What are sustainability standards and frameworks?
Sustainability standards and frameworks are structured guidelines, principles, or criteria that organisations, industries or sectors follow to measure, manage, report, and improve their sustainability performance.
How do standards and frameworks differ? In summary, sustainability standards are specific, detailed guidelines that focus on areas within specific sectors or particular sustainability metrics. Meanwhile, sustainability frameworks are broader and more flexible, offering guiding principles across multiple sustainability dimensions. Frameworks provide the structure, while standards are like specific rules that can be applied and integrated.
Key features of sustainability standards:
Specific, well-defined criteria and guidelines established to measure, manage, and report specific sustainability metrics, such as environmental impacts, social responsibility, or governance practices
Designed to address the unique sustainability challenges and opportunities within a particular domain, such as finance, energy, or agriculture
Often have a narrower focus, concentrating on specific aspects like carbon emissions, labour practices, water usage, or supply chain sustainability
Key features of sustainability frameworks:
Broader, providing a flexible structure or overarching guidance for reporting and integrating sustainability across multiple dimensions—environmental, social, and governance
Meant to guide sustainability reporting and initiatives across various sectors and industries
Standards and frameworks play a critical role in advancing sustainable business practices by providing structured guidelines, defining best practices and establishing a common language for measuring, reporting and improving sustainability performance. They attempt to solve the problem of defining sustainable business, to turn something that risks becoming theoretical and subjective into something practical and objective.
Let’s dive into some key sustainability standards and frameworks…
Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) - Corporate Standard
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) Corporate Standard serves as a comprehensive framework for organisations to measure and manage their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Corporate Standard helps organisations better understand their carbon footprint and take strategic actions to reduce emissions.
The standard covers the accounting and reporting of seven GHGs covered by the Kyoto Protocol – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PCFs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). Rather than being reported separately, these seven are normally combined in a single total of tCO2e where they are all converted into an equivalent amount of CO2 - hence the e.
The Corporate Standard was designed with the following objectives in mind:
To help companies prepare a GHG inventory that represents a true and fair account of their emissions through the use of standardised approaches and principles
To simplify and reduce the costs of compiling a GHG inventory
To provide business with information that can be used to build an effective strategy to manage and reduce GHG emissions
To increase consistency and transparency in GHG accounting and reporting among various companies and GHG programmes
The Corporate Standard was written primarily from the perspective of a business developing a GHG inventory. However, it applies equally to other types of organisations with operations that give rise to GHG emissions, e.g., NGOs, government agencies and universities.
It should not be used to quantify the reductions associated with GHG mitigation projects for use as offsets or credits; the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting provides requirements and guidance for this purpose.
Policy makers and architects of GHG programs can also use relevant parts of this standard as a basis for their own accounting and reporting requirements.
Key features: GHGP Corporate Standard
The GHGP Corporate Standard provides guidance on the carbon accounting process, from setting organisational and operational boundaries, to identifying and calculating GHG emissions, to the reporting and verification of inventory results.
Here, we provide an overview of these areas:
Setting organisational and operational boundaries
According to the Corporate Standard, organisational boundaries can be defined through either the equity share approach or the control approach:
Equity share approach: Under the equity share approach, a company accounts for GHG emissions from operations according to its share of equity in the operation. The equity share reflects economic interest, which is the extent of rights a company has to the risks and rewards flowing from an operation.
Control approach: Under the control approach, a company accounts for 100% of the GHG emissions from operations over which it has control. It does not account for GHG emissions from operations in which it owns an interest but has no control. Control can be defined in either financial or operational terms.
Different inventory reporting goals may require different data sets. Thus, companies may need to account for their GHG emissions using both the equity share and the control approaches. The Corporate Standard makes no recommendation as to whether voluntary public GHG emissions reporting should be based on the equity share or any of the two control approaches - companies need to decide on the approach best suited to their business activities and GHG accounting and reporting requirements.
Once organisational boundaries have been defined, operational boundaries need to be set.
To help delineate direct and indirect emission sources, improve transparency and provide utility for different types of organisations and different types of climate policies and business goals, three “Scopes” are defined by the Corporate Standard for GHG accounting purposes.
Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, for example, emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc.; emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment.
Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the company.
Scope 3: Indirect emissions that are a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company.
Identifying and calculating GHG emissions
After organisational and operational boundaries have been set, companies need to choose and report a base year for which verifiable emissions data are available, and specify their reasons for choosing that particular year.
Companies should also develop a base year emissions recalculation policy, clearly articulating the basis and context for any recalculations. For example, recalculations of a baseline year could take place due to structural changes, changes in calculation methodology, or discovery of significant errors in previous calculations.
Following on from this, the Corporate Standard outlines steps in identifying and calculating GHG emissions, including identifying sources, selecting a calculation approach, collecting data, choosing emission factors, applying calculation tools and rolling up data to corporate level.
Reporting and verification of GHG emissions
A credible GHG emissions report in line with the Corporate Standard presents relevant information that is complete, consistent, accurate and transparent. While it takes time to develop a rigorous and complete corporate inventory of GHG emissions, knowledge will improve with experience in calculating and reporting data.
A public GHG emissions report that is in accordance with the GHGP includes the following information:
Description of the company and inventory boundary
Information on emissions – Total Scopes 1 and 2, emissions data for all GHGs separately, base year, context for any emissions changes, reasons for any exclusions, and methodologies
Information on emissions performance – Emissions from relevant Scope 3 categories, data further subdivided where this aids transparency, performance against internal and external benchmarks
Information on offsets
Finally, the Corporate Standard provides guidance on verifying GHG emissions. The primary aim of verification is to provide confidence to users that the reported information and associated statements represent a faithful, true, and fair account of a company’s GHG emissions.
Verification involves an assessment of the risks of material discrepancies in reported data. Discrepancies relate to differences between reported data and data generated from the proper application of the relevant standards and methodologies. In practice, verification involves the prioritisation of effort by the verifier towards the data and associated systems that have the greatest impact on overall data quality.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - ISO 14064
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.
ISO 14064 is the ISO standard for quantifying and reporting GHG emissions. It consists of three parts, each with a different technical focus.
ISO 14064-1 details principles and requirements for designing, developing, managing and reporting organisation-level GHG inventories. It includes requirements for determining GHG emission and removal boundaries, quantifying an organisation’s GHG emissions and removals, and identifying specific company actions or activities aimed at improving GHG management. It also includes requirements and guidance on inventory quality management, reporting, internal auditing and the organisation’s responsibilities in verification activities.
ISO 14064-2 details principles and requirements for monitoring, quantifying and reporting of project emissions. It focuses on GHG projects or project-based activities specifically designed to reduce GHG emissions and/or enhance GHG removals. It provides the basis for GHG projects to be verified and validated.
ISO 14064-3 details requirements for verifying GHG statements related to GHG inventories, GHG projects and carbon footprints of products. It describes the process for verification or validation, including the planning, assessment procedures, and the evaluation of organisational, project and product GHG statements.
It is important to note that the key aspects for conducting a GHG inventory under ISO 14064 are generally consistent with, and in most cases are derived from, those identified by GHGP Corporate Standard.
The difference between these two documents is that the GHGP identifies, explains and provides options for GHG inventory best practices, while ISO 14064 establishes minimum standards for compliance with these best practices.
Therefore, though different in a few minor areas, the Corporate Standard and the ISO Standard are complementary documents, with ISO identifying what to do and Corporate Standard explaining how to do it. This means that organisations developing GHG inventories, especially those that will seek independent verification, can benefit from using both the Standard and the Protocol as references.
Key features: ISO 14064
ISO 14064 provides standards for several stages of the carbon accounting process, from setting organisational and operational boundaries, developing models for the quantification of GHG emissions, to the reporting of inventory results.
Here, we provide an overview of these areas:
Setting organisational and operational boundaries
According to ISO 14064, the two approaches to defining organisational boundaries are by control and by equity share – in parallel with the GHGP Corporate Standard.
However, setting operational boundaries differs slightly as, instead of Scopes 1, 2 and 3, ISO refers to these as:
Direct GHG emissions: Emissions that result from activities directly under an organisations control, such as combustion of fossil fuels to generate heat, are always included within the inventory
Indirect GHG emissions: Emissions that result from organisation activities but are generated outside the boundaries of the organisation’s direct control, which may or may not be included in the inventory. Indirect emissions from electricity generation are always included but other indirect emissions, such as those resulting from employee travel in non-organisation owned vehicles (e.g. commercial airlines) are optionally included
In addition, ISO 14064 requires the identification of direct and indirect GHG emissions at the organisational level and separately at the facility level.
Developing models for GHG quantification
Except in the (unlikely) case that an organisation can physically measure their emissions, ISO outlines that companies need to select or develop models for the quantification of their GHGs.
Simply put, a model is a representation of how the source data used, such as electricity consumption from a building, are converted into emissions.
According to ISO 14064, the organisation needs to explain and document the justification for the selection or development of the model, considering the following model characteristics:
How the model accurately represents the emissions and removals
Its limits of application
Its uncertainty and rigour
The reproducibility of results
The acceptability of the model
The origin and level of recognition of the model
The consistency with the intended use
In addition, the latest IPCC’s global warming potential data should be used, and the time horizon should be 100 years.
Reporting of GHG emissions
With respect to GHG inventory reporting, ISO 14064 establishes that the report for each reporting period should identify the entity’s organisational boundaries, the GHG emissions from individual operational categories, and the methodologies used to quantify those emissions.
The report should include appropriate explanations regarding these inventory components, especially any exclusions from within the established boundaries or adjustments to the methodologies. The report should also identify what particular standards (e.g. GHGP) the inventory was conducted consistent with and whether verification relative to these standards or programs was undertaken.
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a modular system of interconnected standards that guide organisations in how they can transparently and comprehensively report on their sustainability impacts, strategies and commitments.
Three series of Standards support the reporting process: the GRI Universal Standards, which apply to all organisations; the GRI Sector Standards, applicable to specific sectors; and the GRI Topic Standards, each listing disclosures relevant to a particular topic.
When it comes to the requirements for GHG emissions in GRI Standards, they are based on the requirements of the GHGP Corporate Standard and the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard.
Key features: GRI 305
GRI 305: Emissions 2016 contains disclosures for organisations to report information about their emissions-related impacts, and how they manage these impacts.
These can be summarised into:
Scope 1 disclosures: Companies should include total Scope 1 emissions, information on their base year, sources of emission factors, methodologies, standards adhered to, and tools used
Scope 2 disclosures: Companies should include location-based Scope 2 emissions, market-based Scope 2 emissions if applicable, information on their base year, sources of emission factors, methodologies, standards adhered to, and tools used
Scope 3 disclosures: Companies should include any other relevant indirect Scope 3 emissions, information on their base year, global warming potential rates used, methodologies, standards adhered to, and tools used
There is also guidance within the Standard on the disclosure of:
GHG emission intensity
Reduction of GHG emissions
Emission of ozone-depleting substances
Nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), and other significant air emissions
Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework aims to help organisations assess and communicate the financial implications of climate change on their business.
Established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), TCFD encourages companies to integrate climate-related risks and opportunities into their existing disclosure processes for more informed decision-making. Essentially, it’s designed to solicit decision-useful, forward-looking information that can be included in mainstream financial filings.
It’s important to note that some companies are required to carry out TCFD reporting:
UK companies with more than 500 employees that have either transferable securities admitted to trading on a UK regulated market or are banking/insurance companies (Relevant Public Interest Entities (PIEs))
UK registered companies with securities admitted to AIM with more than 500 employees
Large Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), which are not traded or banking LLPs, and have more than 500 employees and a turnover of more than £500m
Traded or banking LLPs which have more than 500 employees
UK registered companies not included in the categories above, which have more than 500 employees and a turnover of more than £500m
Key features: TCFD
TCFD has structured its recommendations around four thematic areas that represent core elements of how organisations operate—governance, strategy, risk management, metrics and targets.
The four overarching recommendations are supported by key climate-related financial disclosures—referred to as recommended disclosures—that build out the framework with information that will help investors and others understand how reporting organisations think about and assess climate-related risks and opportunities.
In addition, to underpin its recommendations and help guide current and future developments in climate-related financial reporting, TCFD developed seven principles for effective disclosure:
Disclosures should represent relevant information
Disclosures should be specific and complete
Disclosures should be clear, balanced, and understandable
Disclosures should be consistent over time
Disclosures should be comparable among companies within a sector, industry, or portfolio
Disclosures should be reliable, verifiable, and objective
Disclosures should be provided on a timely basis
Climate Disclosure Project (CDP)
The Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) is a non-profit global environmental disclosure platform that supports organisations in understanding and reporting their environmental risks and opportunities. They support organisations in making their environmental impact transparent to stakeholders and better understanding how they can reduce their impact.
CDP scores are utilised by financial institutions and purchasing organisations to make informed decisions, reward high-performing companies, and drive action. But as well as meeting the demands of investors and customers, businesses reporting environmental data through CDP can protect and improve their reputation, uncover risks and opportunities and benchmark progress.
CDP translates standards and frameworks into actual disclosure questions and a standardised annual format, providing investors and companies with a platform where frameworks and standards can be brought into real-world practice through the collection, analysis and sharing of data.
GRI and CDP work together to align best practice and avoid duplication of disclosure effort to ease the reporting burden for the companies that report through CDP and the GRI Standards.
In 2018, CDP aligned with the TCFD recommendations, which now forms the basis of much mandatory disclosure regulation. Companies which disclose through CDP are doing so in line with the TCFD recommendations in a comparable and consistent way.
Key features: CDP
CDP’s Activity Classification System (CDP-ACS) is used to assign sector-specific questions to enterprises. CDP-ACS is a three-tiered system comprising Activity, Activity Group, and Industry.
CDP offers three corporate questionnaires: Climate change, water security, and forests. The CDP-ACS framework categorises businesses according to their most relevant industries, focusing on the varied activities that generate income for businesses connecting them to the commercial implications of climate change, water security, and deforestation.
For example, the climate questionnaire information requirements include:
Scope 1 emissions data
Scope 1 exclusions
Scope 2 emissions data
Scope 2 exclusions
Scope 3 emissions
Scope 3 exclusions
Biogenic carbon data
Once an organisation completes the relevant questionnaires, a CDP score is awarded, evaluating an its environmental performance. The scoring uses letter grades ranging from A to D-, with distinct ratings offered for each focal area of the report (climate change, water, and forests).
CDP’s submission deadline occurs annually, usually at the end of July.
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards enable organisations to provide industry-based disclosures about sustainability-related risks and opportunities that could reasonably be expected to affect the entity’s cash flows, access to finance or cost of capital over the short, medium or long term.
SASB Standards identify the sustainability-related issues in 77 industries. Because SASB Standards are focused on industry-specific—not region-specific—sustainability factors, companies find them a useful tool to help identify financially material sustainability issues for disclosure to investors.
SASB standards may be used alone or in conjunction with other reporting frameworks. The most common use cases for combining SASB Standards with other frameworks include the following:
SASB Standards are often used in conjunction with GRI Standards, with the former focused on communicating financially material information to investors and the latter focused on stakeholder impacts
SASB Standards can serve as a practical tool for implementing the principles-based TCFD recommendations by providing industry specific-metrics related to climate risks and opportunities
SASB Standards can provide industry-specific topics and metrics related to the “non-financial” capitals in the Integrated Reporting framework
In addition, SASB Standards are a useful tool to assist in meeting legal requirements, although supplemental disclosures may be required to meet specific regional requirements. For example, the European Commission recognises SASB standards as a suitable framework for complying with Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) disclosure obligations.
Key features: SASB
To determine which SASB Standard (or standards) apply to a company’s operations, it may be helpful to explore SASB’s Sustainable Industry Classification System® (SICS®). After determining a company’s appropriate industry or industries, the next step is to review the SASB disclosure topics for each industry and identify which disclosure topics are applicable.
Each SASB Standard provides companies with standardised quantitative—or, in some cases, qualitative—metrics intended to measure performance on each disclosure topic or an aspect of the topic.
Every sustainability metric is accompanied by underlying technical protocols that provide guidance on definitions, scope, accounting, compilation, and presentation, and which may also serve as the basis for suitable criteria for an independent, third-party assurance engagement. The technical protocols help ensure that metrics are compiled consistently and enable comparisons across companies.
Ultimately, companies are responsible for determining which disclosure topics represent financially material risks and opportunities for their business and which associated metrics to disclose, taking the company’s business model, business strategy and relevant legal requirements into account.
PAS 2060 Standard for Carbon Neutrality
The PAS 2060 Standard was published by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in 2010 and updated in 2014. It is the only internationally recognised, accepted and respected standard for carbon neutrality.
PAS 2060 is based on the PAS 2050 Standard, which was first released in 2008 and the first framework for measuring a company’s carbon footprint. The updated PAS 2060 standard has a more detailed methodology for measuring the life cycle of GHGs across the entire value chain. It provides guidance on how to quantify, reduce and offset emissions on a specified business area, and organisations can use PAS 2060 to obtain carbon neutral certifications for products, services, buildings or sites, transportation systems, and even events.
Key features: PAS 2060
The PAS 2060 standard is composed of 4 key stages: measure, reduce, offset, and document and validate.
Here we look at each stage in more detail:
The first step in the process is to calculate the carbon footprint of the product, activity or organisation (the "subject" of the carbon neutrality claim), making use of internationally recognised methodologies.
For organisations, the recommended calculation methodologies are ISO 14064-1 or the GHGP Corporate Standard, and for products and services it would be to perform a PAS 2050 lifecycle assessment.
The footprint calculation of the subject should include 100% of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, and all Scope 3 emissions that contribute to more than 1% of its total footprint.
The next step is to reduce these emissions through developing a Carbon Footprint Management Plan that contains a public commitment to carbon neutrality.
The following main aspects of the reduction strategy must be included:
Specific targets for reductions
Planned means to achieve reductions
How residual emissions will be offset
The proper implementation of this plan must lead to the effective reduction of carbon emissions. This is either a reduction in the total amount of GHG emissions emitted (in absolute terms) or a reduction in the intensity or ratio of carbon (for example, carbon emissions per unit of production or turnover of the business). Relatively speaking, the reduction should be greater than the rate of economic growth.
PAS 2060 requires that the total amount of residual carbon emissions is offset by high quality certified carbon credits that meet the following criteria:
They are within one of the schemes approved by PAS 2060 (e.g. Clean Development Mechanism, or Verified Carbon Standard)
They have additionality (e.g. carbon reductions that would not have occurred were it not for the project being financed)
They are verified by an independent third party to ensure that emissions reductions are permanent, avoid double counting and prevent leakage (e.g. emissions are not increased in another area as a result of a project activity)
Credits are retired from a public record within 12 months
Offsetting total residual emissions will make the emissions of the subject carbon neutral.
Document and validate
The final stage is made up by the documentation and verification of carbon neutrality. This requires a declaration that the standards have been met, supported by a set of statements known as “Qualifying Explanatory Statements” (QES).
To promote transparency, the standard requires public disclosure of all documentation supporting the carbon neutrality statement. In practice, this means proof of emissions reduction, withdrawn compensation credits, the Carbon Footprint Report, the Carbon Management Plan and the QES.
PAS 2060 establishes three types of validation upon achieving neutrality: self- validation, validation from another party, and independent validation by third parties.
Self-validation is when the same organisation validates its own carbon footprint and reduction achievements. However, if an organisation lacks internal experience, it should consider the associated risks and implications of a miscalculated or misinformed footprint.
Validation by other parties ensures that the methodology and data have been audited by an external party. This type of validation is recommended for those organisations that want to promote their carbon neutrality status, as it protects the organisation from external criticism.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - ISO 14040
ISO 14040 is a set of guidelines for conducting LCAs and is primarily used by organisations or individuals involved in environmental assessment and management to analyse and improve the environmental performance of products, processes or systems.
It describes the principles for life cycle assessment (LCA) including:
Definition of the goal and scope of the LCA
The life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase
The life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase
The life cycle interpretation phase
Reporting and critical review of the LCA
Limitations of the LCA
The relationship between the LCA phases
Conditions for use of value choices and optional elements
However, ISO 14040 does not describe the LCA technique in detail, nor does it specify methodologies for the individual phases of the LCA. For those practicing, ISO 14044 details the requirements for conducting an LCA.
Key features: ISO 14040
ISO 14040 outlines the four phases in an LCA study:
Goal and scope definition phase: The scope, including the system boundary and level of detail, of an LCA depends on the subject and the intended use of the study. The depth and the breadth of LCA can differ considerably depending on the goal of a particular LCA.
Inventory analysis phase: The LCI analysis phase is the second phase of LCA. It is an inventory of input/output data with regard to the system being studied. It involves collection of the data necessary to meet the goals of the defined study.
Impact assessment phase: The LCIA phase is the third phase of the LCA. The purpose of LCIA is to provide additional information to help assess a product system’s LCI results so as to better understand their environmental significance.
Interpretation phase: Life cycle interpretation is the final phase of the LCA procedure, in which the results of an LCI or an LCIA, or both, are summarized and discussed as a basis for conclusions, recommendations and decision-making in accordance with the goal and scope definition.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - ISO 14067
ISO 14067 details the quantification of product carbon footprints over their life cycle, beginning with resource extraction and raw material sourcing, and extending through the production, use and end-of-life stages of the product.
ISO 14067 is based on principles, requirements and guidelines identified in existing International Standards on LCA, such as ISO 14040 and ISO 14044, and aims to set specific requirements for the quantification of a product carbon footprint.
Essentially, all organisations, governments, industry, service providers, communities and other interested parties can use ISO 14067 to provide clarity and consistency in quantifying the GHG emissions associated with a product.
Key features: ISO 14067
In order to get ISO 14067 certified, an organisation must adhere to requirements within each of the following steps:
Define the scope: Determine the boundaries of the assessment, including the product or service being assessed, the stage of the product’s life cycle to be considered, and the methodology for calculating the carbon footprint
Gather data: Collect the data necessary to calculate the carbon footprint, including energy consumption, raw material inputs, transportation, and waste generation
Calculate the carbon footprint: Use the methodology to calculate the carbon footprint of the product or service
Verify the results: Have a third-party verifier to audit their calculation methodology and results to ensure standard compliance
Communicate the results: Share the verified carbon footprint with the customers and stakeholders to demonstrate the environmental performance of the product
Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) - Product Standard
The GHGP Product Standard provides a structured and internationally recognised approach to assess the carbon footprint of products, allowing companies to better understand and manage the emissions embedded in their offerings.
The Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard helps companies identify GHG reduction opportunities, track performance and engage suppliers at a corporate level, while the Product Standard helps a company meet the same objectives at a product level. Together with the GHGP Corporate Standard, the three standards provide a comprehensive approach to value chain GHG measurement and management.
The Product Standard builds on the framework and requirements established in the ISO 14040, ISO 14044 and PAS 2050, with the intent of providing additional specifications and guidance to facilitate the consistent quantification and public reporting of product life cycle GHG inventories.
However, additional prescriptiveness on the accounting methodology, such as allocation choices and data sources, are needed for product labelling, performance claims, consumer and business decision making based on comparison of two or more products, and other types of product comparison based on GHG impacts.
Key features: GHGP Product Standard
The GHGP Product Standard provides guidance on the product carbon accounting process, from scope and boundary setting, calculating inventory results, to the reporting best practices.
Here, we provide an overview of these areas:
Scope and boundary setting
In addition to identifying which GHGs to account for, establishing the inventory scope involves choosing a product, defining the unit of analysis and identifying the reference flow.
A review or screening exercise of all the products a company produces, distributes, buys or sells is the first step to identifying an individual product to study. Companies should pick a product that is GHG intensive as well as strategically important and aligned with their business goals.
The next step in is to define the inventory boundary, which identifies which emissions and removals are included in the GHG inventory.
Calculating inventory results
Data collection can be the most resource intensive step when performing a product GHG inventory and can have a significant impact on the overall inventory quality.
Here are some steps to take when it comes to product data collection:
Develop a data management plan: A data management plan is a tool to help companies organise and consistently document the data collection process, including sources of data, assumptions made and data quality. Documenting the data collection process is useful for improving the data quality over time, preparing for assurance and revising future product inventories to reflect changes in the product’s life cycle.
Identify all data needs: The attributable processes identified during boundary setting and in the process map provide a basis for the list of data that needs to be collected.
Perform a screening: Screening processes based on their estimated contribution to the total life cycle helps companies focus their data collection efforts. While such screening is not required, it may deliver surprising findings and help companies prioritise data collection resources more effectively.
Collect primary data: To achieve conformance with GHGP, primary data should be collected for all processes under the ownership or control of the reporting company. Primary data are defined as data from specific processes in the studied product’s life cycle. Direct emissions data and process activity data can both be classified as primary data if they meet the definition.
Collect secondary data: Assess and document the data quality of the direct emissions data, activity data and emission factors as the data are collected. Secondary data can come from external sources (e.g., lifecycle databases, industry associations) or can be data from another process or activity in the reporting company’s or supplier’s control that is used as a proxy for a process in the inventory product’s life cycle.
Improve the data quality: Assessing data quality during data collection helps companies determine which data most closely represents the actual emissions released by the process during the studied product’s life cycle. Companies are required to assess data quality using data quality indicators. Data quality indicators can be used to qualitatively or quantitatively address how well the data characterises the specific process(es) in the product’s life cycle.
Reporting is crucial to ensure accountability and effective engagement with stakeholders. Helping users understand the purpose, context, and rationale behind various accounting decisions, as well as the limitations and potential uses of the inventory results, are examples of objectives that a company should seek to address in the inventory report.
According to the Product Standard, a company should inform its stakeholders of the steps it plans to implement, as well as measures its customers or users can implement, in order to reduce emissions based on the inventory results. If this is a subsequent report, a company should also provide an overview of any reductions achieved.
A GHGP Product report must include information about the following:
General information and Scope
Data collection and quality
Setting reduction targets and tracking inventory changes
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Standards
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document which transparently communicates the environmental performance or impact of any product or material over its lifetime.
EPDs are primarily intended to facilitate business-to-business transactions, although they may also be of benefit to consumers who are environmentally focused when choosing goods or services.
EPDs are often required in green public procurement (GPP), tenders by private companies, and building assessment schemes such as LEED, BREEAM, and GreenStar. But companies also increasingly use them in non-construction industries like apparel and chemicals, due to their clear, useful format.
EPDs are based on other standards, in particular ISO 14025, which quantifies environmental information on the life cycle of a product to enable comparisons between products fulfilling the same function. Therefore, it makes sense that the EPD methodology is based on the follows ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 principles and requirements.
Key features: EPD
Typically, EPDs are produced according to a specific set of Product Category Rules (PCR). PCRs provide calculation rules and guidelines to ensure all Environmental Product Declarations within the same product category report the same type of information. The range of existing PCRs is wide, from building materials to natural fibres, food, and chemicals.
EPD reports are available from The International EPD System database. Specific content will vary according to the category of the product, but most summarise environmental information on the product in fewer than 50 pages.
For example, an EPD report includes:
The LCA results
A proper description of the product
The assumptions used in the LCA study for different life cycle stages
The calculation rules used
In addition, a background report is needed to accompany an EPD report. This provides further details about the LCA methodology, assumptions and approach employed to support third party verification, as well as the standards that you have adhered to.
Every EPD needs to be verified by an independent third-party before it can be published. This ensures accuracy, reliability and ensures that the EPD conforms to the requirements of the relevant PCR. Once an EPD has been verified by an independent third-party, it is ready for publication.