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The World’s First Data Visualization of Product Carbon Footprints

By generating carbon-intensity data for each product, CoClear was able to identify industry trends, as well as track product performance improvements along value chains.

A pioneering, interactive data visualization depicting the life cycle analysis (LCA) of hundreds of commercial and consumer products has been developed by sustainability consultancy CoClear, Inc. The data underlying this groundbreaking tool — called the Carbon Catalogue — represents the detailed product submissions made by companies to CDP between 2013 and 2017 as part of their 'Supply Chain Climate Change Information Request.’

This comprehensive data is drawn from 145 companies from 28 countries, representing 30 global GICS industry groups and totaling 866 products.

This is the first time an analysis of global product data has been assembled into a data visualization, providing participating companies across industries — including Braskem, Danone, GM and Stanley Black and Decker — a platform they can use to explore their product's carbon footprints along with those of other companies that reported to CDP.

By generating carbon-intensity data for each product — through measuring the rate of carbon emissions per kilogram of product — CoClear was able to identify industry trends, as well as track product performance improvements along value chains.

The analysis of this data revealed the following:

  • Between 2013-2017, there was a general increase in the number of companies reporting product carbon emissions to CDP

  • 75+ percent of product carbon emissions arise outside the companies’ direct operations — i.e., upstream or downstream in the product’s value chain

  • On average, participating companies with granular life cycle data reduced their products’ carbon footprints at double the rate of companies with only total product emissions. This indicates that granular life cycle analysis may play a crucial role in enabling companies to successfully pursue science-based targets through product redesign

  • 20 percent of companies that pursued product carbon-reduction initiatives in 2016-2017 did so after receiving data requests from their supply chain partners who were already reporting to CDP

  • 58 percent of companies that reported product carbon emissions in 2016-2017 did not supply a breakdown of life-cycle-stage emissions along the value chain

Readers are invited to explore the hundreds of products in the Carbon Catalogue and gain a deeper understanding of products at all stages in their supply chain. Just click on the segments in each data set for detail on the analysis, and search products by company, sector and year.

With CDP providing a clear set of guidelines in the questionnaire, corporations have learned where to gather data and adopt best practices for calculating product-related GHG emissions. In developing its analysis, CoClear recognized that the level of detail provided by the various respondents was as varied as the products they describe. However, the foresight to measure and develop emission-reduction strategies is clearly entrenched in the risk management of leading companies. For these companies, the long-term benefits stand to firmly position their products in future markets.

By providing the Carbon Catalogue for companies to see the current global status of LCA practice, CoClear is encouraging companies to:

  1. Realize how many companies are just starting this journey along with them

  2. Discover that accurate measurement pays off

  3. Create an emission-reduction strand for the DNA of their product

By applying our data science expertise to the CDP data, CoClear was able to reveal these teachable insights by:

  • Using ~50 GICS industries and other company meta data to map each reporting organization into one of 8 broad sectors

  • Where not reported, mining the product descriptions and other fields to obtain weights of products and thus calculate carbon intensities per product

  • Using integrity screening, filter out products that likely had errors such as wrong units, etc.

  • Parsing life-cycle-stage meta data (where available) to break down each product footprint into its bottom-up contributions upstream, manufacturing (i.e. reporting company-owned facilities) and downstream — for a smaller subset, the percentage of transport and end of life.

This examination of product data is part of an ongoing study CoClear is conducting with CDP to help analyze and communicate product carbon emissions across a range of industries. Under the guidance of chief data scientist Dr Christoph Meinrenken, CoClear conducted its first analysis of the 2013-15 reported product LCAs in 2016. The findings were published in a 2016 report, Achieving Higher Value Chain Efficiency Through Produce Life Cycle Analytics.

We’d love your feedback on the Carbon Catalogue, so please feel free to email one of us at [email protected]. The second study of CDP product carbon footprints detailing the findings, including 2016-2017, will be published in early Spring.