Monday, 25 January 2010

New green standards – do we need them?

Last week the GHG Protocol Initiative announced that 60 companies had started measuring the greenhouse gas emissions
of their products and supply chains by testing a new global framework, part of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative.

The two new GHG Protocol standards – the Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard and the Scope 3 (Corporate Value Chain) Accounting and Reporting Standard – provide a methodology to account for emissions associated with individual products across their lifecycles and of corporations across their value chains.


To date most companies have been focusing on their Scope 1 and 2 emissions, i.e. in-house generation and electricity use.  Scope 3 has tended to be confined to business travel.  This new standard will allow companies to look comprehensively at the impact of their corporate value chains, including outsourced activities (particularly useful in the IT industry), supplier manufacturing, and the use of the products they sell.

More than 20 industry sectors from 17 countries are represented.  Participants from ICT include Autodesk, Belkin International, BT, CA, Eclipse Networks, IBM, Lenovo, and SAP.

The draft standards were developed over the last year with participation from over 1,000 volunteer representatives from industry, government, academia and non-governmental
organisations.  The final standards are scheduled to be published in December 2010.

This is a real step forward in emissions calculations.  With the GHG Protocol setting the standard for emissions calculations around the world, this addition is also likely to become the de-facto standard for more comprehensive evaluation of scope 3 emissions.  It’s going to be in all emissions calculating software solutions very soon (if not already).

Whilst the extension of the GHG Protocol standard is to be welcomed, the same cannot be said for a new green electronics standard from an organisation called the Sustainability Consortium, which is co-administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas.

The organisation is apparently working with companies including Best Buy, Dell, HP, Intel, Toshiba, and Walmart to research and publish findings on the lifecycle environmental and social impacts of electronic products.  The findings will be used to support efforts to identify products as sustainable or ‘green’. 

The press release goes on to say that; “The information is designed to reduce consumer confusion and help standardise product claims” and that the Sustainability Consortium “is investigating how to collaborate with standards and programs with which consumers are already familiar, such as EPEAT and ENERGY STAR, and standards set forth by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition”.  If they’re trying to reduce confusion, why introduce another assessment alongside the “already familiar” standards available?

I’ve said before that what’s needed most is to provide clear information to companies and consumers to help them manage their emissions.  The new GHG protocol does that, the Sustainable Consortium just muddies the waters.

© The Green IT Review

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