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Understanding product carbon impact – a guide for businesses

Understanding product carbon impact is key to reducing waste without compromising on quality. Here’s how to understand it and decrease your carbon footprint.

In 2022, 24% of Europe’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions came from goods and services. While other GHG emission numbers fell in recent years, this one rose, which isn’t a good sign. It’s not just operational emissions that are putting a strain on our planet either. Product carbon emissions are also a huge issue, and there are growing consumer and regulatory pressures for sustainable practices to ease the climate crisis.

Of course, completely avoiding waste is impossible. However, there are ways to lessen product carbon impact, and it starts with understanding the issue at hand.

Read on to see why your carbon impact matters and what you can do to reduce your company’s footprint.

Why your carbon footprint matters

Use of finite natural resources
Your business activities likely use finite natural resources. Decreasing your carbon emissions means slowing resource depletion and decreasing your company’s environmental impact. Plus, it has the added benefit of saving you money, as it’ll cost less to go from raw materials to the final product.

Reliance on global supply chains
Your business may also face risks if you rely on global supply chains. The more climate change, the more extreme weather events will happen. As a result, these can disrupt transportation networks or cause crop failures, which can negatively impact business continuity.

Business sustainability
Many consumers prefer to support companies that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability. In addition, governments worldwide are implementing regulations and policies to fight climate change. If you fail to measure and manage your product carbon footprint, then not only can you fall out of favor with the general public, but you risk heavy financial consequences and even a complete shutdown in some cases.

Regulatory compliance for carbon emissions

Not only do we have an obligation to ourselves and the earth to lower our carbon footprints, but we have legal obligations as well. For example, the European Climate Law aims to make the European Union (EU) climate-neutral by 2050. There’s also the ambitious short-term goal of reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% (in comparison to 1990) by 2030. This should show you how urgent it is for us to take action today, and not tomorrow.

To reach these goals, the EU’s passed several initiatives as part of the European Green Deal, such as:

The Carbon Border Adjust Mechanism (CBAM): carbon tax on imported goods
Fuel EU Maritime: alternative/sustainable fuels for the shipping industry
ReFuelEU Aviation: alternative/sustainable fuels for the aviation industry
Social Climate Fund (SCF): dedicated funding for vulnerable groups for the green transition

The benefits of regulatory compliance

Complying with these regulations ensures that your business avoids fines, penalties, and other regulatory measures. This is already a huge plus, considering that you won’t be hit with a financial burden or lapse in operations.

But there are more advantages to regulatory compliance than just dodging fines. Here are some other ways your business can benefit.

Improved brand reputation

Over 74% of worldwide consumers find it (very) important for companies to reduce their carbon emissions or become net zero. If your business shows an active effort to do either/both, this will give you a significant competitive advantage. You’ll prove your worth as a responsible corporate citizen, which will boost your brand reputation.

Cost reduction

It may take some time, effort, and money to rethink your business strategies. However, it’ll pay off in the long run since implementing new measures will result in energy efficiency improvements.

By adopting sustainable practices, you can:

  • Optimize processes
  • Invest in renewable energy sources
  • Lower overall costs

Innovation opportunities

We’re not going to lie: overhauling your current operations won’t be easy. It’ll require innovation and adaption, which can lead to sink-or-swim moments. But if you come out on the other side, your brand may end up with groundbreaking products, services, and practices that are sustainable as well. You’ll definitely remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape.

Better market access

Expansion is often essential for corporate success. And if you don’t comply with carbon emission laws, you may not have access to certain markets or contracts. In addition, if you’d like to take advantage of government incentives and subsidies, you may be locked out in that area too.

How to lower your products’ carbon footprint

In theory, reducing your product carbon impact is fantastic. But how can you make sure what you’re doing is effective and sustainable? By doing the following:

  1. Implementing energy-efficient practices
  2. Sourcing sustainable materials and ingredients
  3. Optimizing logistics
  4. Minimizing packaging materials
  5. Investing in ecodesigning

Perform a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

You can take small steps toward a bigger goal to decrease your product environmental footprint based on the above information. However, without tangible data, it can feel like you’re taking a stab in the dark. This is where an LCA can help immensely. This analysis gives you a look at the carbon emissions emitted through each step of your product’s lifecycle, including:

  • Raw material extraction
  • Manufacturing
  • Packaging
  • Distribution
  • Product use
  • End-of-life disposal

An LCA will tell you where the problem areas (hotspots) are. And with a solution like Ecochain Mobius, you can easily substitute materials to see if alternative scenarios decrease your carbon impact. This will make your operations future-proof, starting with powerful changes today.

For instance, the plant-based cheese company Willicroft used Ecochain Mobius to discover the real-life climate impact their products had. Through this LCA software, they:

  • Quantified their products’ environmental merit
  • Identified their main ingredient as a hotspot
  • Found a more climate-friendly alternative

Start decreasing your product carbon impact

Looking after our planet is vital; not only is the earth a host for all life, but it also has finite resources. This means it’s imperative that you take control of your product carbon footprint by measuring it, managing it, and improving it. Your business depends on it, regulations require it, customers demand it, and most importantly, the planet deserves it.To get better insight into your products and their emissions, you should perform an LCA using solutions such as Ecochain Mobius. With its user-friendly interface, it won’t take much time or effort to start making assessments on your own.

Ready to reduce your carbon impact? Then download our e-book “Mastering Product Footprinting: A 5-step Guide to Success”


Aleksandra Melekhina

As a content marketer with a passion for sustainability, I'm driven to create informative resources that empower businesses to embrace innovation and practices that prioritize environmental well-being

All posts by Aleksandra Melekhina