New Carbon Footprint Standard Launched in the UK

BBC News reports that the Publicly Available Specification 2050 - PAS 2050 - a newly created audit scheme to help companies measure the carbon footprint of their goods, was launched in the UK by BSI British Standards. The effort aims to provide consistency and transparency for British companies to communicate their products’ carbon footprints to consumers. DEFRA, the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, co-sponsored the voluntary system with the Carbon Trust in response to companies looking to count their carbon emissions and consumers wanting to know what how companies are doing just that.

PAS 2050 is an audit system that will help companies calculate the life cycle greenhouse gases emissions of goods and services like food, buildings and electronics. It considers all the life cycle stages of a product from raw materials extraction to end of life (waste management). According to the BSI, the methodology includes six greenhouse gases identified under the Kyoto Protocol and can be used by all sizes and types of organizations. The Carbon Trust developed the method to calculate the total emissions of greenhouse gases in carbon equivalents from a product across its life cycle, but it currently excludes in-use emissions. This could be an issue for electronic products or buildings whose impacts can be important during the use phase, but for products such as food it’s not as big of a deal.

The Carbon Trust Website reports:

The Carbon Trust has already piloted PAS 2050 with 75 product ranges across a wide range of companies including: PepsiCo, Boots, Innocent, Marshalls, Tesco, Cadbury, Halifax, Coca Cola, Kimberly Clark, The Co-operative Group, Scottish & Newcastle, Coors Brewers, Muller, British Sugar, ABAgri, Sainsbury’s, Danone, Continental Clothing Company, Colors Fruit, Morphy Richards, Mey Selections and Aggregate Industries.

They also give a snippit of results saying:

For its Botanics shampoo, Boots has redesigned its logistics network so that products could be delivered direct to stores, reducing road miles and packaging, this alone has reduced the carbon footprint of making the shampoo by 10 per cent.

It will be interesting to see how this audit scheme is coordinated with the already existing ISO 14040 life cycle assessment standard that is used internationally. Although not perfect, this method allows companies to assess the complete life cycle impacts of a product and does not reduce impacts to CO2 equivalents, but looks at broader impacts and includes not only GHG emissions but aquatic toxicity, ozone depletion, eutrophification, etc. One must be careful when reducing results to single indicators as they can be misleading for consumers.

This is an important step forward for helping companies look at carbon footprintsand also in keeping consumers better informed at the point of purchase. It should aid consumers in their quest for responsible purchases and more sustainable lifestyle choices.

More on Carbon Footprinting and Labelling on TreeHugger:
Is a Negative CO2 Footprint Possible?
Carbon Footprint Labels for UK Produce
The Carbon Footprint of a Burger
75 Grams: The Carbon Footprint of One Bag of Potato Crisps
Can’t See the Goods for All the New Labels in UK
Should Food Labelling Show Water Footprint?
Marks & Spencer Reveal Plan A

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Consumerism | Environmental Certifications | Environmental Footprint | Life Cycle Analysis | United Kingdom