April 17, 2024


The Product Carbon Footprint (PCF): Calculation to Comprehension

The Product Carbon Footprint (PCF): Calculation to Comprehension

With the concern of climate change upsurging now more than ever, businesses, investors, and consumers are attempting to quantify their carbon footprint in order to scale their own environmental impact. Without carbon data there is little way to account for emissions, understand the weight of their impact, and scale those emissions down by producing and buying low- and no-carbon products. Product carbon footprints (PCFs) quantifiably verify the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the entire life cycle of a product. 

In this article, we’ll explain in detail what a product carbon footprint is, why a partial and full product carbon footprint are necessary, the difference between the corporate and product carbon footprint, and how Net0 can help with carbon emissions management in order to track your carbon footprint for any of the emissions categories and types.

What is a product carbon footprint?

A product carbon footprint equals the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions of a product across its life cycle. A cradle-to-gate partial PCF calculates the emissions from extraction of resources to when it leaves the company (upstream emissions). A complete product carbon footprint includes cradle-to-grave calculations which sums up the emissions of total manufacturing and usage through the end-of-life cycle (upstream and downstream emissions). 

flow chart of value chain emissions

The utilization of a life cycle assessment or carbon footprint analysis consistently adheres to internationally accepted standards, including ISO 14040/44, ISO 14067, PAS 2050, and the GHG Product Life Cycle Standard.

The importance of product carbon footprints

A corporate carbon footprint measures the carbon equivalent (CO2e) including any GHG emissions of a whole company but the PCF measures the CO2e for every individual product. In a YouGov study, 66% of 9000+ consumers surveyed in the UK, Europe, and Canada felt more comfortable buying products with CO2e labels to prove they aren’t buying a product that emits more GHGs than another product that is of the same quality. Although many people admit to not noticing if there is a carbon-specific label or not, these labels are becoming more desired in a variety of sectors, and giving a competitive edge to eco-friendly companies. Many labels say sustainable but having carbon data reporting that is publicly available to back up those claims, mitigates allegations and actions of greenwashing. 

In addition to identifying the hotspots of where carbon is most emitted during the entire life cycle of a product, consumers will realize the weight of the cradle-to-grave impact on the environment. When businesses put a product carbon footprint on a label, it gives a quantifiable edge to outdated and unreliable eco-friendly labels. 

Why the partial product carbon footprint is also necessary 

When choosing suppliers in the value chain, it’s important to know not only their corporate carbon footprint, but their product carbon footprint if you want to source from them with a specific good in mind. The cradle-to-gate partial product carbon footprint tells you that choosing the supplier with the lower footprint would also be better for your PCF. 

Product carbon footprint calculations protect against greenwashing

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a law in January 2024 that banned greenwashing and misleading product information about general environmental claims including those surrounding carbon emissions. “Only sustainability labels based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities will be allowed,” the European Parliament announced in their press release. This means if you track carbon emissions data with certified reports that have verifiable carbon neutrality certificates in the EU, that would be valid. The law does say however, that businesses may not use the label if there are carbon offsetting schemes involved. 

Net0 is government-compliant and offers hosted carbon neutral badges and certificates for businesses and products that have been carbon neutral certified through third-party verification. This enables businesses to track carbon data, report on government regulations, and display their carbon neutral status in a way that is publicly available. Although Net0 does offer options for offsetting partners as it is needed to remove carbon already in the atmosphere or aid companies as they mitigate CO2 to net zero, your local regulations would be your guide on product label placement. 

Related Content

Please check out the latest on how to manage your carbon footprint

Article: How Are Carbon Emissions Measured?
Article: How to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Article: Carbon Footprint Measurement: What It Means for Your Business

How Net0 can help calculate the product carbon footprint for individual products

Net0 excels in delivering precise calculations for the carbon footprint of individual products, utilizing an activity-based methodology that ensures accuracy down to the smallest detail. Through AI-powered data retrieval, Net0 accesses a vast network of over 10,000 integrations to compute emissions factors from more than 50,000 data points across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

The platform's manufacturer section allows companies to meticulously record data for each product. This includes detailed inputs on all materials used, transportation costs, and integration of carbon data from upstream suppliers, which is critical for capturing the full lifecycle emissions of each product. As a result, businesses can calculate the carbon footprint of every unit produced, providing the necessary granularity to track, manage, and ultimately reduce emissions at the product level.

Net0 also offers specialized carbon footprint calculator apps designed to meet specific measurement needs, complementing the comprehensive capabilities of the main platform. These tools empower businesses to perform precise carbon footprint calculations and leverage the data in managing and reducing emissions effectively. Net0’s AI-driven analytics further enhance this process by providing smart predictions and cost analysis, crucial for formulating cost-effective strategies for carbon emissions reductions.

Carbon Emissions of Manufactured Products by Batches

To conclude

The precision of supply chain carbon data has reached unprecedented levels, necessary for achieving an accurate product carbon footprint. Accurately measuring your PCF is essential for maintaining market competitiveness and building trust among stakeholders as businesses advance towards net zero.

The Net0 carbon management platform expertly assists companies in navigating the detailed process of collecting data specific to the product carbon footprint, from initial assessment to detailed reporting. It focuses on detailing emissions from both upstream and downstream activities associated with each product. All scopes and categories of emissions are comprehensively analyzed, with the accuracy of the reports enhanced through third-party verification. This thorough approach ensures that each product’s carbon footprint is precisely calculated and credibly reported.

To learn more about how Net0 can precisely calculate your carbon footprint for each of your products and help transform your product branding through sustainability, schedule a demo with us today.

Written by:

Kristin Irish

As a content writer for Net0, Kristin harnesses her expertise and enthusiasm for carbon emissions reduction, merging it with her other passion: the B2B SaaS industry. Her global outlook and dedication enrich the sustainability sector with insightful perspectives.
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