep learning as we go along”.

But that journey can’t begin until you take the first step.

Last call to benchmark against the best

We’ve asked for a lot – and we’ve asked you a lot – but our analysts tell me they’re overjoyed with both the quantity and quality of responses to our Strategic Planning Guide 2025 survey. If you haven’t taken part yet, it’s not too late. You have until this time next week to participate in the survey.

A big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to help us with the research. We’re looking forward to getting stuck into the data and sharing the insights with the community in early September.

To receive weekly insights from the Procurement Leaders community, sign up to the CPO Crunch newsletter using the link at the top of this page.

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