Environmental Footprinting

A “footprint” describes how human activities impact the global sustainability and moreover how these activities will affect future generations. In a company, the footprint can be measured for one or more categories of impact (e.g. carbon and water footprints related to climate change and water use and depletion, correspondingly) associated with all activities in the product life cycle; it starts with raw material acquisition and moves on to the company’s facilities, process facilities, production processes and finally the product chain distribution.

The water footprint (WF) is based on the pure measure of water quantity used and the associated (direct and indirect) environmental impacts resulting from the use of it such as: damages on freshwater resources, ecosystems and human health; the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, through an expert group on ‘Water Use in LCA’, has developed an operational LCA framework for assessing off-stream freshwater use in LCA (see here: http://www.springerlink.com/content/p21204u463272086/).

A total product carbon footprint (CF) is a measure of the direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with all activities in the product’s life cycle. ISO 14044 provides requirements and guidelines for life cycle assessment, while the GHG Protocol for Scope 3, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), provides more specific definitions for the methods of data collection and emission factors to be used in measuring the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services.

As of 2012, the ISO work on the standardization of carbon and water footprint is still in progress