Companies and organizations all over the world are developing new ways of decreasing their burden on climate. The demand for low-carbon action is coming from consumers, financial institutions and political decision makers alike. Carbon footprint is a way to measure that impact. However, many companies can also help others to decrease their carbon footprint. This so called Carbon Handprint helps companies to present the positive effects.
The idea behind the Carbon Handprint is that the company develops products and services that allow its customers to reduce their carbon footprint. The calculation gives the size of Handprint caused by the company's product: the bigger the Handprint, the better. When a customer starts using the product, its own footprint decreases.
Actions such as improving energy efficiency, reducing the use of materials, making climate-friendly choices of raw material, developing product recyclability, reducing the amount of waste material, lengthening product lifespans and improving product usability can have an impact on a product's carbon handprint.
Nokia, Neste and Paptic are already reporting their Carbon Handprint and new companies are adopting the method. Since the Handprint is a new and evolving environmental indicator, Finnish companies have the chance to profile themselves as pioneers by communicating positive environmental effects.
We see the Carbon Handprint as a competitiveness factor and an essential part of the carbon neutral business toolkit. We encourage your company to make use of this opportunity to improve your sustainable product portfolio.
Neste is the world's largest producer of renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel refined from waste and residues. Neste has been partnering in a development project coordinated by VTT and LUT since 2016 to develop the science-based method for carbon handprint calculation and communication.
Neste has set an ambitious target to support its customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 million tons every year by 2030. Therefore, carbon handprint calculation is a strategic tool for enabling to fulfil this commitment.
"While it's very important that we all do everything we can to lower our own emissions, we need to not focus on footprint only, but also look at the possibilities of growing the positive handprint. This can only happen in cooperation with other companies and organizations, and it is very important to find the right partners", says Vice President, Sustainability, Salla Ahonen from Neste. "It is essential for us that there will be a common methodology for calculating carbon handprints. Only based on that kind of transparent methodology we can communicate our environmental claims so that our customers can rely on them."
Neste has calculated and communicated the positive climate impacts of Neste MY renewable diesel™ and other premium-quality renewable products since 2012. Neste MY renewable diesel™ provides up to 90% climate benefit over the lifecycle of the fuel compared to conventional fossil diesel. In 2019, renewable products provided by Neste helped its customers to reduce their global climate emissions by 9.6 million tons.
Neste emission reporting is based on reliable publicly available methodologies, and Neste is also active in the methodology development work, including the follow-up project related to the development of environmental handprint methodology.
Paptic is an innovative growth company intent on replacing plastics in packaging. Their patented cellulose-based packaging material can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from carrier bags to mail order packaging, shoe bags and gift wrapping.
Paptic is constantly looking for ways to measure and demonstrate their products' environmental impact. The basics are covered, but ambitions are higher.
"If you look at our product in terms of environmental burden per tonne produced, it measures well. However, we want to enable our customers, international brands, to demonstrate how our product reflects on their customers, the end users", says Esa Torniainen, one of the founders.
Paptic has already experimented with carbon handprint calculations to support their own decision-making. "So far, we have used it to understand the effects of process and material choices and even the location of the material production."
The main objective, however, is to provide a set of tools for the company's customers. "The environmental impact of our material depends on how our customers use it – what material it replaces, can the packaging be reused, and so forth. We want our customers to be able to measure it."
Torniainen wants to take the handprint idea further than just measuring avoided carbon emissions. "We want to use the handprint as an umbrella for measuring a variety of environmental impacts."
Communication technology giant Nokia was one of the first companies to calculate a carbon handprint. They used the methodology to verify CO2 emission reductions enabled by liquid cooling of telecommunication base stations.
Traditionally, base stations use fans and air conditioning units to keep the equipment at a level temperature, which consumes a lot of electricity. Nokia's liquid-cooled base stations can create emission reductions of 80 per cent and cooling energy savings of up to 95 per cent. The surplus heat generated by the station is captured and can be used for example to heat domestic water or directed to a local district heating network.
"I know of a residential building that uses heat captured from a base station to heat their laundry room", says Olli Salmela from Nokia's Bell Labs. He adds that the first liquid-cooled base station was set up on the roof of a student residence. "We explored the possibility of heating a rooftop hot tub with the surplus heat, but unfortunately the rooftop structures couldn't support such a heavy object."
According to Salmela, the carbon handprint method supports Nokia's strategic aims to cut their GHG emissions. Currently, base stations account for almost 60 per cent of telecom equipment energy consumption. "Based on the carbon handprint data, we have been able to calculate that a major part of our emission-reduction targets could be achieved through liquid cooling."
Using a certified calculation method is also useful from a marketing perspective, since it adds credibility to environmental claims. "Getting outside verification is definitely a good thing", Salmela says.
The initial carbon handprint project has since been followed up by further calculations and an academic graduate thesis. "We now use multiple sensors to get accurate data on a daily basis", Salmela says.
Lassila & Tikanoja (L&T) is a service company that is turning societies more circular. Together with its customers, L&T keeps materials and properties in productive use for as long as possible and enhances the use of raw materials and energy. L&T's objective is to continuously grow the carbon handprint of its operations since most of L&T's services can be linked to the mitigation of climate change.
L&T started to measure GHG emission savings or avoided emissions more than ten years ago, and since then the GHG impacts of L&T's services have been assessed annually. Nowadays, L&T measures its carbon handprint based on the methodology presented in the Carbon Handprint Guide.
"Corporate Responsibility is an integral aspect of our strategy, business operations and day-to-day work. We want to be the most sustainable company in our industry and do our part in countering climate change" says Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations, Jorma Mikkonen from L&T. "We evaluate this development with both the carbon handprint, measuring the positive climate impact of our operations, and the carbon footprint, which measures the emissions of our own operations. Our services play a key role in ensuring the responsibility of our customers, which drives us to continuously aim for better results regarding the recovery of the materials in our possession and the reduction of emissions."
In 2019, the carbon handprint of L&T services totaled about 1.2 million tonnes CO2 (eq.) – that equals the annual carbon footprint of more than 110,000 Finns. The positive carbon handprint was generated by L&T's customers being able to replace virgin raw materials with secondary raw materials, or fossil fuels with biofuels and solid recovered fuels.
In addition to L&T's own carbon handprint development work, L&T also participates in the public carbon handprint development project led by VTT. The objective is to extend carbon handprint calculation and reporting to include all L&T's services that have positive GHG impacts.