What is a Carbon Handprint?

A carbon handprint is simply the positive environmental impact of a product or service throughout its life cycle.

We spoke to Saara Tamminen, a leading climate solutions specialist at Sitra. According to Saara, a carbon handprint is the future “climate benefits or using a product, process or service to avoid the emissions”. 

You may have heard of carbon footprints; both terms are related. A carbon footprint is the current, negative state of emissions of a product or service. Moreover, a carbon footprint is defined as the sum of green house gas (GHG) emissions and removals in a product system, over the entire lifetime of a product.

Conversely, a core principle behind is that it only measures the effect you have on others. That means reducing your own footprint is not a handprint. Rather, a carbon handprint is “created by a state, company, association or individual human being for another entity,” according to Tamminen. You can only achieve a handprint by helping others (e.g. customers and businesses that you work with) to lower their carbon footprint.

Tamminen shared with us some examples. It could be companies delivering products with a lower carbon footprint than the competition. It may mean individuals influencing their companies, and even their relatives, to lower their carbon footprint.

As a result, understanding and measuring carbon footprints are important to understand carbon handprints. However, we do not stop there. When you measure a carbon footprint, your goal is to reduce it until it is at zero. The handprint is more powerful in guiding decision-making. There is no limit to its size, or to the positive impacts that can be achieved. “You could say that your carbon footprint measures your impact on the environment. Your carbon handprint measures how the changes you have done in order to reduce the impact on the environment of others, such as your customers”, says Daniel Collado-Ruiz, Ambassador at Fairforce.

How can we calculate a Carbon Handprint?

Tamminen recommends that we follow the guide by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). The guide defines four steps for the process:

  1. Identification of the operating environment: customer, potential handprint contributors and baseline
  2. Defining life cycle assessment (LCA) requirements: functional unit, system boundaries
  3. Quantification of the carbon handprint (which includes calculating the carbon footprint of your solution and of the baseline)
  4. Review and communication of results
A fictional example of carbon handprint framework for bread packaging used in different bakeries.
Carbon handprint’s framework
A fictional example of  a framework for bread packaging used in different bakeries. Source: Carbon Handprint Guide, VTT

Why should a company calculate a Carbon Handprint?

According to Tamminen, carbon handprints can be a clear competitive advantage. “If you show how this product can help the customer to reduce their carbon footprint, it adds value and demand for your product over other products. This represents the baseline.” It can also be a strong influencing factor for any other interested party like other organizations, industries, employees, communities or political decision-makers.

The potential benefits for businesses can derive from publishing their carbon handprint include: 

  • Marketing and emphasising the company’s sustainability efforts 
  • Innovation by identifying new needs for products or services
  • Calculations for carbon offsets (Carbon Capture Use – CCU/ Carbon Capture Storage – CCS)
  • Ability to provide information about how much customers are reducing their carbon footprint

“It is, however, important to strive for transparency. Businesses should avoid marketing false information about environmental impacts to prevent green washing”, says Tamminen. So, companies using their handprint to gain a competitive advantage should do so honestly and openly.

It’s an attitude, as well as a methodology

Carbon handprint represents an attitude of solving the problem of global warming together. As a result, this is a strength compared the measurement of carbon footprints.

“Fairforce was established to increase carbon handprint”, says Antti Kosunen, Fairforce Ambassador. In fact, Fairforce’s core mission is directing attention towards solutions to help businesses become greener.

Do you want to join us and increase your carbon handprint? Here at Fairforce, we connect professionals and green companies to increase their carbon handprint, through fair and profitable business. Visit our site to sign up and find opportunities to use your business skills for the environment.