Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Preliminary Accounting of Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

MITOS continues to gather a preliminary picture of MIT’s Scope 3, or indirect, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to inform MIT’s total GHG emissions activities (Scopes 1 + 2 + 3) and explore where strategic opportunities may exist to reduce emissions.

Since 2018, MITOS has enlisted Dr. Jeremy Gregory, a research scientist specializing in lifecycle assessment, as a MITOS Faculty Fellow to build a preliminary estimate of Scope 3 GHG emissions activities, develop methods for rapid data analysis and identify scalable and impactful strategies. This estimation project has been collecting available MIT operational data including purchased goods and services, MIT-sponsored travel, commuting, waste and capital goods, using the World Resources Institute/ World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for Scope 3—referred to by the organizations as “Corporate Value Chain”—framework.


Data Collection and Analysis
Scope 3 data access and processing is a common challenge for any institution that can make it difficult for estimating GHG emissions. In order to tackle this challenge, MIT engaged a research partnership with MITOS, a PhD student, and the MIT Vice President for Finance to developed a new model for Scope 3 analysis at a university scale. This collaborative study used the MIT campus as a test bed by establishing a baseline of campus material inflows (purchased goods data) and outflows (waste data). The dissertation provided a GHG accounting of MIT purchased goods using an economic input-output life cycle assessment approach. Moving forward, MIT is:

  • Seeking to streamline the data collection process for periodic updating of each Scope 3 category in order to track reduction progress and determine impactful actions

  • Seeking enhanced data reporting from vendors to inform GHG emissions levels

  • Developing an integrated data platform of Scope 1 + 2 + 3 emissions for evaluating emissions with greatest feasibility for impactful reduction


MIT has begun leveraging this preliminary data to identify Scope 3 reduction opportunities across scales:

  • Business travel data is informing development of a pilot program for offsetting travel emissions

  • The School of Architecture + Planning is integrating Scope 3 data into a school-wide Climate Action Plan

  • Pilot testing in campus buildings to design out waste by generating cleaner streams of food waste and recycling for feeding circular economies

  • Promoting re-use of office and lab materials through free re-use exchange tool called MIT Rheaply. (MIT community members with a Kerberos login have access to Rheaply.  Get started by logging in with your credentials.)

  • Establishing sustainable purchasing programs with vendors to reduce lifecycle GHG impacts