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Similar products, different footprint stories

by Ruggero Golini and Marco Gervasoni, Università degli Studi di Bergamo

In a world of global supply chains, two products that look very similar, can have very different footprint stories.

The Life Cycle Assessment analysis applied to the environmental footprint of the products along the supply chain offers an interesting perspective on how products that look similar can be, in practice, very different. This particularly true in global supply chains where the technological choices are combined with localization and transportation choices.

Because of that, we compared the carbon footprint of two pairs of sunglasses (Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator and Oakley Whisker) made by the same company (Luxottica) and using information from the EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) developed by the International EPD. We also used Sourcemap to draw maps of the supply chains of these two products.

The first sunglasses are the Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator. The supply chain is quite straightforward with raw materials and components (upstream processes) coming from China and Europe. Then part of the manufacturing activities (core processes) is performed in China (for the frame) and the rest in Italy.

From the geographical point of view, the supply chain appears as follows (the locations are approximated). (https://sourcemap.com/view/5390#):

On the other side, the supply chain of the Oakley Whiskers involves less partners, but more countries. In fact, part of the production (the lenses) is made in California (USA) and sent to China.

The resulting map, looks like this (https://sourcemap.com/view/5406#):

Focusing on the CO2 emissions, we can notice that the Oakley Whisker produce 13% more CO2, mainly because of production processes.

CO2 emissions (in Kilograms) – source: authors elaboration. The emissions due to transportation are based on authors0 estimates and checked with SourceMap statistics

However, it is worth noticing that the Oakley have about half of the weight of the Rayban (65 g vs 121 g), mainly because of the glass-made lenses of the latter. This means that, because of a more complex supply chain and production process, the Oakley have almost double CO2 emissions per gram.

Total KgCO2 / gram

Moreover, because of supply chain localization choices the distribution of CO2 emission is quite uneven among countries. The next figure reports the emissions of CO2 in the different countries (excludes transportation):

KgCO2 emissions by country

In conclusion, we can see how supply chain choices can strongly affect CO2 emission and where these emissions are produced and how each product has it is own story.

Now, can we help you in tracking your footprint along your supply chain? Let us know!

References

For Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator: http://gryphon.environdec.com/data/files/6/8960/epde405_Ray-Ban_%20Aviator%203025.pdf

For Oakley Whisker: http://gryphon.environdec.com/data/files/6/8964/epde409_Oakley_Whisker.pdf

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