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Carbon Emissions from Goods & Services

Where does the carbon come from?

When we think about the carbon emissions associated with the goods we buy, we often think about the operational emissions or the energy needed for items such as multifunction devices, microwaves, HVAC units, and fleet vehicles.  We tend to overlook the carbon emissions associated with the production of the good itself.  Carbon emissions are generated at all stages of a good’s supply chain including the extraction of materials from the ground, manufacturing, assembly, product use and disposal of the good.  This carbon is often referred to as “embodied carbon.”

Diagram of a Linear Economy

In jurisdictions that import a large volume of goods, the emissions asscoiated with embodied carbon can make up a large percentage of a jursidction's carbon footprint.

When it comes to contracted services such as IT repair services, courier services, and cleaning services, there are three main areas where carbon emissions can be produced:

  • in the buildings and facilities where service-related equipment, parts and supplies are housed;
  • in transportation activities; and
  • the contracted service provider’s methods and activities.
What makes goods and services low-carbon?

Addressing carbon emissions related to procured goods and services can be challenging.  There are many ways to make a product or offer a service, and some ways produce more carbon emissions than others.

Low-carbon procurement seeks to purchase goods that:

  • Have been designed and manufactured in a manner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (low embodied carbon).
    • Has the embodied carbon for the good been calculated by the manufacturer?
    • Is there an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for the good, such as construction and building materials?  An EPD outlines the calculated environmental impacts and the embodied carbon of the product.
  • Have been designed to be energy efficient with a low operational energy use (e.g. LED lighting, selection of fleet vehicles with high fuel efficiency).
  • Have been selected to reduce emissions associated with the maintenance, use and disposal of the good or service.
    • For example, select uniforms that can be cleaned using cold water, select remanufactured toner cartridges for multifunction devices, select durable and repairable building materials such as carpet tiling and modular furniture etc.

Low-carbon procurement seeks to purchase services from providers that reduce emissions in:

  • buildings and facilities where service-related equipment, parts and supplies are housed;
  • transportation and delivery related activities; and
  • methods and activities associated with the service.

To find out how you can support low-carbon procurement, go to the Purchasing Low-Carbon Goods and Services page.












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