How much greenhouse gases are associated with a product along its entire life cycle? This question has increasingly become more important over the past few years. A Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) can help consumers to decide which products they should purchase and consume so that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
A Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is the balance of the greenhouse gas emissions that a product causes in the course of its entire life cycle.
From a BASF perspective the following guidelines should be considered in order to obtain a resilient and meaningful Product Carbon Footprint:
- Consider more than one sustainability indicator: For a comprehensive sustainability assessment also economic and if possible even social aspects should be considered besides ecological criteria. We have adopted this perspective for our products and processes for a long time and assess our products and processes with our Eco-Efficiency Analysis and SEEBALANCE®.
- Evaluate greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with other environmental impacts: Greenhouse gas emissions are always only one aspect of the environmental effect of a product. Its relevance in comparison with other environmental impacts such as emissions into water, resources consumption or energy consumption must be checked. Considering only the Carbon Footprint can lead to wrong decisions in the market.
- Assess products over their whole life cycle: When calculating a Product Carbon Footprint, the complete life cycle of a product from „cradle to grave“ needs to be considered, from raw material extraction over production, selling and use to disposal or recycling. For “supply chain business-to-business” use, a partial carbon footprint shall at the minimum represent the cradle-to-gate emissions arising from stages, processes/modules up to the point where the next business takes ownership of the product.
- Design uniform and transparent method for establishing a Product Carbon Footprint: The method for calculating a PCF should be based on already existing methods such as the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards on environmental life cycle assessment, and should allow both the use of self-generated data and average data.
- Transparent and uniform communication of Product Carbon Footprints: A prerequisite for a meaningful climate-related product labeling is -besides a harmonized method for calculating a PCF- a uniform, transparent and understandable form of communication, which ensures that a customer’s purchase decision contributes to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and allows for a comparison with alternative products. We do not support a simplified label showing only a CO2 number without further information.
We engage nationally and internationally in discussions on the development of a method for determining a product-related Carbon Footprint. Thereby we introduce our longtime expertise in life cycle assessment and Eco-Efficiency Analysis into different initiatives. In Germany we were engaged in the development of a “Guideline Product Carbon Footprint” initiated by BMU and BDI. Internationally, we have been involved in the recent roadtesting of a new Product Carbon Footprint standard developed under the leadership of the World Resource Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).