Science Matters.

With over 3 decades of experience in Carbon Accounting and deep knowledge of the food and beverage industry, CarbonOne's Footprints represent the industry gold standard. Our footprints are rooted in proven science, follow the required standards for corporate and product-level carbon accounting, align with market best practices and use high-quality, rigorously vetted carbon emission factors. With CarbonOne, you have confidence in knowing your fully auditable carbon footprints will withstand scrutiny.

Read our Methodology

Measuring a Carbon Footprint

When measuring a Carbon Footprint, it’s not only Carbon, there are multiple types of GHGs that are measured including: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane(CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N20), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s aka Refrigerants), Perfluorocarbons (PFC’s) and Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6).

Each of these GHGs has a different capability to trap heat in the atmosphere and is benchmarked against carbon dioxide. This benchmark is known as a GHG's Global Warming Potential (GWP). For example, Methane has 28 times greater capability to trap heat than carbon dioxide and therefore has a GWP of 28*. Each GHG emitted and removed along a product’s life cycle is measured and converted into carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). For example, 2 tonnes of methane equals 56 tonnes of CO2e.

*IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

What is a Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) of a food and beverage product?

The Carbon Footprint (CF) of a food and beverage product represents the sum of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emitted and removed throughout its lifecycle. PCF’s are completed by performing a targeted LIfe Cycle Assessment to measure and calculate the climate impact at each stage of the life cycle and, expressed as total CO2 equivalents (CO2e) per kg of product.

A Carbon Label shows the Carbon Footprint per kg of product and is placed directly on the product package, similar to a nutrition label. Carbon Labels are an increasingly common way for companies to communicate the climate performance of products directly to consumers.

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

The life cycle of products represents its “story” across the value chain from the growth of ingredients and extraction of raw materials, shipping those ingredients and materials to a processing facility (s), processing or manufacturing into a final product (including packaging), distributing to retail, storage while at retail, use of the product and finally, the impacts at the end of life (disposal of product and packaging). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific method for quantifying the environmental impacts that occur across the life cycle of a product.

Depending on the scope of the study, one or more life cycle stages may be excluded from a product’s lifecycle. Following the latest international standard for product carbon footprints calculated using LCA methodology, the life cycle of food and beverage products is defined as a “cradle-to-manufacturing gate”. However, when reporting directly to consumers it has become a market best practice to include distribution of finished product to the store shelf, which is known as “cradle-to-shelf".

Product Life Cycle

Types of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA’s)  

A full LCA quantifies multiple environmental impacts such as climate change (greenhouse gas emissions), eutrophication of water, ozone depletion potential etc. for every life cycle stage.

Targeted (or single-issue) LCA's quantify one specific environmental impact such as Climate Change which is known as a Carbon LCA. Measuring the Carbon Footprint of a product requires completing a Carbon LCA – this measures all the GHGs emitted and removed across the product's life cycle, converts it to CO2e as noted above and sums everything to produce the Carbon Footprint of a Product.

All reputable LCA's should be completed by a qualified professional according to a specific protocol. For product-level carbon LCA’s, ISO 14067 and the GHG Protocol Product Standard have long been the recognized protocols to follow. Recently, the PACT Pathfinder Framework was introduced which aligns with these standards to provide an overarching methodology that enables a more consistent calculation of product carbon footprints globally.

What is an LCA Methodology?

There are several variables to consider when completing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) such as what Life Cycle stages to include, what sources of emissions to include from each life cycle stage and how to allocate carbon emissions of an entire processing facility to one product. An LCA Methodology sets how each of these variables is treated when following a specified LCA protocol.

LCA Methodology Standard

Multiple methodologies can result from following the same Protocol depending on how each variable is treated. This creates inconsistencies in how product carbon footprints are calculated because different methodologies produce different numbers (i.e. when one includes a particular life cycle stage and the other doesn’t). This leads to the erosion of trust in the marketplace.

Fortunately, the world is making progress with harmonizing methodologies for product-level carbon accounting. Recently, the World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD) published a global methodological standard for product-level carbon accounting known as the PACT Pathfinder Framework. This enables all product carbon footprints across the globe to be calculated the same way for Scope 3 reporting purposes. CarbonOne welcomes this new standard and we believe it to be a foundational step forward in advancing climate transparency.

CarbonOne’s Life Cycle Assessment Methodology for calculating Carbon Footprints of food and beverage products meets all the requirements of ISO 14067, GHG Protocol Product Standard as well as the overarching PACT Pathfinder Framework for Product Carbon Footprints (PCF’s) and aligns with market best practices for reporting directly to consumers.

What are Carbon Emission Factors?

Carbon Emission Factors represent the amount of CO2e emitted or removed from the atmosphere resulting from a specific activity (i.e use of electricity or fuels, growing ingredients, transportation etc). Emission Factors are produced by various sources and availability is improving but not all are equal.

Importance of Data Quality

The quality of Carbon Emission Factors data is critically important to the accuracy of corporate and product level Carbon Footprints. Carbon Emission Factors are unique to each emission source and activity.. The more a Carbon Emission Factor represents the true CO2e emitted for a specific activity, the more accurate the Carbon Footprint. While some emissions factors such as those for electricity and fuel use are relatively simple to obtain, unfortunately, obtaining proper and high-quality emissions factors for Scope 3, in particular product carbon footprints is challenging and far too often leads to the use of generic or average data. The use of poor-quality data can significantly misrepresent and often overstate a Carbon Footprint.

CarbonOne has extensive data capabilities and uses high-quality emission factor data for Scope1&2 and Scope 3. Our data is specifically curated for Food & Beverage companies and thoroughly vetted by our in-house scientists.

Each piece of emissions factor data is vetted and rated through our Data Quality Rating System. Data is automatically updated, fully referenced and traceable to produce carbon footprints with a high degree of accuracy.