Measuring up, measuring down
What Enviance's and Carbonetworks' solutions have in common is that they're both Internet-based. As such, a manufacturer or retailer using one of the solutions could have their suppliers relatively easily feed environmental data about their wares into the system via an Internet portal. Granular, supplier-provided information about how parts or materials are mined, manufactured, transported, and the like can all be used to determine the final product's overall carbon footprint.
Notably, calculating a product's overall carbon footprint is not yet an exact science, Goldenhersh notes. For example, in calculating the carbon footprint of say, a toaster, do you, in fact, consider how various metals it contains were mined, how each wire was manufactured, packaged, and shipped, or how much energy was necessary to create the plastic button you depress to make toast? Do you calculate it starting from when all those materials arrive at the toaster-assembly line? Do you factor in how the toaster was packaged and shipped to reach the store?
According to Goldenhersh, various international standards exist, so for now, it's important only that a company choose one that's defensible. But a day will likely come, perhaps soon, when there will be a clear standard for assessing the environmental footprint of a screwdriver, a computer, or any other product -- and that standard, like many other standards and protocols, will be defined by those who jump into the race early and pull ahead. Those companies will have the competitive edge. "The winner in supply chain environmentalism will define the boundary of what constitutes a screwdriver's creation," Goldenhersh says.
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