Carbon productivity measures the return on carbon employed in making materials and products.

Improving carbon productivity means generating more value from less fossil fuel carbon.

Businesses that are prepared to improve carbon productivity stand to win decisive competitive advantage. From the radical innovations that will disrupt value chains to future-proofing the business’ performance and reputation, the advantage will strengthen as the world increasingly adapts to a carbon-constrained future.

So how can your business improve its return on carbon? The Carbon Productivity Tool is a prototype designed to help businesses identify how to measure carbon productivity, improve their performance by generating more value from less fossil fuel carbon, and collaborate with other companies in product value chains. It identifies nine levers for change across a product’s value chain and life cycle.

The tool enables businesses to compare alternative sources of feedstock and energy inputs, process and performance improvements, and product designs for environmental benefits in use phase and after-use. Companies can then identify the best interventions and innovations for optimising carbon productivity.

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The thinking behind the tool

The Consortium defines carbon productivity as the value created per unit of fossil carbon resources (coal, oil and natural gas) used, just as labor productivity measures the value created from human resources.

The term has also been used to describe the value created for each unit of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitted (McKinsey 2008, Corporate Knights 2014). The definitions are closely linked, since in most cases fossil carbon consumption also leads to GHG emissions either immediately (e.g. in energy production) or at end of life (e.g. energy recovery). By defining carbon productivity in terms of industrial inputs rather than a waste product, the tool is aligned with the common economic approach of resource productivity, and well-established industrial approaches to maximise value from scarce or valuable inputs.

The Carbon Productivity Tool is not intended to replace existing metrics and tools, for example, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the Carbon Disclosure Project or Science-Based TargetsIt complements these approaches and provides a fresh perspective that generates new insights and actions for industrial companies. The tool is grounded in the best of current LCA methodology and provides new summary metrics to derive new insights and improvement strategies from LCA data.