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: Reducing Carbon Footprint of Products (CFP) in the Value Chain

Annik Magerholm Fet[1] [2] and Arron Wilde Tippett

A Systemic Description of a Product and its Value Chain

“System” is derived from the Greek word “systema” meaning an organised whole. A system constitutes a complex combination of subsystems and interacting system elements. A product, therefore, can be described as a system. A system must have a purpose: It must be functional and able to respond to some identified needs and requirements over its entire life cycle. The system boundaries describe the interface between the system under study and the environment, the system under study and other interrelated systems. Material and energy crossing the system boundaries are defined as inputs to, or outputs from, the system. Man-made systems consume energy and operate within the natural system, referred to as the environment. The effect of man-made systems on natural systems are a subject for study as these effects are often undesirable. To understand these effects, and then impacts, the system's interactions and interchanges with the environment must be analysed at each system level for all the life cycle phases of the system. This approach has not been taken into consideration sufficiently in earlier analyses of systems (Kellogg. 1981).

This chapter presents a model of how to analyse and communicate the Carbon Footprint of a Product (CFP). Systems Engineering (SE) provides a complete overview that helps to understand the interactions between the systems, subsystems and system elements and the environment tlnougliout the entire system life cycle, which gives a holistic perspective (Hitchings, 2008). The process of bringing a product into being starts with an understanding of the stakeholder needs and description of the requirements the product should fulfil. The preparatory' stages of bringing this product into being consist of a conceptual design followed by a detailed design specifying the performance of the product that ensures the product meets the original needs and requirements. Most often, the life cycle of the product is defined as the stages beginning with raw material acquisition, continuing through processing, material manufacturing, product fabrication, use. operation, maintenance and concluding with a variety of product retirement (Eud-of-Life) options.

Decisions made dining the early design phase can significantly impact the product’s overall life cycle performance. Both the life cycle costs and the life cycle environmental impacts should be measured against the system’s total performance or related to the overall function of the system. When comparing the environmental impact of systems, the results are related to a defined functional unit or declared unit of the system.

The LCA-Methodology and Classification of Emissions

There are several methods for determining the specific environmental characteristics of a given product. The most extensive method for studying environmental impacts throughout a product’s life cycle is the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. LCA was first developed in Switzerland in the sixties (Fink, 1997) and then further developed by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC; Consoli et ah, 1993). These practices are standardised in the ISO 14040-documents (ISO, 2006b; ISO, 2006c; ISO, 2012a; ISO, 2012b). The methodology includes the following steps: Goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment, and interpretation, as illustrated in Figure 1 (ISO, 2006b). The LCA methodology is an iterative process, whereby the LCA practitioner is able to move repetitively between the four steps to improve the study, if required.

Phases of an LCA (ISO 14040:2006, ISO, 2006b)

Figure 1. Phases of an LCA (ISO 14040:2006, ISO, 2006b),

Goal and scope definition

In this first stage of an LCA, the application, depth and subject of the study are defined. This includes a determination and description of the functional unit and the specification of the system boundaries. Key activities for the LCA practitioner are familiarizing themselves with the system under study, and working directly with the client to agree on the goal and scope of the study.

Inventory analysis

This stage requires that all emissions and raw material consumption during each process, throughout the entire life cycle, are identified and recorded. Hie result is a long list of emissions and raw materials, known as the inventory table. The key activities at this stage include preparing process flow-charts, collecting data and processing the data.

Impact assessment

This is a technical, quantitative and/or qualitative process to analyse and assess the effects of the environmental burdens identified in the inventory analysis.

Figure 2 illustrates the process of impact assessment through a model starting with a list of environmental aspects linked to air, water, soil, waste and noise. Among the aspects linked to air, different emissions are listed, among these CO, and VOC, which are referred to as greenhouse gases (GHG) and have an impact on climate change. The impact can further be calculated using the ISO 14064 standards and communicated by the ISO 14067 as CFP (ISO, 2018c). Key tasks at this stage, as described above, are classification and characterisation of all the aspects described in the inventory.

There are many, but no generally accepted, methodologies for consistently and accurately associating inventory data with specific potential environmental impacts (Finnveden et al., 2009). It is difficult to find weighting factors that can be commonly adopted all over the world. The methodological and scientific framework for impact assessment is still being developed, and although not fully developed and validated, impact assessment generally includes classification, characterisation and valuation. The main puipose of the classification is to briefly describe which potential environmental effects the inputs and outputs may cause. During classification, the different aspects from the inventory table are noted under the relevant impact categories. For example, all emissions contributing to global warming are noted under the heading Global Wanning Potential (GWP). The characterisation is a quantitative step in which the relative contributions of each input and output to its assigned impact categories are assessed, and the contributions are aggregated within the impact categories.

Illustration of a classification of air emissions to the impact categoiy climate change

Figure 2. Illustration of a classification of air emissions to the impact categoiy climate change.


In line with the defined goal and scope, interpretation is the phase of an LCA in which a synthesis is drawn from the findings of either the inventory analysis or the impact assessment, or both. The findings of this interpretation may form conclusions and recommendations to decision-makers. The interpretation phase may involve the iterative process of reviewing and revising the scope of the LCA. In this chapter’s context it is about finding potential for the reduction of GHG-emissions along the value chain of systems.

The Standards for PCR, EPD and CFP

The emission of greenhouse gasses contributes to GWP (Sproul et al., 2019). The piupose in this chapter is to demonstrate a methodology to determine the carbon footprint in particular subsystems along the entire life cycle value chain of a product, with the intention to reduce the Carbon Footprint of the Product (CFP). However, communication of CFP should be done according to a set of rules, such as those described in international standards. There are different types of environmental information on products. According to the ISO 14020-series, these are Type I-programmes (ISO 14024:2018, ISO, 2018a) (multiple criteria- based, thud party programmes awarding labels claiming high overall environmental performance), Type П-programmes (ISO 14021:2016, ISO, 2016) (self-declared environmental claims, requires that life cycle considerations be taken into account) and Type Ill-programmes (ISO 14025:2006, ISO, 2006a). Type III requir ements are used both to conduct an LCA of the product in accordance with the ISO 14040-standards (ISO. 2006b; ISO, 2006c; ISO, 2012a; ISO. 2012b) and to get an approval of the LCA, and a third-party verification of the declaration. The information should enable comparisons between products fulfilling the same function.

To this end, an environmental product declaration (EPD) is developed, based on product category rules (PCRs), in accordance with the requirements in the ISO/TS 14027:2017 (ISO, 2017b). PCRs are generally developed by industry in collaboration with a national or international EPD program operators, such as the Norwegian EPD Foundation (EPD Norge. 2019). The PCR sets out the information that must be included in EPDs for a specific product categoiy, in addition to the general rules for EPDs (Fet and Skaar, 2006). According to ISO/TS 14027:2017 the PCR-document must describe: (1) the product categoiy, (2) materials and substances to be declared (e.g., specification of materials and chemical substances that can affect human health and the environment during production, use and disposal of the product), in addition to (3) specification of goal and scope, inventory analysis, impact assessment categoiy selection (for example, GWP as CO,-equivalent) and interpretation rules. Instructions for the content and format of the Type III environmental declaration, or EPD, should also be stated in the PCR.

The LCA results may include information about raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, pollutant emissions to air, soil and water, waste generation and the environmental impact associated with the product. For a CFP the impact from GHG-emissions should be stated. All EPDs in a product categoiy shall follow the same format and include the same data as identified in the PCR provided by the program operator.

The CFP-stanclarcl

The CFP reflects the potential effect from the sum of GHG-emissions expressed as CO,-equivalents, which are associated with the environmental aspect of the life cycle of a product affecting climate change. There are different ways of communicating CFP. Common to all of them is that GHG emissions should be quantified and converted into CF based on standardised methods, such as the ISO 14060 family of GHG standards and the ISO 14026-standard for Environmental labels and declarations—Principles, requirements and guidelines for communication of footprint information.

According to the ISO 14060-standards, the family of these standards provides clarity and consistency for quantifying, monitoring, reporting and validating or verifying GHG-emissions to support reduction of GHG-emission along the value chain of a product. In addition, the ISO 14040-standards for LCA, the ISO 14020-standards for product declaration and the ISO/TS 14071:2014 (ISO/TS, 2014) standard for conducting critical review of the results are a family of standards that should be considered in the documentation of CFP. An overview of the principles of each of the relevant standards, and diagrams showing how they are connected, is given in Annex 1 to this chapter.

  • [1] Department for International Business, NTNU, Norway, Larsgardsveien 2, 6009 Alesund.Email: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
  • [2] Corresponding author: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
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