How CO2 emissions in supply chains can be made more transparent

Status: 11/12/2021 10:14 am

Many companies want to produce less CO2. But often they do not even know which emissions occur at which point in a supply chain. Data networks could help.

By Christoph Prössl, ARD-Studio London

The German car manufacturer BMW has set itself numerous environmental goals – including the reduction of CO2 in the production of cars. By 2030, production should produce 20 percent less CO2 than in 2019.

The supply chains in the automotive industry are complex, run through many countries and are difficult to understand. So how can corporations even fully calculate the CO2 consumption for their products? The German software group SAP has set up a network together with several service providers and manufacturers, including BMW, to enable such data exchange.

“For years we have been using systems for our customers to help them manage material and financial flows,” says Daniel Schmid, responsible for sustainability at SAP. “And if we now embed sustainability criteria such as CO2 emissions in the data models there, then the customer gets full transparency across his entire value chain.”

CO2 balance for every product

At the climate conference, this network, called Catena-X, presented how such a data exchange can work. Soon, manufacturers will not only be able to determine the costs of a screw or a component at the push of a button, but also the CO2 emissions that were necessary for the manufacture of this part.

The environmental protection organization Greenpeace advocates such endeavors by the industry. “In principle, this is exactly the right way to go,” says Viola Wohlgemuth, an expert in resource protection. “Transparency is absolutely necessary and the critical point in order to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chains.”

Such a solution would be helpful for many industries, even if it is a matter of showing the customer how sustainable or low-carbon a product is – for example by providing information about the CO2 footprint on the respective product. “Many of my counterparts who are responsible for sustainability in the company tell me: I am not in a position to have the data today at the time of the decision that I can control it accordingly. I am glad that we meet now as a company have committed to announcing ambitious goals, but I still can’t manage it afterwards, “says Daniel Schmid from SAP.

Textile industry as a major emitter

The prerequisites for correct values ​​are standards and transparency in all companies involved – and the willingness to cooperate. Greenpeace therefore demands legal requirements. “A transparency in the supply chains would really be a game changer in the whole climate protection”, says the Greenpeace expert Wohlgemuth. “In the textile industry, for example, the third largest producer of greenhouse gases worldwide, a full 85 percent of these greenhouse gases are produced during production.”

Most of these emissions could be prevented with known methods – and at low cost. Studies show that sustainably produced trousers, for example, would cost just one euro more.

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