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Clearer carbon calculations

05 October 2011

Mike Low

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has issued a revision to PAS 2050, the standard widely used by businesses to calculate the carbon footprint of their goods and services. The revised standard, sponsored by Government, reflects advances in theoretical knowledge and the practical experience of PAS 2050’s far-reaching international user community.

The revisions make the PAS 2050 methodology more relevant and accessible to a wider range of businesses by addressing key queries and issues raised by the PCF community, as well as the experiences of users since the standard’s publication in October 2008. Some of the significant changes arising from the review are: provision for the development and application of ‘supplementary requirements’ to enable more specific greenhouse gas emissions assessment within sectors or product groups; the inclusion of emissions from biogenic sources (e.g. biomass); and greater clarity on the treatment of recyclable material.

The revision to PAS 2050 - Specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services - was developed through extensive consultation with international stakeholders, and continues to provide a comprehensive and consistent framework for carbon footprinting of goods and services that can be applied to any product, by organisations of all types and regardless of geographic location.

The review process has involved continuous co-operation with organisations such as The World Resources Institute/ The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WRI/WBCSD), ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) and the European Commission. Importantly, this ensures that the revised document reflects international product carbon footprinting (PCF) theory and practice, and brings the methodology and its use towards alignment with other footprint methods currently being developed overseas to promote best practice and harmonisation of standards.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Many businesses are already seeing the benefits of using the internationally recognised PAS 2050 standard to calculate the carbon footprint of their goods and services, helping them to reduce their emissions, improve their company reputation and identify savings opportunities. These benefits will be invaluable as we move to a green economy where greater appreciation of our environmental impact will be essential for sustained long-term growth. The revisions announced today bring further improvements to PAS 2050. I encourage more businesses to use the improved PAS 2050 so they can share in the benefits it can provide.”

Mike Low, Director at British Standards said: “Following its publication, interest in PAS 2050 has been phenomenal. The standard has been downloaded more than 35,000 times from BSI’s website, with downloads spread across approximately 80 countries. This is clear evidence that PAS 2050 provides a robust and effective framework to enable organisations to better understand and tackle the challenges of climate change along their supply chains, thus increasing the consistency of PCF effort worldwide.

Low continued: “BSI is committed to providing current, technically relevant and up-to-date tools, which enable organisations to better understand and manage the carbon footprint of their products. To ease the implementation of the revised PAS methodology, BSI will offer further support by providing additional guidance, awareness raising and educational events/programmes, as well as through direct engagement with individual industries and organisations.”

For further information outlining the revision to PAS 2050 or to download the improved methodology for free, please visit

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