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Embedded Carbon: EICC and MIT Launch New Methodology to Evaluate IT Products

A new approach to locate embedded carbon in IT products includes standardized, product-specific allocation methods that link facility-wide carbon data to the specific product types manufactured within that facility.

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Jun 09, 2014 – 09:00 AM EST

Tags: eicc, mit, hewlett-packard, hp, carbon footprint, it, technology, sustainability, electronics, supply chain

 
Alexandra_degher_hp_eicc

By Alexandra B. Degher, PhD, Hewlett-Packard Company

What if product carbon footprint information was more accurate and could empower consumers to make smart, low-carbon choices in their purchase and use of electronic products?

Although companies are beginning to take steps to enable customers’ purchasing decisions by assessing how much carbon their products emit throughout their lifecycles – from material extraction through manufacturing, use and finally end-of-life – the data being used is highly variable. This variability often results in product carbon footprint (PCF) numbers that contain a lot of uncertainty and ultimately have minimal meaning.

That's because a large portion of an IT product’s total carbon footprint is emitted during the manufacture and transport of the product – aka the embedded carbon. Accurate and consistent “embedded” carbon data is often difficult to obtain in large, multi-tiered supply chains, often with tens of thousands of suppliers, such as those common to the technology sector.

Motivated by our continued search to better understand our products' embedded carbon, we have launched a new method for calculating carbon data in partnership with our fellow Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) members and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The approach includes standardized, product-specific allocation methods that link facility-wide carbon data to the specific product types manufactured within that facility (see figure below).

EICC Facility level data

To learn more about some of these state-of-the-art allocation methods for several IT product subassemblies – including ICs, LCDs, PCAs, HDDs and PCBs – please download a free copy of Product Carbon Footprinting Allocation Project Results.

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