Companies seeking to determine their carbon footprint are encountering a number of problems. The primary trouble, though, arises from figuring out just what exactly counts towards their carbon output and how to measure it.
Pepsi ran into this problem when it wanted to figure out how to measure the carbon emitted to make a carton of orange juice brand:
NY Times: PepsiCo hired experts to do the maths, measuring the emissions from such energy-intensive tasks as running a factory and transporting heavy juice cartons. But it turned out that the biggest single source of emissions was simply growing oranges. Citrus groves use a lot of nitrogen fertiliser, which requires natural gas to make and can turn into a potent greenhouse gas when it is spread on fields.
PepsiCo finally came up with a number: the equivalent of 3.75 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere for each half-gallon carton of orange juice. But the company is still debating how to use that information. Should it cite the number in its marketing, and would consumers have a clue what to make of it?
It’s important that companies establish a standard measurement of carbon output in the near future, especially if the Obama adminstration makes good on its promise to implement a cap and trade system. If there is no standard for measuring what counts towards a companies output, then the amount of emissions a company produces will be easily gamed. It should also be explained what 4 pounds of carbon means versus 1 pound, and so on.
While it’s good for the environment that companies are measuring carbon, at no point in the story did the Times mention that reducing carbon output would help Pepsi save money. It was simply seen as a marketing ploy. Until lowering emissions results in lower costs, its hard to see many large corporations taking it all that seriously.
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