Product carbon footprinting standards in the agri-food sector

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Exporters of agricultural products are being required to measure and take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains by retailers and corporations in the European Union, the United States of America and several emerging economies.
Measuring the carbon footprint of a product from cradle to grave is called product carbon footprinting (PCF). The methodologies often related to Life Cycle Analysis have been drafted into different standards in both the private and public sector.
Measuring PCFs is potentially a costly and technically challenging exercise. It requires the collection of data on greenhouse gas emissions from many processes in the supply chain ranging from clearing land, ploughing the field, applying agrochemicals, harvest, storage, processing, through to packing, transport and consumption.
This document aims to guide exporters and consultants using PCFs through the process of product carbon footprinting so as to make it easier for them to understand the processes involved, improve their environmental performance and ultimately to reduce the costs for their business.
A general background and introduction to PCFs is presented in section 2. A typology of PCF schemes and initiatives is provided in section 3, including examples of important initiatives. The different steps involved in calculating a PCF are described in section 4. Section 5 illustrates how to calculate a PCF with case study examples. Sections 6 and 7 present some methodological issues and problems in calculating PCFs with a focus on data, uncertainty and issues particularly relevant to developing countries. Section 8 gives a brief overview of potential mitigation measures and section 9 concludes this guide.

Katharina Plassmann
International Trade Centre (ITC)