- Standards and Carbonostics
- Carbon accounting and reporting
- Linking carbon accounting and pLCA
- Product LCA (pLCA) and Carbonostics
- A Carbonostics analysis
- LCA data and the Carbonostics database
- Carbonostics Results
What standards does the Carbonostics model follow?
Carbonostics delivers facility-level carbon accounting and product lifecycle assessment for the food industry in compliance with the recent GHG Protocol Scope 3 and product standards. In addition, the Carbonostics model is in line with the general guidelines of the main global methodology standards, including the ISO 14040/60 series for LCA and product carbon footprinting. For more details, click here for our standard chart.
Does Carbonostics allow me to do carbon accounting for my reporting needs?
Carbonostics delivers facility-level carbon accounting for the food industry in compliance with the recent GHG Protocol Scope 3 standard. Therefore contributions from all 3 scopes of your value chain emissions can be calculated and easily identified in Carbonostics. In addition Carbonostics: Business includes reporting modules that automatically generate some of the metrics needed to do CDP, GRI and Bilan GES reporting. For a complete list of metrics that can be generated by type of report, click here.
Does Carbonostics allow me to calculate carbon emissions for my business including my entire value chain?
Yes, Carbonostics: Business includes emissions from all 3 scopes of your value chain carbon emissions, in compliance with the recent GHG Protocol Scope 3 standard. The categories of inputs you have to provide include energy, employee transport, product-related information (through Carbonostics: Business + Brand), materials and wastewater.
What standard does the Carbonostics: Business application follow?
Carbonostics: Business delivers facility-level carbon accounting in compliance with the recent GHG Protocol Scope 3 standard.
Can I calculate emissions for multiple facilities in one Carbonostics: Business analysis?
Yes, Carbonostics: Business allows you to include multiple sites in one business analysis. It provides you with details of each site’s carbon emissions in table format, as well as with various graphing options for aggregated emissions.
How do I go about including my Scope 3/value chain emissions in a facility-level analysis?
The Carbonostics model includes scope 3 emission categories in line with the GHG Protocol standard. Scope 3 product-related emissions (such as purchased goods and services) can be included in a business analysis using the Carbonostics: Business + Brand application. This allows you to seamlessly incorporate data from your product analyses into your facility-level carbon measurement. If you have already entered product-related data at the facility level such as energy use, the application makes sure there is no double counting that takes place.
How do I calculate the wastewater quantity I have to enter in Carbonostics: Business?
If you are not sure about the volume of wastewater you send to the sewage per year, it is best to use the volume of water used per year available from your water bill. This will be a good enough approximation to account for carbon emissions generated by wastewater treatment in your facility.
Can I use results from my product analyses in Carbonostics: Brand in my Carbonostics: Business analysis?
Yes, product-related emissions can be included in a business analysis using the Carbonostics: Business + Brand application. This allows you to seamlessly incorporate data from your product analyses into your facility-level carbon measurement.
How do I avoid double counting of emissions in processing when linking my product and business analyses?
When building a Carbonostics: Business + Brand analyses, the application prompts you to make sure there is no double counting between your product-level and facility-level data inputs such as for energy use.
What is a lifecycle analysis or assessment (LCA)? Why should I use a LCA approach to guide my sustainability actions?
LCA is a technique to assess each and every impact associated with all the stages of a process from cradle-to-grave (i.e., from raw materials through processing, distribution, use, and disposal or recycling). This is achieved by:
- Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases;
- Evaluating the potential impacts associated with identified inputs and releases;
- Interpreting the results to help you make a more informed decision.
LCA is a very useful technique to understand your environmental impact throughout your supply chain and to identify where opportunities lie for improvement. It can help you avoid a narrow outlook on sustainability actions.
Why should I do a product-level analysis of my carbon emissions?
An overall assessment of your carbon emissions in your facility or for one particular process or activity will give you a good overall grasp of your key emission areas (a.k.a. hotspots). However, this often won’t tell you more than a study of your energy consumption.
Doing an analysis at the product-level goes one step further and provides the following benefits:
- Making sure all your emissions are considered as you adopt a lifecycle or full supply chain approach (this is important because lifecycle hotspots can be very far away in the production chain);
- Refining your product eco-design options and being able to communicate on your product-specific impact reduction to consumers; Anticipating upcoming product-level environmental legislations.
Should I use a screening LCA approach?
A screening lifecycle analysis is a very useful tool to help you to pinpoint quickly your main environmental impacts (a.k.a. hotspots) throughout your supply chain. By simplifying full LCA methodologies and data requirements, and focusing on the big numbers, screening LCA helps you identify your main opportunities for improvement. When you want to know how to reduce your negative impacts and increase your positive impacts, a screening LCA can help you make decisions on where to focus your efforts, resources, and activity more efficiently, without having to bear the cost and time commitment of a full LCA. With this mindset, you will only need a full LCA when exact carbon emission figures are needed, for example for certain types of product labeling.
Even if your ultimate goal is to do a thorough LCA of your products, screening LCA is suggested as an important first step in an iterative process by the PAS 2050 standard and by the ILCD Handbook. First, you should do a screening test to see where your hotspots are and then focus on those hotspots to dig deeper.
What is a hybrid LCA approach? Is Carbonostics suited for that?
A hybrid LCA approach combines both secondary data (i.e. from verified public and private databases and peer-reviewed publications) and primary data (i.e. actual data measured on site). Carbonostics is suited for pure primary or secondary data LCAs, as well as for hybrid LCAs on carbon emissions.
What are the benefits of a triple-bottom-line approach?
Carbonostics takes a triple-bottom-line (cost + environment + nutrition) approach to product lifecycle management. We recommend analyzing simultaneously the financial costs and profits, the social costs, and the environmental costs to have a complete view of your key criteria for sustainability initiatives and business decision-making in general. In real business language, this means we recommend analyzing your costs, your carbon emissions, your water consumption and the nutritional value of your product – all at the same time.
Does Carbonostics only include carbon emissions for environmental impact?
Carbonostics includes a comprehensive and food-specific carbon database based on best available secondary data. In addition, Carbonostics: Brand allows you to input water consumption at every step of your product’s lifecycle.
Carbon (or CO2 equivalent) emissions are an indication of the global warming potential of a product or a process. It is usually considered by some as a good proxy for the overall environmental impact, due to its close relation to energy use and land management. In addition, reliable methodologies and data sources are available to accurately measure carbon emissions.
However, focusing your efforts only on carbon emission reduction could actually increase other forms of negative impact. The food industry has clear links to agricultural production. In this sector, other important environmental impact indicators include water footprint, soil loss and biodiversity. Indeed, agricultural activities generate a significant consumption of water, use operations with a significant impact in soils, and change landscapes enough to affect biodiversity. But they are also the first ones to suffer from water shortage, depletion of soil resources and loss of resilience due to mono-cropping.
The Carbonostics team believes, however, that unlike for carbon emissions, there is a lack of international standards and data available for other environmental impact indicators. We will continue to monitor the situation and incorporate other indicators in the Carbonostics database as soon as it is realistically possible.
Can Carbonostics be used for all segments in the food industry?
Yes, we have designed Carbonostics to suit the needs of all segments of the food industry, including small and large manufacturers, retailers, food service companies, consultancies and others. For details on this, please refer to Sector Solutions.
Where should I begin with my analysis?
International carbon measurement standards such as the GHG Protocol Standards help you gather all information you must input in an LCA.
Essentially, you will need to have an understanding of the basic flow of materials and activities in your lifecycle to start using Carbonostics. The chart below from the British PAS2050 standard lists the main categories of inputs that are required at every lifecycle stage:
While this may look a little overwhelming, a closer look will reveal that it is actually just a list of the raw materials and activities in your product’s lifecycle. To help you prepare this information for use in Carbonostics and make your Carbonostics analysis easier, you can use the attached planner. Then, you will be set to start analyzing your flow of materials throughout your product’s lifecycle.
How does the cost part of Carbonostics work?
In order to have cost data included along with carbon and nutrition in the graphs and tables of your analysis, you need to enter unit costs for raw materials and activities such as transport and processing. The tool will then calculate the total cost of your scenario and you can see how carbon reduction initiatives impact your bottom line.
How many layers of packaging can I include in my analysis?
Carbonostics is adapted to up to 3 layers of packaging. For secondary and tertiary packaging, you will be prompted to enter the number of product units that are included.
What data do I have to enter for the processing stage?
Carbonostics will prompt you for energy consumption, since that is the main source of carbon emissions for food processing. You can either:
- enter the energy consumption per unit of product and the energy type for your process;
- select the appropriate process in our database. Even though this is a default value for most processes, it can be used in case you don’t know the energy consumption in your process.
Can I enter several transport legs for one item in my analysis?
Yes, Carbonostics gives you the option to enter as many transport legs as you want for each raw material and the finished product. For example, if an ingredient first travels by ocean, then by train and then by truck to reach your facility, you can add a line item for each of method of transport.
What is in the Carbonostics database? How will it help?
Carbonostics features a built-in, secondary database including more than 2500 emission factors for the food industry compiled from verified public and private sources, literature review and modeling. It includes emission factors for agricultural products (at farm gate and processed foods), packaging and building materials, machinery, storage, goods and passenger transport, energy, consumer use, wastewater and end of life.
Having access to the Carbonostics database eliminates the obstacle of having to gather all the data yourself, and allows you to measure your lifecycle even if primary data is not readily available. Furthermore, the use of verified sources assures you of the quality of the data. The Carbonostics database is periodically reviewed by a third party. If you have your own emissions data, you can also combine it with the secondary data in Carbonostics. Carbonostics allows you to model different scenarios using all the varieties of data (primary, secondary or a combination of both) from the database, giving you any number of alternatives to choose from as you measure your lifecycle.
Do I need an extensive data search before I begin?
Carbonostics actually allows you to obtain exploitable results even if you don’t have information for all the lifecycle steps. In Carbonostics: Business, most of the emission factors you need should be included in our database. In Carbonostics:Brand, you can start gathering relevant information on your hotspots by inputting only the recipe of your product. Since most of food products’ impacts tend to be originated with raw materials, the recipe is a good and intuitive place to start. However, the more detail you put on your product’s lifecycle data, the more the results will be accurate. Try to do a preliminary analysis in Carbonostics, identify your hotspots, and then focus on those for further data collection.
What is the source of the carbon emissions data in Carbonostics?
The Carbonostics database is a conglomeration of data from verified public and private sources. Our database is updated on a continuous basis to make sure we have the best available data on the market for the food industry.The main sources of data are:
- Base Carbone data from ADEME, with official data on food and agriculture products from France.
- CarbonScopeData™ by CleanMetrics, one of the largest commercially available databases for North American food production and processing.
- CLM data by the Centre for Agriculture and Environment in the Netherlands, who provides Carbonostics with data from agricultural products.
- Danish LCA Food database by 2.-0 LCA Consultants and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the Aarhus University, with data for Danish food and agricultural products.
- Data from DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK, supplying information and food and processes.
- Ecoinvent data by the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, the world’s leading supplier of life cycle inventories, providing data for all life cycle steps in Carbonostics.
- ESU database by ESU Services, a Swiss database with food and agriculture records.
All data sources and all data records are periodically reviewed by a third party.
What methodology was used in the creation of the carbon emissions data?
The carbon emissions data in Carbonostics is a unique conglomeration of verified private and public data. Each data point has a link to the source and a description of the methodology used to create that piece of data. We provide a comprehensive level of transparency about each data point in the Carbonostics database. Each data has a complete reference associated with it which you will be able to browse through to learn more about the methodology behind the data. Wherever possible, we have provided links back to the original studies or methodology pages that you can follow if you want to know more about the study that generated that particular data point.
Our carbon emissions data conforms to the IPCC Fourth assessment report and to internationallt recognized carbon emission measurement standards, wherever possible.
Since there are several sources in the Carbonostics database, we endeavor to provide methodologically compatible data. That way, our database can be use as a single source and not as the sum of many. If you have a question or a suggestion about these or other records and databases, please let us know at email@example.com.
I want to use an agricultural product coming from abroad/overseas. How do I know if transportation is included in database records?
When choosing ingredients from the Carbonostics database you will find that some include impacts from operations from “cradle-to-farm gate”, which means that the boundary is at the farm and only agricultural production is included. Others, however, include transportation steps taking them from the geographical region where they were produced (and which is indicated in the name of the item) to one delivery country. You can find all this information as you are choosing which ingredient to consider in your scenario. It is in the Item Description area of the tool, which is strategically placed right below the ingredient choice menu.
I found an ingredient in the database which includes transportation to a country different than mine. What do I do?
If you find an ingredient in the database that you want to use, but the carbon emissions in the tool include transportation to a different country than the one you are studying, you have several options:
- Try to understand the transportation steps involved. For example, a product is produced in South America and then shipped to a central European country. You need it in another European country. Since there are long distances involved, it is fair to assume that the difference in road transportation won’t be significant. You can use the record available.
- See if you can reconstruct the ingredient. For example, you want to know the impacts of chocolate made in Switzerland with cocoa beans from Ghana. However, you only find a record including transportation to the UK. Since you have the impacts of the cocoa beans production in Ghana, you can assemble chocolate as a product (considering all inputs and processing required), and then add transportation steps with accurate distances.
- Ask the Carbonostics team for a custom search.
I have data on the carbon emission factor of some of my ingredients: can I use it in Carbonostics?
Carbonostics is a hybrid tool: it allows you to use a mixture of primary and secondary data. You may know carbon emissions about any of the items in your supply chain – perhaps your plastics supplier has run an analysis on their product, or your sugar supplier participated in a government study. If you do, you are encouraged to enter this information in your analysis. This data will stay private to you and will not be made public to the other users of Carbonostics unless you specifically agree to it.
I can’t find my exact ingredient in the Carbonostics database. How do I account for this in my analysis?
Carbon emissions for agriculture-based food products depend on a number of factors such as the method of culture (e.g. conventional, greenhouse, organic), the country of origin, and the type of feed for animals (pasture, soybean cakes). Consequently, carbon emission studies for agricultural products are complex and it is impossible to include all existing variants for ingredients in a database.
So what we recommend is that you find the best possible substitute using the information we provide about every record. Each data point has a link to the source and a description of the methodology used to create that piece of data. We provide a comprehensive level of transparency with a complete reference associated with it which you will be able to browse through to learn more about the methodology behind the data. Wherever possible, we have provided links back to the original studies or methodology pages.
For example, if your recipe calls for a root vegetable that is not listed in the database, consider substituting another root vegetable with similar agricultural growing practices for your ingredient. Use the Override option to select the vegetable, and then change the name and add some notes so you remember what assumptions you made in this scenario.
Remember that you can always make a first calculation of your lifecycle impacts using assumptions for all items you can’t find in our database. Carbonostics will then identify the hotspots (the places in your analysis where you have the most emissions). Then, you can return to your analysis and fine-tune assumptions directly related to those hotspots. For the rest of the analysis, your assumptions will not make a significant difference.
I don’t see all my ingredients in your database, what should I do?
If you can’t find ingredients that are good enough substitutes for the ones that are missing (see this FAQ for details on this), there is an option to request additional research as you build your lifecycle. Our LCA expert does the research in conjunction with our data partners. It is possible that you will incur an additional fee to cover the time needed to do the research on your request. A representative will contact you when the request is received to discuss cost and delivery timeline.
Also, if the ingredient you can’t find represents less than 5% of the total product weight, it is likely that its impact will be fairly marginal compared to the total carbon footprint.
So you may want to use an option available to scale your ingredients up to the full weight of your product. The idea is that if you have found 95% of the total weight of the product, but can’t find the remaining 5%, we can calculate a relative figure based on the data you’ve already entered to account for 100% of the weight of the product. In most cases it will be a good enough approximation.
How do I know if the database represents the impacts in my supply chain?
The Carbonostics database includes data on all the steps of a food product’s lifecycle. It comes from several verified public and private sources and includes many production methods and many locations. Each data point has a link to the source and a description of the methodology used to create that piece of data. We provide a comprehensive level of transparency with a complete reference associated with it which you will be able to browse through to learn more about the methodology behind the data. Wherever possible, we have provided links back to the original studies or methodology pages.
With all of this information, you can determine if there is an exact match with your particular raw material, transport and energy source, etc. or if there is a good substitute available.
The Carbonostics team will also assist you with any doubts or specific data needs you may have.
What is the source of the nutrition data in Carbonostics?
Unlike carbon emissions data, nutritional data is standardized. Our data comes from public national databases, primarily the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, the French food safety agency AFSSA’s CIQUAL database, and the Dutch Food Composition Database (NEVO).
What information do you provide about ingredients?
Ingredients in the Carbonostics database are sorted by category and by variant, typically agricultural method and/or country of origin. In addition, every record includes data source notes with the following information:
- more description about the agriculture method, time period and system boundaries
- rating in peer review
- carbon emissions in kgCO2e/kg of product
- detailed description of data source and methodology considerations
- nutrition data
- nutition data source.
Furthermore, we try as much as possible to provide sources for all records. Interested users may thus backtrack to the original data provider.
How do I know that the Carbonostics data is up-to-date?
Every record in the Carbonostics database includes a data notes section with information on when the data was published or last updated. Our database is updated on a continuous basis to make sure we have the best available data on the market for the food industry.
What does “consumer use” mean in my product analysis?
The consumer use phase of a lifecycle measures the environmental impacts of products generated in the stages after they get purchased by consumers. In most cases, it includes the energy needed for refrigerated or frozen storage at home and to cook the product.
Can I share my analysis with other users?
You can share your analysis with other users who have an active Carbonostics account at no extra cost by clicking on “Share with other users” in the Analysis Options section and entering their email address. Setting up a user account is free. You pay only for each product analysis that you initiate.
How are end of life emissions calculated?
End of life emissions are calculated automatically in Carbonostics based on the information you enter on waste % (for raw material and finished food product), packaging and country of disposal. Our dataset comprises country or global region averages (depending on available data) to compute the amount of waste that goes to landfill, incineration, etc. vs. the amount that is recycled, and therefore the overall emissions attributed to waste.
You can create scenarios to see end of life emissions as a function of country of consumption, or to see how the waste % at the processing and consumer stages impacts your overall emissions.
Does Carbonostics allow me to see the impact of waste?
Yes, Carbonostics allows users to enter the percentage of ingredients and packaging materials that is wasted during the transport and processing stages, as well as the percentage of finished product that is wasted (not eaten) by the consumer. The increase of overall GHG emissions due to these waste fractions can be explained both by the additional amount of raw material that has to be sourced and by the emissions generated by the treatment of waste.
Carbonostics shows emission and cost figures due to waste in the results table and in graphs.
Waste graphs compile 4 sources of emissions:
- Emissions due to extra sourcing of food and packaging materials to compensate for waste at the transport and processing stages
- Emissions due to treatment of waste generated at transport and processing stages
- Emissions due to production of food wasted by the consumer
- Emissions due to treatment of food wasted by the consumer.
Can I upload results for benchmark purposes?
We at Bluehorse Associates firmly believe benchmarking will be key to making the industry progress on the issue of PCF and on their sustainability metrics. So we have collated several hundred published carbon footprints for food products as a first step for benchmarking your analysis. However, these are still only relevant to a small number of different types of products. Product carbon footprint (PCF) is still in its infancy, which still makes it somewhat challenging to make appropriate comparisons.
We are also committed to developing a model that will allow you to benchmark your products against industry standards. If you are interested in helping design this model, or have input on what benchmarks would have value to you, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I use Carbonostics anywhere in the world?
Our data is currently primarily focused on typical ingredients and other inputs used by the food industry in Europe and North America. It also includes imports from many regions of the world. If your company is based elsewhere, or if you source your raw material from unusual locations, Carbonostics may still be adapted to you for a number of reasons:
- Often for ingredients, agricultural method of production is more relevant than country of origin (e.g. extensive grazing land farming for beef, heated greenhouse for vegetables). So you can choose other items in the database with only a small loss of accuracy.
- For industrial standardized raw materials such as packaging, the country of origin has a negligible impact on carbon emissions.
- You have the option to enter your own primary data.
- You have the option to ask for a custom search.
- The Carbonostics team provides systematic updates including more data.
For more advice on how Carbonostics may be suited to your situation, please reach us at email@example.com.
Can I transfer my analysis to another user?
Yes, Carbonostics allows you to transfer your analysis to another user by clicking “Transfer to another user” on Analysis Options. That means that the other user will have edit rights and you will keep read-only access to the analysis.