Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) - The greenhouse gas footprint of your product

What is a Product Carbon Footprint?

The greenhouse gas footprint for products (PCF) comprises the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted along the entire value chain of a functional unit - this could be a milk carton, a chocolate bar or a car, for example.

The value chain of a product begins with the extraction of raw materials, followed by production and distribution through to utilisation and subsequent disposal or recovery (recycling).

All direct and indirect greenhouse gases (3 scopes) of the individual process steps are relevant - including upstream services such as the refining of fuels or the transport of milk.

For whom is a Product Carbon Footprint relevant?

Responsibility for environmental protection affects all sectors. The focus is on companies and products that are supplied to end consumers (B2C), e.g. food or car manufacturers, as well as the public sector.

The increasing legal and customer requirements are passed on along the supply chain to companies in the B2B sector: Here, too, it is no longer possible to avoid the issues of GHG accounting and climate neutrality.

In both areas, the product carbon footprint is playing an increasingly important role in the awarding of contracts. It can influence public image, sales figures and therefore market share.

Why calculate a Product Carbon Footprint?

How many greenhouse gases does my product cause? How climate-friendly is the service I offer really? What emissions does my event cause?

Customers around the world are increasingly interested in environmentally friendly products and services. And their "carbon footprint" now also plays a key role in purchasing decisions.

Be a pioneer and determine the product carbon footprint (PCF) for your product along its life cycle. In doing so, you are acting in the interests of your customers: with a verified GHG footprint of your products and services, you increase confidence in your performance.

Product Carbon Footprint and Product Life Cycle

The PCF is used to record GHG emissions. Depending on the standard, various balance limits can be applied to the product life cycle. The following must be taken into account:

  • Raw materials and prefabrication
  • Transport routes
  • Production
  • Distribution and sales
  • Utilisation phase
  • Recycling, reutilisation and disposal

Further information can be found on our information page

What advantages does the Product Carbon Footprint offer?

A carbon footprint serves as a management tool for the implementation of GHG and cost reduction plans. In addition, a clear climate strategy for reducing global warming can be developed on the basis of the product carbon footprint.

  • A detailed check of the completeness and methodology used to determine the data provides you with a reliable basis for identifying the actual GHG sources of your product.
  • External verification of the GHG balance safeguards your reporting, improves your reputation and serves as proof of the credibility of your climate neutrality.
  • Use your accredited certificate in accordance with ISO 14067 or the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard as a confidence-building measure for your PR and marketing purposes.

If you want to balance the greenhouse gases of your product or service, you can choose between two established standards:

Own greenhouse gas programmes and individual standards:

If you have developed your own calculation methodology for your GHG accounting, which is explained in a transparent and comprehensible manner, this can also be used as a reference standard for certification.

When creating a PCF, systems on the basis of which environmental and energy data is already being recorded (e.g. ISO 14001 or ISO 50001, emissions trading or the GRI standard) can help. This means that the necessary structures for collecting climate-relevant data are often already in place.

We are happy to combine our verification of your GHG balance sheet with the existing management systems or existing legal reporting obligations. Our auditors have multiple qualifications and can often audit several standards at the same time. Feel free to ask us about this and utilise synergies.

What is a life cycle analysis?

A life cycle analysis (LCA) according to ISO 14040/14044 is very similar to the GHG footprint, but does not only include the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas potential.

In a LCA, other impact categories such as resource consumption, ozone depletion, water scarcity and acidification are considered along the entire value chain of a functional unit. In addition to the mere life cycle assessment, the LCA also focuses on impact assessment and evaluation.

GUTcert will also be happy to verify your life cycle assessment!

Verification of PCF tools and methodologies

In addition to specific greenhouse gas balances, accounting tools and methodologies can also be checked and confirmed against the above standards.

Any software solution that centralises and automates the collection and categorisation of greenhouse gas-relevant information and the calculation and balancing of greenhouse gases for reference values is a carbon footprint tool. This includes Excel-based tools, browser-based applications and other customised software solutions.

In addition to the confirmation of specific PCFs, GUTcert also offers the verification of centralised calculation tools for many PCFs for your complete or partial product portfolio.

An external, independent review not only sets you apart from your competitors, but also protects you against any risks and strengthens the resilience of your tool and the PCF determined and communicated with it.

Especially with newly developed methodologies, it is helpful to ensure plausibility and functionality through an external review.

An independent body compares the calculation methods and (emission) data sources with the requirements of the relevant standard. In the case of organisation-independent tools, the verification can be carried out entirely in remote sessions and a desk test.

In the case of organisation-specific tools, verification is usually also associated with a site inspection. If identified deficiencies have been demonstrably rectified, you will receive a confirmation of conformity for your tool.

Frequently asked questions

Read our FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions about the Carbon Footprint.