Carbon Footprint Program

A carbon footprint program is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gas (six major GHGs are carbon dioxide; CO2, methane; CH4, nitrous oxide; N2O, hydrofluorocarbons; HFCs, perfluorocompounds; PFCs and sulfur hexafluoride; SF6) emitted into the atmosphere entire life cycle of product. The greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause a greenhouse effect which leads to global warming.

A carbon footprint can be measured based on product system or an organization. Normally the unit is measured in tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2 eq) per year (carbon footprint of organization) and CO2-e/functional unit of product (CFP).



Carbon Footprint of Products (CFP)

The definition of CFP can be divided into two key terms:
1) calculating base on product system and
2) carbon footprint mean carbon dioxide emitted entire the life cycle.

GHG Emission can be classified into three sources:
1) producer and consumer activities
2) direct emission from fossil fuel combustion, and
3) indirectly from GHG embedded in raw material.

CFP measures a product’s carbon emission throughout its life cycle. There are two types of life cycle as follows:
1) The Business to Business (B2B) and
2) The Business to Consumer model (B2C).

The product supply chain will be the database of calculating the GHGs. The results will be converted into a CO2e, the process of calculation including raw materials, transportation, production, distribution, product use and disposal (BDI, 2009). Figure 2 shows the carbon footprint calculation form.

Figure 2: Basic concept of carbon footprint calculations (KEITI, 2011)

Existing Carbon Footprint Standards

Until now, there has been no consensus on how to collect data and measure a carbon footprint. Normally, it is referred to as a subset of the data covered by a more complete LCA methodology. The framework of LCA is based on International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040, ISO 14044 and Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050. Different applications have a different LCA due to the flexibility of implementation.
In 2008, aside from ISO and PAS, the World Resources Initiative (WRI) and the World Council for Sustainable development (WBCSD) began an approach toward the industries’ concern regarding the GHG emissions from their products. This is considered as support for the standard and projected protocol (WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol) “The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard”, a joint publication of the WRI and the WBCSD. This standard is expected to be published in 2010. It is considered an international standard and should be widely used over time (Rugrungruang et al, 2009).

However, there are three more standards that involve Carbon Footprints, ISO 14025, ISO 14064 and ISO 14067 (Rugrungruang et al, 2009).

  • ISO 14025 represents the principles of environments, labels and declarations
  • ISO 14064 represents details of principles and requirements dealing with measurement management,including the reporting of GHG emissions from the organization.
  • ISO 14067 represents details of consolidated (double counting, limitations of CFP, cut-off criteria, land-use change, soil carbon change, carbon capture and storage, aircraft emissions and improved (completeness, e.g. clause three – terms and definitions).

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

LCA is an important method for assessing the environmental impact of GHG emission. LCA is defined as a methodology for analyzing the interaction of a technological system within the environment. In the 1990s, the ISO 14040 was published as a development of the ISO 14000 (Environmental Management Standards). ISO 14000 and ISO 14040 provide basic information for conducting an LCA. ISO 14040 (1997) defines Life Cycle Assessment as following : (Khasreen et al, 2009):
  • “A technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product”
  • There are four different phases that involve LCA, as follows:
    • Initial phase: 1) setting the system boundaries; 2) defining the problem; and 3) establishing an important parameters’ inventory
    • Inventory phase: gathering information of 1) raw material (input) and 2) emission (output)
    • Impact assessment phase: identifying inputs and outputs to the environmental impacts
    • Improvement phase: collecting all the information and analyzing it to improve the whole system (environmental performance)

Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)

LCI is one of the parts of the LCA. LCI is the process for measuring the environmental effects of a product’s production process. The purpose of an LCI is to measure the environmental effects caused by a product that would not exist without it (Wikipedia, 2011). Also, the LCI program refers to the second phase of LCA and aims at increasing the access to and quality of LCI databases. What are the requirements for LCI databases and how can data be shared? The LCI program improves global access to transparent, high quality life cycle data by hosting and facilitating expert groups whose work results in (web-based) information systems (UNEP/SETAC, 2010).

Product Category Rules (PCR)

In some countries (e.g. Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc), PCR is considered as one part in the carbon footprint labeling process. This section will present the detail about PCR.

PCR indicates:
1) guidance and rules for the collection of data and other information,
2) how the calculations should be done to transfer the data to the climate impact and
3) how this information should be presented (IEC, 2011).

Normally, each specific product should have its own PCR. This is the reason why there are a lot of different PCR documents. However, the PCR can be simplified significantly if the different groups of products have the same: 1) raw materials 2) composition 3) types of components, etc. Then the same set of general rules is applicable to a large number of similar products (IEC, 2011).

In case, there is no PCR for the product to be declared, the manufacturers have to develop the PCR by themselves. The manufacturers have to study from the existing PCR in similar categories. It is important to make high quality documents of PCR, because various stakeholders will comment on the PCR. After all relevant comments are incorporated into the PCR, it is approved by the stakeholders. Then, the PCR can be approved and established by a technical committee.

Carbon Footprint Labels

Carbon Footprint Label is designed to encourage consumers to purchase low carbon emitting products. This label includes company support regarding GHG emissions. Figure 3 shows examples of carbon footprint labels in different countries (Lee, 2009).

Figure 3: Examples of carbon footprint labels in different countries
(Tinsantisuk, 2010: 68)

Methodology for Assessing Carbon Footprint of Products

Normally, the ISO 14040/44 has been used as a basic methodological condition to quantify CFP. There are six main steps in the process to assess a CFP (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Process steps to assess product carbon footprint (Rugrungruang et al, 2009)

Product Analysis

First of all, the companies have to identify the products that the companies want to consider. The selection criteria depend on the objective and expected outcomes. For example, the intention of the company is to reduce GHG emissions from the production process. However, the company should get familiar with the assessment by starting with a product whose production is relatively simple. The product will be identified according to its raw materials, production processes, waste produced, storage and transportation.

Mapping of Supply Chain Process

The next step is to identify the resource flow of the supply chain (i.e. make a list of input and output activities to cover, from the extraction and raw material processing, to disposal of the product, including packaging). The supply chain process mapping of a simple product is represented in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Supply chain process mapping of a product (Rugrungruang et al, 2009)

Setting of a Boundary System for Assessment

This section presents the scope setting and boundary system for assessment CFP. This is important step to consider the data collected and boundary system scoping related the CFP methodology. Figure 6 represents the B2B process for CFP, where it begins with setting the initial boundary for raw material acquisition and ends with the production process at the manufacturing plant (consistent with cradle-to-gate). Moreover, the CFP process for B2C product types considers the entire life cycle of the product system, separated into five stages of its life cycle: 1) raw material acquisition 2) manufacturing 3) distribution 4) use and 5) end of life management (cradle to grave). The process covers the whole product’s life cycle.

Figure 6: Life cycle boundary setting for B2B type: Cradle-to-gate
(Rugrungruang et al, 2009)

Figure 7: Life cycle boundary setting for B2C type: Cradle-to-grave
(Rugrungruang et al, 2009)

Identification and Data collection

Data collection is a very important step in assessing the CFP. It can be divided into two basic types of data required, which are 1) activity data and 2) emission factors. First, activity data describes the specific measurable quantities of materials and energy used across all life cycle stages. All of this data can be real data (primary data) or they can be aggregate data (secondary data).

The methodology follows the PAS 2050 standard. The company can use primary data for processes that are under their operational control. It includes the amount of resources used, energy consumed at each process, estimates of major waste produced and product transported to and from the manufacturer. Secondary data may be applied in cases beyond these activities.

The emission factors are considered as an important part as well. To use the emission factor, one must convert a unit of activity data into the corresponding GHG emissions, such as electricity emissions kg CO2e per kWh, etc. Also, the emission factors come from primary sources or secondary sources.

Assessment of Carbon Footprint of Products

To calculate the CFP, the first step is to setup the boundaries of the scope of the CFP assessment and illustrate the life cycle flow diagram, the second step is to collect data required for calculation. . Then the calculation can be relatively straightforward. All activity data specified by quantities of resources used are multiplied by the relevant emission factor, and then added together to create the final product carbon footprint.

Figure 8 shows a general flowchart of a tool for CFP assessment for the products from companies that have a wide range of products made (or resources from multiple/variable suppliers). This is one of the reasons why the processes became difficult to manage. A simple computer tool that employs consistent methodology coupled with sets of relevant data will enable factors in the supply chain to have their CFP assessed in a meaningful and internationally accepted manner (Rugrungruang et al, 2009).
This simple computer tool such as GHG+ (MTEC) is based on Thailand’s CFP methodology or Footprint Expert (developed by the Carbon Trust of UK) based on PAS2050. is modular in order to enable a company (each factor in series) to calculate the carbon footprint associated with its activities, and to add this to the carbon footprint data provided by suppliers of incoming materials. The databases will comprise an integrated set of data for different products and supply chains.
The company will be able to identify the hot spots in the lifecycle of product and in the manufacturing processes after the company has assessed the CFP of the products using these tools. Also, the tool provides details of solutions for reducing carbon footprints at the company (including estimated costs and benefits).

Figure 8: General flowchart of a tool for CFP assessment (Rugrungruang et al, 2009)

The results of a carbon footprint for a product are presented in Figure 8 per functional unit of the product. One suggestion is to present the results in graphical format. Then the graph should be broken down into individual lifecycle stages. It would enhance comparability across products, reveal true sources of emissions and lead to more effective carbon reduction strategies (Rugrungruang et al, 2009).

Activities of Carbon Footprint of Products in the world

There are a lot of activities of Product Carbon Footprint from different countries, as indicated in the detail below (Inaba, 2010):

2006 December: Tesco’s Declaration
2007 Spring: Start of CFP in UK
2007 June: ISO/TC207/SC7 (Beijing) Start Discussion
2008 June: Fukuda Vision “Low Carbon Society”
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) started the trial project
June: SC7 (Bogota) NWIP, Endorsed in Nov.
December: “Eco-Product 2008” CFPs of 30 companies
2009 January: SC7-WG2 (Kotakinabal), June (Cairo), Oct. (Vienna)
October: 3 products into the market
December: “Eco-Products2009” CFPs of 28 Companies
2010 February: SC7-WG2 (Tokyo)

Benefits of Carbon Footprint Labeling

  • Presents a positive image of the company showing its concern for environmental issues especially global warming problem.
  • Provides a positive quality to the product which can be advertised and promoted in order to increase sales.
  • Encourage the consumer for voluntary participation to reduce GHG emission when they buy and consume the products with carbon footprint label.
  • Can lead to the implementation of product improvement programs that can reduce the carbon footprint of the entire product life cycle which leads to reduction of GHG emission
  • Can provide primary data required for the initial stages of mitigation programs.


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