How can companies raise awareness and increase transparency about carbon emissions of their products


When boarding a short-haul flight from London to Paris, most passengers are aware of the burden for the environment that this means of transportations entails. Similarly, we know that driving with a petrol-powered car generates harmful emissions. This is not surprising considering that the emissions at least partly occur at the point of usage. While this might be the case for planes or cars, it is certainly far less obvious for other products or services, especially those kinds with a significant digital component. The rise of digital products and services over the past few decades, as termed by American venture capitalist Marc Andreessen that ‘software is eating the real world’ requires us to also think about making digital products and services more environmentally friendly. Here, the initial step is to raise awareness and increase transparency about this issue in order to allow consumers to make informed decisions about whether to purchase a product or service.


A company that has made -an interesting step in addressing this challenge is Logitech. The Swiss-based company is an international manufacturer of peripherals and software. The product range includes mice, keyboards, speakers and webcams and the corresponding software. In an effort to increase the transparency of carbon emissions for their products, the company has introduced a carbon transparency label that denotes the number of carbon emissions that the product causes over its full lifecycle as well as if these emissions have been offset which then allows for labelling the product carbon neutral. Therefore, the firm not only calculates the emissions resulting from use of raw materials, manufacturing and distribution but also the emissions from its usage by the end-user which are then all offset in order to allow for a carbon-neutral product. The company hopes that fellow technology firms will follow their lead and that consumers have higher awareness and ultimately may factor in the number of carbon emissions a product contains into their buying decision. Especially for some of the more standardised products, consumers might even be willing to pay a premium for a carbon neutral product.


In the context of purely digital services like streaming on Netflix, one could think of a regular report about the carbon emissions that each user’s consumption has caused. Moreover, rather than only educating their customers about the carbon emissions of a particular service, firms could increasingly enable their consumers to at least partly offset their emissions. Similarly, to ticking a box for carbon offsets when buying plane tickets, there could be a separate environmentally-friendly eco option available as a pricing plan for most services. The Logitech case shows how technology firms can find ways to disclose information about the carbon footprint of their products and services. Time will tell if this step towards a more carbon-friendly everyday life will be successful and how other organisations as well as consumers will react.


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Cambridge Digital Innovation

Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge

Cambridge Judge Business School

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