What is Carbon Footprint?
Carbon Footprint is the sum of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change - such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4) –, which are emitted throughout the life cycle of a product. The carbon footprint is measured in kilos of CO2 equivalents (kg CO2-eq). Calculating the carbon footprint of agricultural products requires specialized scientific knowledge.
What is a Product’s Life Cycle?
The Life Cycle of a product includes all the environmental impacts that occur during the production phases of the product, as well as those for the production and transportation of raw materials, fuels etc. A full life cycle also includes the impacts from the consumption or use of the product, up to the end of its life (disposal/recycling).
Sustainable Supply Chain
Sellás Olive Oil decided to calculate the carbon footprint of its products, in order to gain a competitive advantage and establish itself as a pioneer in sustainable supply chain.
Carbon Footprint Study
Scope of the Study
The goal of the study was to calculate the carbon footprint of 1 kg of olive oil of the production period 2012-13, sold by Sellás Olive Oil either in bulk, or bottled in 8 different bottles.
The study was conducted according to the guidelines of PΑS 2050:2011 and ISO 14040. The carbon footprint calculations were based on primary data collected by Close the Loop. The internationally recognized LCA software GaBi-6 of PE International (www.pe-international.com) was used for modeling the product’s life cycle.
The study calculated the carbon footprint which occurs from the following processes:
- the production of fertilizers and pesticides, their transportation to the field and their use
- the extraction and use of water for irrigation
- the production, transportation and use of diesel fuel for all field activities
- the collection of olives with various mechanical means
- the burning of prunings (cut branches and leaves) at the field
- the transportation of olives to the olive-oil mills
- the production of olive-oil at the olive-oil mills
- the transportation of olive oil to the facilities of Sellás Olive Oil with various vehicles
- the storage, bottling and packaging (8 different bottles) of olive oil.
Sellás Olive Oil collects the olive oil from suppliers located in 8 different regions of Greece that differ in agricultural practices, the use of fertilizers, the irrigation, the management of prunings and the olive oil extraction process, thus in their respective carbon footprint.
Although the study directly affects Sellás Olive Oil (being a supplier of the multinational company), it also influences the olive farmer (who is a supplier of Sellás Olive Oil). The olive farmer may remain the supplier of Sellás Olive Oil provided he/she assesses and eventually reduces its environmental impacts.
The above indicative results show that the degree and type of fertilizer use (32% of carbon footprint), as well as the management of prunings (35% of carbon footprint) affect the competitiveness of the product.
Based on the calculation of the carbon footprint, the product may be certified by internationally recognized institutions. The environmental certification of olive oil aims at obtaining an ecolabel that will accompany the product and render it more competitive in international markets.
The environmental certification may either relate to a part of the life cycle (e.g. agriculture, extraction and bottling/packaging as in this study), or to the whole life cycle of the olive oil that includes the carbon footprint for transporting the product to retailers and the end-of-life of packaging materials.
As regards the environmental certification and ecolabels, it must be noted that the calculated amount of the carbon footprint is not of imperative importance, rather the regular assessment and dedicated reduction efforts. In other words, there is not a minimum carbon footprint value which the product should have.
In order to increase olive oil exports, bottling and standardization of the product represents a basic requirement. However, internationally recognized certification enables for valuable differentiation. In today’s highly competitive international market, the most effective ecolabel does not certify the quality of the olive oil (olive oil is perceived by consumers as a high quality, natural product)-, but the environmental profile (impacts) of its production. In other words, the environmental certification of the production and distribution of olive oil is very important.
The current study, which refers to the carbon footprint calculation of bulk and bottled olive oil, is the basis for any environmental certification study, since it covers the largest and most important part of the olive oil’s life cycle.