You hear about green products all the time–but most of these are just a massive greenwash, for one simple reason: The carbon emitted in creating a product isn’t about whether the materials are recycled or organic. Not even close. Upwards of 90% of a product’s carbon footprint lies in its supply chain–the diffuse network of materials suppliers required to create the product in the first place. T-shirt made of organic cotton? Doesn’t matter if that cotton comes from thousands of miles away, and was shipped on boats, planes, and buses before it got to the factory.
Which is why Planet Metrics is such a potentially poweful tool. The software, recently released in beta, allows companies to model their supply chain. From there, it estimates the exact carbon footprint that each link entails, using a database that factors in the electricity used, the transportation means, and the miles traveled, among other things. The software is then able to suggest replacement components with lower carbon footprints, and show exactly how these alternatives might affect margins. Brilliant! But not so fast. As Treehugger points out, Planet Metric’s database doesn’t factor in the non-carbon components of sustainability–fair wages or ethical business practices, for example.
But their second point is the sharper one: Will Planet Metrics even matter, if consumers don’t know how it’s effecting a product? It might be well and good to cut a product’s carbon footprint in half, but unless that becomes a key selling point, there will never be enough demand for Planet Metric’s services to keep the company going (and effecting change).
That said, there seems to be a decent number of companies for whom carbon footprint is an inescapable part of their brand: Method, for example, already uses the software. Which makes us think: As Planet Metrics expands, perhaps they should double down on some sort of co-branding campaign. After all, think of the runaway success of “Intel Inside,” and how it turned something obscure–that is, computer chips–into a key selling point.