What’s Scope 3 Good For?

Madison Condon - Boston University School of Law
Vol. 56
June 2023
Page 1921

While the number of ESG reports about emissions “data gaps” grows, just where the data comes from and how it is (mis)used by market actors has been underexplored in the legal literature, particularly beyond the realm of ESG metrics for portfolio-screening. This Article discusses how Scope data is collected and shared in practice, as well as its widespread adoption as a metric for financial risk and corporate governance. It argues that these uses of emissions data demonstrate that this information is broadly material to investors, requiring standardization and assurance. For these reasons, the SEC should not back down on requiring the disclosure of relevant Scope 3 emissions. Corporate claims of lack of control and access to data should be met with skepticism for large companies, especially in light of recent technological advances related to emissions monitoring and trends in supply chain contracting. However, the usefulness of Scope 3 data depends upon its use-case — a fact that has been relatively underappreciated — as well its granularity and the availability of other contextual data. The Article goes on to offer a brief critique and qualification of the uses of Scope 3 data, highlighting how U.S. financial regulators can improve upon the early approaches of other jurisdictions.

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