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Together for Sustainability

How to develop a product carbon footprint in the chemical industry

Together for Sustainability (TfS) is an industry collaboration that aims to promote and improve sustainability practices within the chemical industry. The primary goal of Together for Sustainability is to harmonise and streamline the sustainability assessments of suppliers within the industry so that the developed PCFs can be integrated into Scope 3 category 1 (purchased goods and services) emissions.

To reach this goal, a Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) guideline was published in 2022. By applying the TfS PCF guideline, TfS members and their suppliers can improve the integration and alignment of the product carbon footprints of their products.

Goal and scope of the Together for Sustainability PCF guidelines

The scope of the PCF guideline covers an approach to calculate the carbon footprint of a product, which is the sum of all the emissions and removal of carbon that occur in the product system. These calculations are done within the cradle-to-gate system boundaries, and the results are expressed in kg CO2 equivalents per functional unit. The Together for Sustainability PCF guideline is fully compliant with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and is also based on the standards for life cycle assessment (ISO 14040/14044) and carbon footprints (ISO 14067). However, the product carbon footprint only includes impact categories related to climate change, in contrast to life cycle assessments where also a number of other impact categories are assessed.

System boundaries and calculation methods

The scope of the Together for Sustainability PCF is a cradle-to-gate assessment. This means that all upstream activities (up until the final factory gate) shall be included in the scope, including raw material extraction and processing, energy generation and consumption, inbound and site-to-site transportation and the treatment of waste generated during the production. All downstream activities (after the final factory gate), i.e. transport to the customer/consumer, the use phase and the end-of-life phase of the product, are excluded from the calculations.

For all processes that occur within the system boundaries, the related greenhouse gas emissions have to be calculated. This is done by multiplying process data with the relevant emission factors. In the chemical industry, these processes include the input of materials, but also chemical reactions and concentration, dilution, or purification steps. In order to correctly calculate the impact of all these processes, additional steps might be required, such as the attribution (also known as allocation) of the inputs and outputs of multi-output processes. While the TfS PCF guidelines are based on other standards, additional guidance and clarifications on these topics are added based on scenarios and examples specific to the chemical industry.

Verification and reporting

All product carbon footprints developed under Together for Sustainability have to be verified. The verification can be done by an independent third party, or by an internal LCA expert. A short checklist is provided in the guideline, that can support both the LCA practitioner during the development and the expert that verifies the study.

The TfS guideline also provides an overview of what data is mandatory in communicating the results to your suppliers. Amongst others, mandatory items to report are the PCF, excluding biogenic removal and emissions, the allocation methods used and the sources of secondary data that have been used. Starting in 2025, the list of mandatory data points to communicate will be extended with the PCF including biogenic removals and emissions. In addition, the emissions will have to be separated into different categories, such as fossil CO2 emissions, biogenic CO2 uptake and removals, CO2 emissions related to land use and aircraft CO2 emissions. From 2025 onwards, it will also be mandatory to report the share of primary data used and the data quality rating.

Ecomatters Support

If you are looking for support in developing carbon footprint calculations that follow the Together for Sustainability guideline, or another carbon footprint guideline, Ecomatters can support you. Our team is experienced with developing product carbon footprints in the chemical industry and can help you align with the relevant standards. Get in contact or schedule a call!

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Max Sonnen

Managing Director

Brienne Wiersema

Sustainability Consultant

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