Regulatory trends and market dynamics have steadily increased the need for manufacturers to measure and influence the environmental impacts of their products. A key element of environmental impact is a product’s energy use and links to GHG emissions, sometimes referred to as a product's “carbon footprint.”
Characterizing the carbon impacts of a product can require an evaluation of the product’s entire life cycle, including raw material extraction and transportation, manufacturing (or service provision), distribution, consumer use, and end-of-life disposition. But a more streamlined and cost-effective approach is to identify the principal “drivers” of carbon impact within a product and characterize the effect of changes in those factors.
A range of tools, created by public and private organizations, have emerged in this area of applied research. But there has been no standard approach or methodology for carbon footprint estimation developed specifically for the electrical product industry.
In July 2010, the NEMA Board of Governors approved a contractor study, funded as a Strategic Initiative, aimed at developing a method to guide carbon footprint assessments in the electro-product sector. Expert technical assistance was secured through a contract with the Materials Systems Laboratory (MSL) at MIT’s Center for Technology, Policy & Industrial Development . Sustainability experts in this laboratory possess strong credentials in life cycle assessment and carbon footprint estimation, including recent projects involving electronic products.
With guidance from a diverse advisory panel drawn from the NEMA membership, the project proceeded through two phases. The first phase focused on developing the basic methodology, or “product attribute-to-impact algorithm,” and applying it to an initial set of “focal products” – namely energy efficient lamps and AC induction motors. Findings from these initial analyses produced useful insights to the NEMA members who manufacture these products and highlighted the utility of the method to a broader spectrum of NEMA members.
In the project’s second phase, NEMA refined the PAIA "mapping procedure" by applying it to additional focal products – electronic and mechanical lighting ballasts and several types of electrical connectors. The findings from all of these analyses are appended to the project's final report (see below), which outlines the methodology and presents high level guidance for applying it to other electro-products and systems.
The 2012 interim report that resulted from the project's first phase is also posted below. Inquiries and requests for additional information should be directed to Mark Kohorst at 703-841-3249, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEMA Carbon Footprint Initiative