Helping the IT industry get to product carbon footprints that can be compared
The Information and Communication Technology sector is very active in the field of Product Carbon Footprints. They all use some variation of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCAs provide comprehensive methodology for estimating the carbon footprint of a product. They can be used to support purchase decisions, to implement a company-wide climate policy, and to identify levers for product design improvements. All these measures require a transparent approach and unambiguous methodology. Some OEMs make use of streamlined LCA methodologies, and others conduct full LCAs for their products. In all cases, there are many differing assumptions – on materials, on usage profiles, device life, device use location. This currently limits the transparency and comparability of Product Carbon Footprint data. Furthermore, the results do not necessarily enable OEMs to demonstrate sustainability improvements in their manufacturing processes or progress towards overarching climate targets.
In discussions with OEMs, we identified interest across the industry in improving the accuracy and consistency of product carbon footprints.
Product Category Rules (PCRs) are needed for IT equipment to provide the guidance needed for producing comparable LCAs.
To that end, Google has funded a project with Fraunhofer IZM, to develop a strategy for advancing Life Cycle Assessment practice in the ICT industry. The project resulted in a roadmap document summarising the current status of LCA in IT, findings from a broad stakeholder workshop on their current needs and ultimately a roadmap document specifying the measures needed to develop Product Category Rules or a Sector Guideline.
Google also sponsored a related literature review on how best to account for the carbon emissions savings achievable through the reuse of ICT equipment.