product carbon footprint header
Product Carbon Footprint

Definition, goals, methology & standards

Product Carbon Footprint – Definition

The Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is the most established method for determining the climate impact of a product. Throughout the entire life cycle of a product - from raw material extraction to recycling or disposal - climate-relevant impacts arise in the form of greenhouse gas emissions. The Product Carbon Footprint helps to identify, analyse and, with the right measures, reduce or (ideally) completely avoid these impacts.

In addition to the product-related carbon footprint, there is also the Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF), which considers the impact of the company. For the determination of the PCF and CCF, there are standards and norms that are constantly being further developed.

The global climate goals by 2050 aim at a decarbonized world, which is why all products and services must be evaluated with regard to their climate impact. As a result, the PCF is becoming increasingly important.

When calculating the Carbon Footprint, a distinction is also made between direct and indirect emissions (Scope 1-3): Scope 1 considers all emissions that are directly caused by the company (combustion of fossil fuels, emissions from chemical and physical processes etc.).

Scope 2 analyzes the indirect emissions generated by external providers of electricity, heat, cooling or steam. All other indirect emissions that occur either in the upstream supply chain or during product use are covered by Scope 3 (for example the purchase of products).

PCF – More than CO2

The CO2 footprint is not only - as the name suggests - about carbon dioxide emissions, but also about other greenhouse gases.

The climate impact of the various greenhouse gases is expressed in CO2 equivalents, since the gases have different global warming potentials.

  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur hexaflouride (SF6)
  • Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
Product Carbon Footprint Definition

Goals of the PCF

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and achievement of climate goals
  • Analysis of the climate-relevant hotspots of a production system
  • Increasing transparency in industry
  • Development of internationally binding, harmonized standards and guidelines

Advantages of the PCF for your company

  • Start a fact-based sustainability management through a careful analysis of the current state-of-the-art
  • Identify and reduce unknown savings potentials of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Serve customer needs as PCFs are increasingly demanded

Existing standards for calculating a PCF

Various standards have been developed to determine the CO2 balance of products. The best-known standards for calculating a carbon footprint are following:

  • PAS 2050: Publicly Available Specification (PAS)
    First published by the British Standards Institute in 2008 and revised in 2011 to provide an internationally consistent method for quantifying the CO2 balance of products and services
  • GHG Protocol: Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard
    Based on the first PAS 2050 method, published in 2011, contains requirements for quantifying the greenhouse gas inventories of products and for public reporting
  • ISO 14067
    Most common standard for PCF, consistently being worked , defines the balance limits in which climate change alone is considered an impact category, widely applicable to all products and is intended to promote transparent communication of the results

Differences between the standards

These 3 methods already reach relative consensus in rules for industries or products, recycling and delayed emissions. But there are also significant differences in the standards used to calculate the CO2 footprint. Here are a few examples:

  • For instance, the British PAS does not include the following points: Capital goods, human energy input into processes, transport of the consumer to and from the retail location and commuting of employees.
  • With the PAS it is possible to neglect 5% of the total emissions, provided that said emissions do not exceed 1% of the total impacts each.
  • In the case of GHG, only the 6 substances under the Kyoto Protocol have to be listed in the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA). The listing of further product-relevant substances is recommended, but is not mandatory.

CO2 Footprint Case Studies

Would you like to learn how companies from different industries calculate carbon footprints and optimize their climate impact?

> Read our Case Studies

Our Carbon Footprint Solutions

Carbon Footprint Software

Our Carbon Footprint Software

With our software Umberto you can easily and independently calculate your product or corporate carbon footprint yourself. Identify the hot spots and derive measures to reduce your CO2 emissions in order to achieve your defined climate targets.

To our PCF & LCA Software

Our Carbon Footprint Service Team

Carbon Footprint Consulting Services

Alternatively, our experienced team of experts is at your disposal to calculate the CO2 footprint of your product. We are happy to support you individually step by step, from the collection of data to the complete analysis of climate impacts over the entire life cycle.

Carbon Footprint Consulting Services

Related Topics

Nachhaltige Produktion Sustainable production Header
Sustainable Production

Sustainable production secures the natural foundations of life for future generations

product environmental footprint pef header
Product Environmental Footprint

A Product Environmental Footprint is a new method for measuring sustainability performance developed…

life cycle analysis meaning
Life Cycle Assessment

An LCA is a systematic analysis of the environmental impact of a product over its entire life cycle.

environmental management umweltmanagement
Environmental Management

Environmental management serves to ensure sustainable environmental compatibility of products and…


Eco-efficiency describes a key figure that defines the relationship between economic output (value…

material flow cost accounting mfca header
Material Flow Cost Accounting

Material flow cost accounting according to ISO 14051 is an instrument to identify the true costs of…

material flow analysis stoffstrommanagement header
Material Flow Analysis

A Material Flow Analysis (MFA) considers material flows and collects information regarding their…

Resource Efficiency

Resource efficiency describes the relationship between resource use and output and is becoming…