The first tool will be called Scope 3, and is designed to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released through a company’s supply chain. The second tool will calculate the emissions of CO2, methane, and four other greenhouse gases generated over the course of a consumer product’s life cycle – also know as a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
Scope 3 provides a company with a detailed view of the environmental impacts associated with various levels of its supply chain. Using Scope 3, a company can track the greenhouse gas emissions associated with supply inputs such as metal or aluminum. This can help a company determine which aspects of its supply chain are the most carbon intensive, thus allowing it to make adjustments to reduce its overall environmental impacts.
The LCA tracks all aspects of a a product’s lifespan from “cradle-to-grave.” For instance, if we were to do a LCA of an iPhone, we would first look at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction of raw materials (e.g. metal). Then we would find out the emissions associated with material processing and transportation, how much energy is used by the consumer when he/she uses the product, how much it costs to dispose of the iPhone, etc. This allows the company to make beneficial environmental adjustments in the manufacture of its particular product.
Both tools are the latest addition to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which was developed by WRI and WBCSD in 2004 to standardize the measurement of climate warming gases. The two new tools will help businesses understand how their operations impact the environment and how their products’ carbon footprints compare to other companies.
However, the tools could also help a business cut costs and improve its profit margins.
“Until you do a life cycle assessment (LCA), you truly don’t know where the opportunities lie, where energy is used, and how you can create a product or service that has the most benefit with the least impact,” said the director of global sustainability at UPS, Steve Leffin, who was a member of the technical committee that helped develop the rules for the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
In other words, by using the standardized Scope 3 or LCA assessment, companies can understand how to make their operations less energy intensive and more efficient.
For instance, the Coca-Cola bottler, Swire Beverages, used Scope 3 to determine that the greatest amount of GHG emissions and risk came from packaging and refrigeration. The result: the company invested in refrigeration equipment that was 35% more efficient, thus cutting down the company’s operating costs.
But the benefits of utilizing Scope 3 and a standardized Life Cycle Analysis don’t stop there.
They can also serve as powerful marketing tools for consumer’s looking to make more eco-conscious purchasing decisions. Having a standardized system for measuring environmental impacts can provide consumer’s with an accurate way of comparing the environmental impacts associate with two or more similar products.
Just like we receive nutritional information on food packages today, perhaps one day we will also receive a breakdown of a particular product’s environmental impacts!
What do you think of the latest tools added to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol? Do you think companies will see the benefits associated with implementing Scope 3 or a Life Cycle Analysis?