An information session hosted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on product carbon footprints in February 2010 included presentations on three related standardization realms:
  • British Standards Institution’s BSI/ PAS 2050:2008, Specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services
  • World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard (WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol)
  • The future ISO 14067 standard on the carbon footprint of products.

One of the important messages to emerge from the session was that these standards will support the WTO mandate of facilitating international trade. Harmonization of the standards’ requirements will be key to ensuring a trade-friendly standards regime.

The number of companies prepared to estimate their carbon footprints is growing, as reflected in the successful “road testing” exercises organized by WRI and WBCSD from January to June 2010. Forty-two companies representing various sectors and located in 17 countries participated in that exercise, contributing to the finalization of the WRI/WBCSD’s GHG Protocol. The companies that road tested the draft standard reported they had little difficulty completing inventories in conformance with the requirements, and that the guidance provided in the draft was helpful.

Life cycle assessment

The British Standards Institution (BSI), ISO member for the United Kingdom (UK), conducted a survey in September 2010 to gather feedback from those who had downloaded BSI/PAS 2050. Aimed at informing upcoming revisions of the standard, the survey was completed by 1 018 respondents in the UK and around the world, representing organizations of all sizes. The survey revealed the following :

  • The majority of companies reported that the standard helped to achieve a better understanding of organizational processes
  • More than 40 % claimed to have achieved a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • 32 % cited achievement of cost savings and efficiencies.

Leading companies such as Volkswagen, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Unilever, Philips and Timberland use advanced design tools to limit the carbon footprint of products under development. LCA Sustainable Product Design Europe, held in London in December 2010, examined strategies from these pioneers to cost-effectively incorporate life cycle thinking and sustainability into product design. The presentations showed that carbon footprint is a key parameter in designing new products.

Quantification and guidance

Development of ISO 14067 continues apace. Quantification requirements are maturing, and have already informed internal guidance documents for the American retailer Wal-Mart and other companies. The standard will provide much more specific guidance than the underlying ISO 14044:2006, Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines. However, the standard avoids excessively prescriptive language in order to effectively support carbon footprint measurement for all products and services.

ISO 14067 calls for specific product category rules, including not only the specifications of ISO 14025:2006, Environmental labels and declarations – Type III environmental declarations – Principles and procedures, but also other sector-specific standards or internationally agreed guidance documents related to materials and product categories.

The standard also offers a range of communication options, including carbon footprint declarations, claims, labels, reporting and performance tracking. The requirements on verification and the need for specific product category rules are partly dependent upon whether the communication is business-to-business or business-to-consumer.

To improve user-friendliness and consistency, working group WG 2, GHG management in the value or supply chain, of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environment management, subcommittee SC 7, Greenhouse gas management and related activities, decided to merge Part 1, Quantification, and Part 2, Communication. The working group allowed for a second round of balloting to ensure that the standard would earn broad support in all countries.

Thanks to an initiative from the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS), ISO member for the country, and the Swedish International Development Authority (Sida), the ISO process has gained significant engagement from developing countries, in particular from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA countries) and the East African Community (EAC countries).

Those contributions are helping to develop an International Standard that will be useful around the world. This strong interest from developing countries is also reflected in the growing engagement of India and China, which will host another meeting of WG 2 scheduled for the spring of 2012.

Toward further harmonization

The fine-tuning of BSI/PAS 2050 and WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol, together with ISO 14067, is aimed toward further harmonization, addressing not only requirements but also principles, terms and definitions. Participants in all three processes recognize the added value of this parallel work, which is complementary and does not imply a duplication of effort.

WG 2 decided to align the requirements for addressing direct and indirect land-use changes with the specifications of the revised PAS 2050. These requirements are informed by research in Europe and the American state of California which elaborate details related to sustainability criteria for biofuels.

Other sector-specific category rules are under development for the electronic industry by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and for building construction under ISO 21930:2007, Sustainability in building construction – Environmental declaration of building products. These organizations cooperate through liaison with ISO/TC 207/SC 7/ WG 2.

The most recent schedules indicate that the revised BSI/PAS 2050 will become available by end of June 2011. Publication of the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol has been recently scheduled for September 2011, and ISO 14067 is planned to become available as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) by April 2012, with publication expected for September 2012.

Recognizing the added value of carbon footprint monitoring in managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions has helped develop practical tools for companies around the world to improve their performance. This should not be seen as a short-term effort, but rather as a contribution to the international climate process that considers long-term climate goals.

GHG schemes addressing climate change

This brochure provides an overview of the different GHG schemes and describes the practical role that standards such as ISO 14064 can play.

Klaus Radunsky
Klaus Radunsky

Nobel Peace Laureate,
Head of a department

Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency)

Vienna, Austria