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Product Carbon Footprint

How much greenhouse gas emissions are associated with a product along its life cycle? This question has become increasingly important over the past years and a so called Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) can help to find answers.

The PCF sums up the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by a product over the different stages of its life cycle. Different types of PCFs exist. For example, a cradle-to-grave PCF summarizes the emissions up from the extraction of raw materials needed to generate the final product, through manufacturing of precursors and the product itself, down to the use phase and disposal of the product. In contrast, a cradle-to-gate PCF considers only the way from extraction of raw materials to production.

From a BASF perspective the following guidelines should be considered in order to obtain a resilient and meaningful PCF:

  • Consideration of more than one sustainability indicator
    Comprehensive sustainability assessments of products include environmental, economic and social criteria. Greenhouse gas emission alone are not enough, even when focusing on the environmental impact of a product only. Therefore we recommend multi-criteria assessment tools to obtain a holistic view like our Eco-Efficiency Analysis.

  • Analysis of the whole life cycle of a product
    A cradle-to-gate PCF offers only a limited view on the emissions related to the life cycle of a product. The complete assessment of the whole life cycle within properly defined system boundaries, taking the use and disposal phase into account, enables products to be compared and shows options for action. This needs cooperation along the complete value chain.

  • Follow internationally recognized standards and rules
    Our PCF calculations are based on general life cycle assessment standards like ISO 14040 and 14044 and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Standard.

  • Use of data of high quality to calculate a meaningful PCF
    The quality of PCF data relies strongly on the quality of input data. In general we prefer to use data derived from our own processes (i.e. primary data). These data are updated regularly, if the impact on the PCF is significant. In many cases raw materials from our suppliers strongly influence the PCF of BASF products. We strive to use primary data from our suppliers and have to rely on industry average data where no supplier-specific information is available.

BASF is contributing to international standardization of the PCF methodology and to the generation of high quality industry average data. We also promote and work in projects to define Product Category Rules (PCR) that ensure a common basis for specific calculations.