Founded by Marc Laurent, France-based Carbonfact has launched to establish a carbon listing for every product in the world. The company joins a rapidly growing number of startups and entrepreneurial ventures innovating to tackle climate change and other sustainability issues.
Carbonfact’s idea is not unlike existing Energystar ratings on appliances and EPA gas mileage estimates on new vehicles.
The company is starting with shoes because their carbon footprint is relatively easy to determine based on corporate disclosures. In 2019 alone, 24.3 billion pairs of shoes were produced, with an estimated carbon footprint of 700 million tons of CO2, about the equivalent to the CO2 output of the entire country of Germany.
“Our vision here is that CO2 will be super, super important for every retailer … and brands and marketplaces will need a technological player to display the carbon footprints massively on a large number of products,” says Laurent. “They won’t be able to do it by themselves, because you want an impartial judge and trusted third party to conduct the analysis.”
There is growing precedent for these product-by-product carbon disclosures. Allbirds discloses the carbon imprint of its products, and recently teamed up with Adidas to create the lowest carbon-performance sneaker — the carbon impact is Sharpied right on the shoe. Similarly, the technology company Logitech and the vegetarian-meat company Quorn have both started sharing the carbon imprint of their products right on the packaging.
So far, a dozen brands from around the world, including Caval (France), Nothing New (United States), Trippen (Germany), and Bared (Australia), are publishing for the first time the carbon footprint of all their products on the Carbonfact open data platform. Carbonfact acknowledges that some calculations listed on the site are estimates without perfect insight into the specifics of materiality, manufacturing, and distribution, but Carbonfact discloses its full calculations, and its figures can be off by about 20%. Other brands are joining the movement and will soon be published on the platform.
Carbonfact’s methodology leverages state of the art scientific research on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The models are open source and transparent. When data is not available from manufacturers, Carbonfact bases its estimate on public information such as sustainability reports or product page details. The output is then usable by the Carbonfact community.