HomeNewsMeasuring carbon & water footprints just got easier

Measuring carbon & water footprints just got easier

Which bag of coffee is more sustainable? Which television emits the lowest levels of greenhouse gases over its lifetime? Does a grass-fed beef hamburger use less water? For many who want to do right by the environment, these questions are not easily answered. Now, imagine that you buy hundreds of thousands of products every year. How would you decide which make the most difference from an environmental standpoint? Whether suppliers’ environmental performance claims hold water? What combination of environmentally preferred purchases is most cost-effective?

These questions are increasingly being asked by sourcing and supply chain managers at the largest global corporations and governments — arguably, some of the biggest buyers in the world. Today, the Global Environmental Management Initiative, in collaboration with the Institute on the Environment’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and Climate Earth, introduced a tool that takes a first step at helping answer some of these questions.

GEMI’s Supply Chain Sustainability tool helps businesses identify the purchased inputs that emit the highest levels of GHGs and use the most water in their production. It then helps supply chain managers assess, within three initial categories (paper packaging, plastic film and sheet packaging, and soap and cleaning compounds), strategies for reducing GHG emissions and water use.

“Although many have talked about the need for organizations to coordinate environmental improvement opportunities across sourced inputs, this is the first time that a user-based system has been developed to move the discussion into action,” said Tim Smith, NiSE director, in a news release. “We still have a long way to go before environmental performance can stand alongside price and quality at the scale of corporate and institutional sourcing, but this tool demonstrates that with improved information and coordination across supply chains, cost-effective environmental improvements can be found,” he added.

The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise works with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions to production and consumption challenges — reducing adverse impacts and accelerating innovation to meet the growing demand for materials and energy. NiSE is a strategic initiative of the Institute on the Environment.

Photo courtesy of Nick Saltmarsh (Flickr Creative Commons)

Tim Smith

Director of NiSE

smith463@umn.edu

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