Demanding Broader Carbon Footprint Calculations


Photo via tomsaint11

Carnegie Mellon University researchers are asking companies to do what is only absolutely reasonable in the face of a big global goal of reducing emissions - broaden the terms on which they calculate carbon emissions.

And that means factoring in the emissions of suppliers.

Most factories, it seems, assess only carbon dioxide released directly and not from materials processing or production of parts done by suppliers, which contributes significantly to the ultimate footprints. Similarly, most retailers analyze only their stores and not their merchandise supply lines.

Not new info, I know. We're already aware that the true footprint of a product is not properly accounted for. A product is connected to a long web of emissions - the collection of the raw materials, shipments to processors, each element of a product going to the main manufacturing plant...and so on. Companies rarely factor all the way back to the mountain, forest or ocean from which the materials came to create their product, and what effect they're having there.

They also rarely factor in the emissions of the shipments to consumers, the emissions generated by consumers using the product, and the emissions generated by landfills or recycling plants that ultimately house the product.

Why not? Because it's really, really hard to do so.

However, the researchers say that it is in the best interest of the companies to do this.

By looking beyond their own walls, businesses will uncover more ways to reduce the burden of looming carbon taxation and high fuel prices. Identifying more energy-conscious manufacturers, for example, could reduce emissions for retailers more dramatically than simply decreasing electricity use in stores.

HP has already taken the first baby steps into this process, releasing the industry's first supply chain emissions data, though full of disputable calculation methods as well, we're sure. But it's a big step and shows companies like Dell, who claim to have already reached carbon neutrality but really only neutralizes roughly 5% of their total emissions, that there's a long way to go before claims of knowing a real footprint can be made.

This is not a new demand - people have been calling for supply chair inclusion for some time now. So, we're hoping companies can take up an important New Year's Resolution. Face the headache full on, and start figuring out the true carbon footprints of their companies. Then do something real about it.

Via SciAm
More on Company Carbon Footprints:
HP Steps Up IT Industry Transparency, Releases Supply Chain Emissions Data
Big Blue Making Supply Chains Into Green Super-Models: No Floppy Disks Required.
75 Grams: The Carbon Footprint of One Bag of Potato Crisps
The Business of Green: The Supply Chain

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Corporate Responsibility | Environmental Footprint

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