An important early step of every carbon footprinting engagement is to answer the question:
"What business goals do I hope to achieve through quantifying my product's carbon footprint?".
Investing effort into defining clear business goals early in a project leads to a return of more value than a simple carbon footprint figure. This reflecting upon "why" it is important to understand your product & business impacts will inform the footprinting process and will tailor outcomes towards results that you care about.
Some examples the CarbonGraph team have observed are:
The detailed justification for "why" it is important to understand a product's lifecycle impact varies by business and industry. Some are under scrutiny from the public and investors to reduce their impact, others may be anticipating a need to adapt to upcoming regulatory changes, others may simply consider sustainability as a core part of their guiding principles.
In any case, the most common business goals fall into one of four categories:
The lifecycle product carbon footprinting approach involves quantifying the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of each step in your product's supply chain.
There are obvious reasons for completing such a study, mainly that it is increasingly required for compliance with local GHG reporting regulations. However, there is more that a proactive business can learn when exploring their supply chain at such a granular level. For example:
Both investors and the public use awareness of GHG impacts in a product lifecycle as an indicator of businesses with a more informed and holistic operating strategy.
After a baseline lifecycle product carbon footprint has been produced, the logical next question is "How will/can my footprint change over time?". Acting upon identified market opportunities and reduction strategies should help to reduce your footprint over time.
Some businesses may choose to set performance targets or goals (e.g. to accomplish stated climate change objectives) others may want to conduct a "what-if?" style analysis on how different improvement projects will affect the footprint.
In any case, the trends of lifecycle product carbon footprints over time are normally shared within externally published sustainability reports.
Some examples of the business goals served by tracking performance over time are:
Investigating every step of a product's lifecycle creates an opportunity to re-engage with upstream suppliers and downstream customers.
The boundaries of lifecycle product carbon footprints models span across any individual stakeholder. Therefore emissions reduction at any supply chain step will be reflected in the overall footprint. In other words, positive individual actions reflect well on each stakeholder in the supply chain.
Stakeholder collaboration should be encouraged to move towards this common goal of identifying and reducing carbon footprint of supply chains. Emissions reduction and economic improvement are not mutually exclusive!
Open sharing of product carbon footprint information can lead to benefits to all stakeholders, including:
Consumer and investor preferences are favoring products and organizations that understand and manage their GHG impacts and risks.
Businesses that are proactively identifying these risks are realizing advantages over businesses that are waiting for government and regulatory mandates.