Sustainability assessment of products | LCA, PCF and co.

How can we make a meaningful and science-based statement about the sustainability of our products?

We have often asked ourselves this question. Sure, there is the CO2 footprint for products - the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF). But this "only" calculates the CO2 emissions of a product. If you are looking for a quick solution, you can turn to a variety of providers who calculate the PCF using a simple data query via an online tool. We have already chosen this route. This way, you get the product's CO2 emissions calculated with manageable effort and get a rough idea of the product's potential environmental impact, can draw product comparisons, and communicate this metric to customers and partners. From our point of view, this is definitely a good start. However, it gave us a little too few insights.

Another option is to calculate the PCF on your own. This creates a greater understanding of the emission values of the production stages and, through knowledge, can nudge more parameters toward a product that is as sustainable as possible. But it is not quite that simple to perform the calculation on your own. An ISO standard or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol offer support and guidelines, but you must work intensively on the calculation.

But does the carbon footprint really tell us how sustainable a product is? Not completely. As I said, it's a good start to get an assessment of environmental impact, but it's not enough for a holistic assessment. In addition to climate impacts, product manufacturing involves issues such as water use, land use, resource use, harm to biodiversity, toxicity, etc. These categories are included in a life cycle assessment. This is obviously more time-consuming than a PCF calculation and many times more expensive as a service.

To approach the topic step by step, I attended an event of our network " Wissens- und Innovations-Netzwerk Polymertechnik" (WIP). The “Institut für Kunststoff- und Kreislauftechnik” (IKK) of the Leibniz University of Hanover gave a lot of impulses and facts on the topic of sustainability assessment of products. The contents form a good basis for me to take the first steps towards building up my own calculation. What surprised me were the few participants, especially from the business world. Does everyone already know how to do this? Is no one interested in it? Is the topic of LCA unnecessary effort and is a simple externally prepared PCF sufficient?

In any case, I thought the event was very interesting, and I particularly liked the fact that it was discussed on a scientific level. Contact with universities and research institutes is always very valuable for us and we would like to maintain and intensify this.

The seminar showed once again that it is important to be informed about these topics and to consider at an early stage which methodologies are most valuable for our company, our products, and our customers. That is why we have created a strategic measure for the sustainability assessment of products, to be able to give the task the necessary space and strategic consideration.

How do you implement the calculations at the product level?

[Translate to Englisch:]

Talking to each other.

What would you like to know?

Whether it’s about the enterprise, production, one of your product ideas or…?

All you need to do is ask us! We’re looking forward to an interesting discussion with you!