How does a Climate Contribution work at the product level?

Our Collaboration with daheim Solar

Green Product = No Carbon Footprint? Unfortunately it does not work this way. Even if we switch our energy supply to, for example, photovoltaic (PV) systems, the investment causes emissions over the product's lifecycle that need to be accounted for. How corporate and product footprints differ is explained in a joint article with daheim Solar.

daheim Solar offers photovoltaic systems for individuals so they can contribute to the energy transition with clean energy from home for free. With locations in Munich, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Dresden, Erfurt, and Essen, daheim Solar oversees photovoltaic projects from energy consulting to installation to grid registration. The photovoltaic components are partly manufactured in the EU and tailored to the needs of homeowners and their electricity consumption.

With a new initiative, daheim Solar now makes a climate contribution for every new PV system installed at their customers' homes. In this article, we delve into the background of this initiative.

What is the difference between Corporate and Product Carbon Footprint?

The difference between corporate and product carbon footprints lies in perspective: While the Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF) encompasses the total emissions from a company's business activities, the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) focuses specifically on the impact of a single product over its entire lifecycle, from production to usage to disposal. Differentiating between these two footprints allows companies to develop and implement more targeted measures to reduce their environmental impact.

For CCF calculation, greenhouse gas emissions are usually divided into three categories: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. Scope 1 includes direct emissions from the company's operations, such as fuel combustion in company-owned facilities or vehicles. These are often under the direct control of the company. Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions from the consumption of purchased energy, such as electricity or heat, which occur outside the immediate premises but due to the company's activities. Scope 3 encompasses all other indirect emissions outside the company's direct control, such as emissions from the entire supply chain, product usage by customers, or employee business travel.

For PCF, this categorization does not apply. To calculate PCF, the emission values of individual product components and manufacturing steps are considered.

How is a product's footprint calculated?

To calculate a product's greenhouse gas emissions, one must first gain an overview of the entire value chain and lifecycle of the product. The following categories should be considered:

  • Raw Material Extraction and Production: Includes emissions from extracting and processing raw materials, as well as the energy required for material and component manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing Processes: Emissions generated during product manufacturing, such as energy consumption in factories, use of chemicals and other resources, and waste and wastewater management.
  • Transport and Logistics: Emissions from transporting raw materials, components, and finished products between various production sites, warehouses, retail stores, and customers.
  • Product Usage: Emissions during the product's use by end consumers, such as energy consumption of electronic devices, fuel combustion in vehicles, or water and electricity use in household appliances.
  • Disposal and End-of-Life Management: Emissions related to product disposal, including waste, landfill, recycling, or incineration at the end of its life.
  • Packaging: Emissions from the production, transport, and disposal of product packaging.

Gathering the underlying data sources can be challenging. Typically, various data sources and methods should be combined to obtain a comprehensive overview of a product's environmental impact, including internal data, supplier and partner data, public databases, and measurement results from research projects.

How can the product's environmental impact be reduced?

There are many measures companies can take to make the PCF more sustainable. The first step is to calculate the PCF to identify emission sources and take reduction measures. This transparency allows for more effective resource use, such as reducing material loss or using sustainable materials. Production and transport processes can also be optimized based on this data. Other possibilities include improving product lifespan, promoting circular economy, and product innovations through sustainable design.

If these possibilities are exhausted, companies can also make a climate contribution to support climate protection outside their value chain. This can include investing in climate protection projects, either by the company itself or by end consumers.

daheim Solar has adopted this approach to make a climate contribution for the product emissions of their photovoltaic systems. Although the product itself reduces customers' carbon footprints, Daheim Solar wanted to view the footprint of their PV systems holistically. What could this look like in practice? Our joint case study provides insights into how to make a product footprint more sustainable.

Case Study: Photovoltaic System with Climate Contribution from daheim Solar

daheim Solar's PV systems enable private individuals to advance the energy transition in their homes. However, PV systems also generate greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime. To address this, Daheim Solar first identified the emission sources and calculated the carbon footprint of photovoltaics.

Since daheim Solar partly produces PV components in the EU, transport distances have a smaller share of the PCF. Overall, the climate balance of a PV system is favorable compared to other means of electricity generation.

Nonetheless, daheim Solar aims to make a climate contribution for the PCF to think about climate protection holistically and meet the sustainability needs of end consumers.

"We want to take responsibility as a company and make a climate contribution for the CO2 generated during the construction of a PV system. Regionality was important to us. We are pleased to have found a partner in Pina Earth, making climate protection possible right on our doorstep. This way, we actively contribute to making our forests more biodiverse and resilient to increasing heat, storms, and drought." - Alexander Heisler, Team Lead Product Management and Marketing

For each PV system, daheim Solar supports the conversion of 500 square meters of spruce forest in the "Schlegel" project in Thuringia. Over a project period of 30 years, 471 hectares of spruce monoculture (left in the image) will be transformed into a biodiverse and climate-resilient mixed forest (right in the image). Activities such as promoting natural regeneration and planting new species make the forest more resilient to the effects of climate change like storms, drought, and beetle infestation.

State of the forest at project start (left) and goal of the project (right) in the project "Schlegel"

Through this commitment, daheim Solar helps forest owners implement costly conversion measures and prepares forests in Germany for climate change in the long term. Further insights into this and our other projects can be found in our forest dashboard via this link.