How to Develop a Carbon Footprinting Standard for Your Industry or Product Line


If you've been thinking about developing a carbon footprint standard or methodology for your product or industry, we've got great news. The World Resources Institute (WRI) has just announced a new process by which organizations can develop, test, finalize, and propagate carbon accounting sector guidance, product rules, and calculation tools.

GHG Protocol has recently developed a “Built on GHG Protocol” mark, or logo, and has finalized the process through which sector guidance, product rules, and calculation tools can obtain it. This is a significant development as it is the first formalized way for calculation tools and other documents to demonstrate conformance with GHG Protocol Standards. A major benefit of the mark is that it enables a greater scale-up of GHG accounting resources consistent with our standards. While the GHG Protocol creates standards and tools that are applicable to any organization, company, or sector, additional guidance and tools are often developed to increase usability and provide more specificity. By working with GHG Protocol through the development of these documents and tools it will be possible to ensure they follow the requirements and key guidance within our standards.

Why should you care?

There are several international standards for greenhouse gas emissions accounting, including the GHG Protocol developed by WRI and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). These standards set out processes for determining a product carbon footprint. However since the standards are intended to apply universally, to any product in any sector, they can be broad and sometimes confusing.

For example, a company may choose to use primary data from its own facilities (and its suppliers) or secondary data from an established data set. It may also choose to consider impact all the way to product disposal, or may choose to stop when it reaches the customer. Under the current guidelines, all of these choices are permissible as long as the resulting calculation explains where and why these decisions were made.

So what's the problem?

If you are an organization investing time, effort, and money on calculating the greenhouse gas impacts of your product line, it is probably important to you to know that other organizations within your industry are also following the same standards. You'd want to know they were making the same choices in terms of where the data came from, how far to take the calculation, and how to determine materiality.

Similarly, you might not want to develop your own methodology for determining the carbon footprint of your product. You might instead want to share the burden of the research and development with other industry peers. We've seen several industry groups and trade associations use the GHG Protocol to develop sector guidance for how to apply the Protocol to a particular product line or industry.

Until now, however, there has been no formal way to develop such guidance in alignment, and with explicit approval, from WRI. With this new announcement, we are excited to see where product carbon footprinting goes. Be on the lookout for new sector guidance, product rules, and calculation tools! With a little luck and some more hard work, this should significantly advance the process of product carbon footprinting across-the-board.

If you're interested in calculating the carbon footprint of your product(s), please contact us to discuss our life cycle assessment (LCA) services. We use awesome technology that allows us not just to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a product, but also the cost of energy, waste, and water per product unit. That can help you identify hot spots of opportunity -- to reduce your environmental impact, but also to save money!

We're offering a free 1-hour phone call for companies seeking to develop a climate change strategy. It's only for the first five companies that contact us, so if your organization would like some complimentary assistance in your process, email us today!