Social media is an essential part of modern life. It not only allows us to share the latest updates with friends and family but also serves as a vast source of information and news. However, did you know that a significant amount of carbon emissions is being generated in the process? According to Meta’s reports, their carbon emissions rose from 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2021 to a staggering 8.5 million metric tons of CO2e in 2022. Besides changes in calculation methods contributing to the emissions increase, it’s crucial to note that Meta consistently had a remarkably high proportion of Scope 3 emissions, accounting for 99% of their total emissions in both years. This trend isn’t unique to Meta but raises important questions.
To provide some context, carbon emissions are categorized into three scopes:
Scope 1: Direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by a company, including emissions from processes, facilities, and vehicle fleets.
Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat, or steam used by the company.
Scope 3: All other indirect emissions produced externally, encompassing employee commuting, business travel, and emissions throughout a product’s lifecycle.
The Dilemma of Carbon Reduction for Giant Corporations
Meta’s exceptionally high proportion of Scope 3 emissions highlights the complex challenges that many large companies face in the next phase of their journey towards achieving net-zero emissions. Influencing and measuring greenhouse gas reductions among suppliers, customers, and other participants in the value chain who are far removed from a corporation’s direct control is undeniably challenging.
To address this issue, Meta is actively seeking solutions. According to their “request for information (RFI),” this effort constitutes the third pillar of Meta’s high-level emissions reduction strategy, with the first two pillars being a focus on decarbonization in business decisions and collaboration with suppliers to reduce their emissions.
Meta explains, “We are initiating an RFI for value chain emissions reduction projects so that we can directly connect with entities that are positioned to originate, host and/or support a value chain emissions reduction project or the increased offtake of low-carbon solutions or materials. This RFI is focused on the hard-to-abate sectors within which our value chain partners operate.”
Some of the sectors under consideration include:
- Trucking and other transportation of durable goods (such as the hardware and networking equipment needed for its data centers).
- Maritime and aviation shipping (reflecting the origin of many information technology products).
- Manufacturers and producers of low-carbon versions of materials including cement and concrete, copper, and steel.
- Semiconductor manufacturing.
- Industrial heating and cooling equipment.
- Green hydrogen.
This initiative builds upon Meta’s ongoing work since 2021 to better understand supplier emissions, as outlined in their July white paper. In 2021, they collaborated with a pilot group of 38 partners to calculate their carbon footprints and identify reduction opportunities. Last year, Meta expanded this engagement to 114 suppliers, focusing on carbon accounting training, setting science-based reduction targets, and creating renewable energy procurement strategies.
Currently, Meta has partnered with over a hundred suppliers for ongoing research. In their white paper, Meta also states that their collaboration with suppliers includes carbon accounting training, setting science-based emission reduction targets, and developing renewable energy procurement strategies. Meta emphasizes that investing in value chain emissions reduction projects is a crucial key to addressing sources that cannot be directly influenced.
Meta has further committed to reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 42% compared to 2021 levels by the year 2031. By 2026, they aim to have at least two-thirds of their suppliers commit to “precise greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.” Additionally, Meta intends to keep Scope 3 emissions below the 2021 baseline by the end of 2031.