Managing sustainability impact starts with your products. Do you have the right tools in place?
Your business is under pressure to hit sustainability goals, with curbing carbon emissions at the forefront of most agendas. While many businesses look to their total value chain processes (shipping and logistics, manufacturing) as a way to bring down emissions, companies must also account for the footprint – cradle to grave – of their own products. In fact, for most brands and retailers, purchased goods and services is often their largest category of Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.
To calculate the footprint of their existing product lines, and determine ways to make more sustainable products from the onset, businesses are procuring numerous sustainability measurement tools and life cycle assessment (LCA) software on the market. Selecting the right tool will depend a lot on the type and size of your business. But perhaps the most crucial factor for selection is data integrity: choose an LCA tool with best-in-class data and rigorous methodology.
Make sure your LCA tool satisfies these requirements:
1. Builds a complete view of product impact
Calculating your products’ carbon footprint is essential to managing impact. But upcoming legislation will require businesses to account for wider impacts, and investing in carbon-only assessments may limit the scope of impact measurement in just a few years.
To prepare for these broader requirements, look for a solution that affords a comprehensive view of product impact.
Not only should your solution help you understand the fossil fuels used to make, sell, and transport your products, but look for a solution that also helps you understand areas including water and chemical use. Your LCA should build a complete product profile – taking into account bill of materials, finished goods materials, packaging and logistics, distribution and sale, product care, and end of life.
Higg’s Product Module, part of the Higg Product Tools, calculates impact in areas such as water pollution, water consumption, and chemical and fossil fuel use, giving users a complete view of their products’ impact. Businesses then use this data as the launching point into building improvement plans with logistics and procurement teams – from making energy efficient upgrades to reducing product packaging.
2. Supports flexibility and innovation
Your solution should also help you take a granular look at every piece that goes into your products. It should help you understand the impacts and trade offs between using certain materials, trims, and fabrics to help you identify the best combination for your business’s priorities. For example, you should be able to see the chemical use rating if a material undergoes waterproofing, or what the actual impact of using zippers from recycled or new material. Your solution can bring data-backed answers to what were previously assumptions.
For cycling apparel company Pearl iZumi, the Product Module helped apparel designers see that while the company committed to using 50% recycled materials in their apparel, their virgin spandex fabric used in many garments contributed to an overwhelming percentage of every product’s carbon footprint. While Pearl iZumi continues to use recycled materials, Higg data drove them to invest R&D in their proprietary spandex, which, if made more sustainable, could reduce their impact markedly.
Some LCA solutions require your business to come in with prior knowledge of material impacts, yet not all companies have data compiled about every material used in their products. The Product Module is connected to the largest library of materials data in the world, so users have the flexibility to rely on industry-standard product impact assumptions, or enter custom materials information if available. Users can rely on the Product Module to always calculate a reliable product assessment.
3. Streamlines impact measurement
Your product impact data should work however you need it to. Small to medium businesses may need a solution that works as a standalone tool. Larger enterprises may already work from a product lifecycle management (PLM) software and need product impact data to flow into their existing tools. In that case, look for a solution that offers API integration compatible with your preferred PLM. For example, the Product Module integrates with PLM providers such as Dedagroup, Centric Software, PTC, and DeSL to embed Higg’s comprehensive and detailed library of materials data directly into customers’ preferred PLM workflows.
4. Prepares your business for ESG policies
Most businesses in major markets will have to start complying with environmental, social, governance (ESG) policies. The majority of these policies (ESPR and PEFCRs in the EU, New York Fashion Act in the US) will require businesses to manufacture more sustainable products, as well as more clearly communicate product sustainability. The right LCA tool can prepare your business for these due diligence and disclosure regulations.
The Product Module automatically measures performance across five of the EU’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) categories, jumpstarting businesses compliance in EU regulations. Additionally, the Product Module offers a product impact per use calculation, dividing a product’s absolute impacts by expected number of uses, which is the anticipated reporting unit for EU’s PEFCRs.
The regulatory landscape is quickly growing, and building a data-backed product impact measurement framework will prepare your business for what’s to come.
Not only can the right LCA tool help you build more sustainable products from the beginning, but it can also provide credible and consistent data to support external communication with customers and investors. The Product Module has been used to evaluate nearly 3,000 products across the consumer goods industry. As more businesses turn to this tool to consistently measure and report product impact, the faster our industry can scale the adoption of leading practices. Learn more about the Product Module and Product Design Tools.