Environmental impacts play a key role in business nowadays, both in product design and communications on business activities. These are traditionally measured using quantities, such as emissions and resource consumption, which companies try to minimise. However, our activities can also have a positive impact on the environment.
Aiming for a smaller customer footprint
The calculation of footprints and their use in product design, B2B and B2C communications, and in support of strategic decision-making, are now established in industry. This is a good thing. An approach based on life cycle thinking is important to avoiding sub-optimisation and seeing the wider, overall impact of solutions. The inclusion of impact assessments in the product development phase, in particular, has markedly increased the market share of products that are more environmentally friendly than their predecessors. Decisive choices are made during the product design phase, on issues such as raw materials, production processes and recyclability. Each phase consumes energy and resources and either directly or indirectly generates various types of emissions and waste resulting an environmental footprint.
Many companies are already seeking to reduce their own footprint. At the same time, more and more companies are developing products or processes aimed at reducing the footprint of the customer’s product or service. In such cases, their activities also have a positive environmental impact.
Let’s take an example: Company X develops a more energy-efficient solution than its competitors and launches it on the market. A carbon handprint is created when another actor applies this solution and thereby reduces its own footprint. However, measuring – and communicating on – the related impact has so far been difficult, and companies have been in sore need of a solution.
Environmental handprint can now be calculated
VTT has accepted the challenge: it is developing a carbon handprint calculation method, as well as guidelines on positive environmental impact assessment and communications, alongside Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT).
A carbon handprint can be created in many ways, such as through lower material and energy consumption, reduced emissions and waste, or improved product performance and lifetimes. To ensure that the method takes account of the range of various handprint-forming , methodological development is conducted in cooperation with a group of companies.
Case studies include AM Finland, Biolan, Innofive, KONE, Neste, Nokia and Paptic. We also cooperate with the international organisations involved in developing the handprint concept. These include the CSCP in Germany (which operates in association with the Wuppertal) and Harvard University in the USA.
However, VTT and LUT are working at a more tangible level; we intend to publish the first practical handprint guidebook next summer. Companies can use this to evaluate and communicate on the positive environmental impacts of their products.
”When you go to work for a company, you want to work in a company that is making the world better place”
– Al Gore at SLUSH2017.
For more information: http://www.vtt.fi/sites/handprint
Principal Scientist, VTT
Senior Scientist, VTT