A carbon handprint is an indicator used for assessing the positive environmental impact created by a product or a service. In 2018, VTT and the LUT University published a method and guidelines for assessing the carbon handprint. Now the methodology has been clarified and, above all, expanded: the carbon handprint also became an environmental handprint that covers a wider range of environmental impacts, including air quality, nutrients, resource and water handprint calculations. At the same time, environmental handprint can be addressed now at organizational as well as project levels in addition to the product level.
“Handprint method has been welcomed with enthusiasm in Finland, and many companies have already made it an essential part of their corporate responsibility. Companies have discovered the carbon handprint to be a valuable tool in product development, strategic decision-making and communicating the environmental benefits of their actions,” says Saija Vatanen, Project Manager of the Environmental Handprint project at VTT.
Usually, environmental impacts have been expressed using footprint indicators, such as carbon or water footprints, that describe only the negative effects. The handprint responds to the need to quantify and communicate also the positive environmental impacts. There are two main objectives: to encourage organisations to reduce their emissions and use of resources, and to communicate the benefits they have created. The environmental handprint helps, for example, customers to evaluate how this certain solution reduces the environmental footprint compared to alternative solutions.
Handprint as a tool for pioneers
International business is focusing on corporate responsibility more and more. Companies need reliable ways for demonstrating and communicating their pioneering actions, but despite this need, the handprint approach is still new to the world. Therefore, the approach gives Finnish companies an opportunity to profile themselves as trailblazers with products and services creating positive environmental impacts. The developed methodology is applicable to all products and organisations around the world. ANDRITZ Oy, one of the companies involved in the project, is a globally leading supplier of plants, equipment, and services for the pulp and paper industry.
"As a company, we want to be an environmentally responsible actor. This requires determined research and development. The Environmental Handprint project gave us tools for analysing ways to enhance the environmental friendliness of our technologies,” explains Kaj Lindh, Director, Manufacturing Development at ANDRITZ Oy.
Aiming to maximise positive environmental impacts
The handprint method can be used, for example, for maximising the positive environmental impacts through product and production development. In addition to companies, also consumers benefit from the carbon handprint.
“For product users, the handprint offers foundations for making choices that help them reduce their own environmental footprint. The logic behind the approach is simple – the larger the handprint, the better,” says Kaisa Grönman, post-doctoral researcher at LUT University.
In company-level reviews, handprinting can be used for demonstrating the impact of company's own actions and for guiding their activities. Maximising the handprint has become a new goal used alongside minimising one's footprint.
VTT and LUT University developed environmental handprint methodology together with 16 project companies and Business Finland acting as the main funding provider. The project, which lasted more than two years, also produced a guidebook for assessing the carbon handprint and other environmental handprints. The guidebook gives companies step-by-step guidance on how to implement the assessment. The guidelines created in the form of an instruction manual are based on the existing standardised environmental impact assessment methods, such as life cycle assessment, the carbon footprint and the water footprint. The environmental handprint approach allows companies to communicate the environmental benefits generated by their solutions based on scientific calculation methodology.
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post-doctoral researcher, LUT University
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