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All you need to know about Product Carbon Footprint (PCF)

Climate change is a pressing issue, and businesses have a responsibility to minimize their environmental impact. One crucial step is understanding the carbon footprint of your products. In this article, you will learn what a product carbon footprint (PCF) is, why it matters, and how to calculate it.

What is a Product Carbon Footprint (PCF)?

Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is a metric that quantifies the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with a product throughout its life cycle – from raw material extraction and manufacturing to transportation, use and end-of-life management. PCF is typically expressed in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO2e), allowing  an easy comparison of different products’ climate impact.

Why reduce your Product’s Carbon Footprint?

In today’s world, minimizing your environmental footprint is no longer just an option – it’s a business imperative. Here’s why it is essential to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Regulations: Many countries are implementing stricter regulations on carbon emissions. A lower PCF can make your product compliant and avoid potential penalties. For example, the Dutch construction industry now requires adherence to specific MKI (Environmental Cost Indicator) standards, which heavily consider a product’s environmental impact.
  • Cost savings: Reducing emissions often translates to reduced energy consumption and resource use, leading to cost savings for your business.
  • Competitive Advantage: A lower PCF can be a significant competitive advantage. Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability through a lower PCF can attract environmentally conscious investors and partners, while also potentially opening doors to new markets with stricter environmental regulations.
  • Customer demand: Consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious and may choose products with a lower carbon footprint. Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability through a lower PCF can be a significant competitive advantage. Eco-conscious customers are not only willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, but they actively seek out companies with strong environmental practices.

Standards for calculating your Product Carbon Footprint

All PCF calculations rely on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method, outlined in ISO 14040/14044.  There are two main approaches:

  • Partial LCA (PCF-focused): This method focuses solely on calculating the product’s carbon footprint. While less comprehensive than a full LCA, a PCF-focused approach is a good starting point for businesses seeking to understand their climate impact and make initial reductions.
  • Full LCA: This comprehensive approach analyzes all environmental impacts of your product, with PCF being one category. A full LCA provides a holistic view of your product’s environmental footprint, allowing you to identify areas for improvement beyond just carbon emissions.

Ecochain Mobius empowers you to go beyond a simple carbon footprint (PCF) calculation. Mobius analyzes a wider range of environmental impact categories, providing a holistic view of your product’s sustainability profile. It lets you create alternative scenarios, simulating the impact of changes in material sourcing, production processes, and more.

Ecochain Mobius

 

While Mobius is a perfect starting point for businesses that want to calculate the footprint of their individual products, Ecochain Helix caters to those with complex production ecosystems, seeking to analyze and optimize the environmental footprint of their entire product portfolio.

Different standards provide detailed methodologies for PCF calculation, ensuring comparability across products. The best choice depends on your industry and regional regulations, here are the three most common:

ISO 14067: This internationally recognized standard offers flexibility in life cycle models and can be easily expanded to a full LCA later.
GHG Protocol Product Standard: This versatile standard allows cradle-to-grave or gate-to-gate assessments and accommodates various scenarios like land use change.
PAS 2050: Primarily used in the UK, this standard is applicable to most products but excludes land use change considerations.
Pathfinder Framework: In addition to the standards mentioned above, the Partnership for Carbon Transparency (PACT) also provides a global standard for calculating and exchanging product PCF data across entire value chains, which can be helpful for businesses looking to assess the carbon footprint of their products. Ecochain is PACT compliant, more information about this can be read here.

Calculate your PCF

Benefits of LCA for PCF

While understanding your product’s carbon footprint (PCF) is a crucial first step, a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) offers an even more comprehensive view.
The good news? You don’t have to jump straight to a full LCA. Ecochain Mobius is powerful software that empowers you to start with what matters most to you today, like PCF. But, the beauty of Mobius lies in its scalability. As your sustainability journey progresses, Mobius can seamlessly incorporate a wider range of environmental concerns. Here are some benefits of a comprehensive LCA:

Go beyond carbon: While PCF is crucial, a full LCA unveils impact information across over 20 environmental impact categories, like water usage, air pollution, and resource depletion. This holistic view empowers you to identify hidden environmental hotspots and prioritize sustainability efforts across the board.

Data-driven decisions: Gain valuable insights to make informed choices throughout your product’s lifecycle. For example, a full LCA may reveal that switching to a recycled material can significantly reduce your water footprint.

Future-proof your business: As environmental regulations evolve, a full LCA positions you ahead of the curve. You’ll be able to identify potential environmental risks early on and develop strategies for a sustainable future.

Meeting industry standards: Several standards ensure comparability across full LCAs. Common options include:

  • EN 15804+A2: Mandatory for the European construction sector, this standard provides a robust framework for building product LCAs.
  • Product Environmental Footprint (PEF): The EU’s initiative to harmonize LCA approaches within product categories, PEF can simplify compliance and communication.

 

Author
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