Advanced Topics

Product carbon footprint

Understanding and mitigating the environmental impact of products has become paramount. Behind the allure of consumer goods lies a hidden ecological footprint, a measure of the carbon emissions released throughout their life cycle. Minimum covers what product carbon footprinting is, and how it’s calculated.

What is a product carbon footprint (PCF)?

A product carbon footprint (PCF) refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated throughout a product's life cycle. It is typically measured in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and takes into account all stages of the product's life, including the extraction or acquisition of:

  • Raw materials
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Product use
  • Disposal or recycling

Product carbon footprints can be useful for companies to understand and quantify the environmental impact of their products. It allows them to identify the main sources of emissions, prioritize areas for improvement, and make informed decisions regarding materials, manufacturing processes, and logistics to reduce their carbon footprint.

How to calculate carbon footprint of a product

To calculate a product's carbon footprint, companies or organizations analyze the energy and resource inputs at each stage of the product's life cycle and assess the associated emissions.

Calculating the carbon footprint of a product involves assessing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with its entire life cycle.

The calculations include energy used during manufacturing processes, emissions from transportation and distribution, and even indirect emissions resulting from the consumption of electricity or heat generated by third-party suppliers.

What product carbon footprinting standards are there?

Several product carbon footprinting standards and methodologies are widely recognized and used globally to help ensure consistency, transparency, and comparability in product carbon footprint assessments. Notable internationally-recognised examples include:

GHG Protocol Product Standard

The GHG Protocol Product Standard, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is a widely recognized and comprehensive framework for quantifying and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with products. It provides guidelines and methodologies for conducting product life cycle assessments and calculating product carbon footprints.

The GHG Protocol Product Standard covers the entire life cycle of a product, from raw material extraction and manufacturing to distribution, use, and end-of-life disposal or recycling. It offers a consistent approach to measuring emissions and provides a basis for comparing the environmental performance of different products.

Learn more about the GHG Protocol

PAS 2050

PAS 2050, which stands for Publicly Available Specification 2050, is a standard developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) that provides a methodology for assessing the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  of goods and services. PAS 2050 is applicable to a wide range of products and helps organizations measure and communicate the carbon footprint of their products.

PAS2050 covers the assessment of all GHG emissions associated with the entire life cycle of a product, from cradle to grave, and addresses a variety of greenhouse gasses, including:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

It considers both direct emissions (Scope 1)  and indirect emissions from energy consumption (Scope 2) , as well as some categories of Scope 3 emissions , such as transportation and waste management.


ISO 14067 is an international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that provides guidelines for quantifying and reporting the carbon footprint of products. It focuses specifically on the calculation and communication of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the life cycle of products.

It outlines the principles and requirements for data collection, emission calculation, and allocation of emissions among the life cycle stages and processes. ISO 14067 offers guidance on how to allocate emissions among different processes and life cycle stages, considering factors such as:

  • System boundaries
  • Functional units
  • Specific allocation rules

It provides flexibility for organizations to choose appropriate allocation approaches based on their specific circumstances.

Identifying opportunities for carbon reduction across products

Identifying opportunities for carbon reduction across products involves assessing the entire life cycle of the products and exploring various strategies to minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Here are some key steps and approaches to consider:

Life cycle assessment (LCA)

Conduct a comprehensive life cycle assessment of the products to understand the carbon footprint at each stage, from raw material extraction to end-of-life.

Raw materials and supply chain

Evaluate the environmental impact of raw materials and consider sustainable sourcing options. Look for alternatives with lower emissions, reduced energy requirements, or lower carbon intensity.

Product design and materials

Explore product design modifications that can reduce material use, enhance energy efficiency, or enable easier recycling.

Energy efficiency and production processes

Identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing processes, such as optimizing equipment, upgrading to energy-efficient technologies, or implementing process improvements.


Evaluate the environmental impact of packaging materials and design.

Product use and maintenance

Assess how the product is used and maintained by consumers and identify opportunities for energy savings or behavior changes that can reduce emissions.

Consumer education and engagement

Communicate the environmental impact of products and encourage consumer awareness and behavior changes.

Collaboration and partnerships

Engage with suppliers, customers, and stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities for carbon reduction.

Minimum can help organizations to understand their existing carbon output, and create plans to mitigate climate related risks in the future.  Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organization and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. 

Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.

FAQs about product carbon footprinting

What is the difference between LCA and product carbon footprint?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and product carbon footprint are related but distinct concepts, here's a breakdown of the differences between the two:

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive methodology used to assess the environmental impacts of a product, process, or system throughout its entire life cycle. It takes into account multiple environmental factors, such as:

  • Energy consumption
  • Resource depletion
  • Water usage
  • Emissions to air, water, and soil

Product carbon footprint however is a specific aspect of LCA that focuses solely on the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with a product's life cycle.

What products have a high carbon footprint?

Several products have high carbon footprints due to various factors such as production processes, raw materials, transportation, and energy usage. here are some examples of products known for their high carbon footprints:

  • Livestock farming
  • Dairy Products
  • Processed Foods
  • Electronics and Appliances
  • Automobiles

It's important to note that the carbon footprint of a product can be influenced by various factors, including production practices, energy sources, transportation methods, and consumer behavior.

What is the difference between CCF and PCF?

Carbon Content Factor (CCF) and Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) are two different metrics used to assess the environmental impact of products. Here's a breakdown of the difference between the two:

CCF focuses solely on the carbon content of a product and provides a measure of its carbon intensity. PCF, on the other hand, encompasses the entire life cycle of a product and quantifies the total greenhouse gas emissions.

Can a product have a negative carbon footprint?

Yes, it is possible for a product to have a negative carbon footprint. This occurs when the product's life cycle results in net removal or reduction of greenhouse gasses. For example, if a product utilizes carbon capture or sequestration technologies, or if it is made from materials that have a negative carbon impact, it can achieve a negative carbon footprint.

Guidance from Minimum team:

  • Cradle-to-grave boundary for finished products and cradle-to-gate for components and materials to facilitate subsequent PCF, as well as Scope 3 footprint of purchased goods and services
  • Provides the basis for highly impactful stakeholder engagement, particularly with third-party verification and the possibility to apply recognised eco labels
  • Good value chain data collection and storage systems are big steps to facilitating PCF calculations, that can otherwise be complex and time consuming