Carbon Footprint

A total product carbon footprint is a measure of the direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with all activities in the product’s life cycle. Products are both goods and services. Such a carbon footprint can be calculated by performing (according to international standards) a LCA that concentrates on GHG emissions that have an effect on climate change.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have partnered to develop The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. The framework gives business and organizations an internationally accepted methodology to help quantify and report the GHG emissions associated with their operations. Businesses often have multiple objectives in developing such an inventory, but a primary objective is frequently to support the identification of GHG emission reduction opportunities. The accounting framework looks at both direct (Scope 1) and indirect emissions (Scopes 2 and 3), which are explained further below:

Source: Bahtia and Ranganathan, 2004

Source: Bahtia and Ranganathan, 2004

● Scope 1 – Direct GHG emissions – these occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, for example emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc. or emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment.

● Scope 2 – Electricity and heat indirect GHG emissions – this accounts for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity and heat consumed by the company. Purchased electricity is defined as electricity that is purchased or otherwise brought into the organizational boundary of the company. Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where the electricity is generated.

● Scope 3 – Other indirect GHG emissions – this is a reporting category that allows for the treatment of all other indirect emissions. Scope 3 emissions are a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company. Some examples of Scope 3 activities are the extraction and production of purchased materials, the transportation of purchased fuels and the use of sold goods and services.

The current corporate GHG standard has defined detailed criteria for the accounting and reporting of Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions. The WRI and the WBCSD are now developing new standards for product and corporate value chain GHG accounting and reporting. To develop the new guidelines, the GHG Protocol Initiative is following the same broad, multi-stakeholder process used to develop the previous standards, with participation from businesses, policymakers, NGOs, academics and other experts and stakeholders from around the world. The new standards and guidance will cover both product life cycle and corporate level value chain accounting and reporting. Building upon existing methodologies, the standards and guidelines will provide a harmonized approach for companies and organizations to inventory GHG emissions along their value chains and better incorporate GHG impacts into business decision-making.

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