Achieving transparency in carbon labelling for construction materials – lessons from current assessment standards and carbon labels
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The construction industry is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions. Manufacturing of raw materials, such as cement, steel and aluminium, is energy intensive and has considerable impact on carbon emissions level. Due to the rising recognition of global climate change, the industry is under pressure to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon labelling schemes are therefore developed as meaningful yardsticks to measure and compare carbon emissions. Carbon labelling schemes can help switch consumer-purchasing habits to low-carbon alternatives. However, such switch is dependent on a transparent scheme. The principle of transparency is highlighted in all international greenhouse gas (GHG) standards, including the newly published ISO 14067: Carbon footprint of products – requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication. However, there are few studies which systematically investigate the transparency requirements in carbon labelling schemes. A comparison of five established carbon labelling schemes, namely the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme, the CarbonFree (the U.S.), the CO2 Measured Label and the Reducing CO2 Label (UK), the CarbonCounted (Canada), and the Hong Kong Carbon Labelling Scheme is therefore conducted to identify and investigate the transparency requirements. The results suggest that the design of current carbon labels have transparency issues relating but not limited to the use of a single sign to represent the comprehensiveness of the carbon footprint. These transparency issues are partially caused by the flexibility given to select system boundary in the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology to measure GHG emissions. The primary contribution of this study to the construction industry is to reveal the transparency requirements from international GHG standards and carbon labels for construction products. The findings also offer five key strategies as practical implications for the global community to improve the performance of current carbon labelling schemes on transparency.
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