PepsiCo-Columbia Carbon Software Calculates Thousands of Product Footprints

by | Sep 18, 2012

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PepsiCo and researchers at Columbia University have developed software that rapidly calculates the carbon footprints of thousands of products simultaneously.

This new tool can help companies accurately label products and reduce their environmental impacts, according to the study, published online in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Researchers used a lifecycle analysis database that covered 1,137 PepsiCo products and developed new techniques that calculated thousands of footprints and “hotspots” within minutes, with minimum user input (see chart). Companies can view carbon emissions by weight, and broken down by stages of the supply chain for individual products, brands and countries.

Up until now, according to the study authors, lifecycle analysis has mostly been performed one product at a time. But by generating estimated emissions for materials, the software eliminates manual mapping of a product’s ingredients and packaging materials. This enables non-experts to approximate carbon footprints, which can save companies time and money on large-scale carbon footprinting efforts, according to the study.

PepsiCo first collaborated with Columbia’s Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy in 2007 to standardize the company’s calculations of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when a product is made, packaged, distributed and disposed of. This effort resulted in the first US carbon footprint label certified by an impartial third party, for Tropicana orange juice.

PepsiCo has been piloting the methodology for other uses since 2011.

Last week, Stonyfield Farm announced it has now calculated the complete lifecycle carbon emissions of three quarters of its 200 products, as part of parent company Danone’s charge to individually footprint 35,000 items.

Its real-time proprietary software tool, developed by Danone and SAP and validated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, covers all of Stonyfield’s suppliers and every stage of product life from farm to spoon. This includes raw material production, manufacture, transportation of raw materials and finished products, storage by retailers and consumers, packaging and end-of-life disposal.

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