GHG Protocol – Software Factsheet

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Please note that the factsheet below was developed based on a draft version of the GHG Protocol ICT Sector Guidance. The factsheet will be soon updated based on the final version of the Guidance (published in July 2017) to integrate any changes.

GHG Protocol Product Standard – Software
Name of Initiative/Methodology

GHG Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard ICT Sector Guidance – Chapter 7 – Guide for assessing GHG emissions related to Software

Link to the latest published version

GHG Protocol ICT Sector Guidance (01/2013): Draft version 2.9

Developed by

Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative
History and Status

o Approved in February 2012

o Publicly available and used

Involved companies / parties

Convening Secretariat: WRI, WBCSD, GeSI, Carbon Trust


Organisation env. accounting

 Scope 1  
 Scope 2  
 Scope 3

Product env. assessment 

 Life cycle approach  

 Use phase only


 Energy (focus on secondary energy)

 Other environmental impacts


System(s) covered by the methodology
  • Any software, with a particular focus on the use stage for:
    • Operating system (OS) (at consumer level devices)
    • Applications (at consumer level devices)
    • Virtual machines (focus on devices within a data centre environment)
  • Assessing the life cycle GHG impact of a software as a product (e.g. where the software forms part of a larger ICT service or system, or comparing electronic software distribution with distribution using physical media)
  • Measuring in detail the energy consumption of a software at the use stage (e.g. to understand changes in the design or operations of the software or hardware)
Generic features
  • All stages other than the use stage may be grouped together (embodied emissions)
  • Critical review by a first or third party is required
  • Offsets, avoided and delayed emissions are not to be included in the inventory results
  • Functional unit:
    • For all final products, the unit of analysis is defined as a functional unit
    • For intermediate products where the eventual function is unknown, the unit of analysis is defined as the reference flow
  • Cradle-to-gate and gate-to-gate inventory results should be reported separately (if not limited by confidentiality)
  • Companies shall disclose and justify any exclusions of attributable processes in the inventory report
  • Companies shall collect primary data for all processes under their ownership / control
  • Companies shall assess the data quality of activity data, emission factors, and/or direct emissions data
ICT-specific features
  • A screening assessment is recommended in order to determine if a detailed assessment of the embodied emissions (all stages but ‘Use’) is necessary:
    • ‘Material acquisition and pre-processing’ considers the use of existing software libraries or modules as ‘raw materials’
    • ‘Production’ includes the energy required for the buildings and equipment, office supplies, and potential business travel related to the development and testing procedures of the software
    • ‘Distribution and storage’ relate to service delivery (electronic or by physical media)
    • ‘End of life’: for software distributed by physical media, the emissions associated with the end of life of the media should be considered
  • Power consumption value should reflect software utilisation and design features through power measurement (i.e. integrate power management of the device). A ‘typical’ device should be defined
  • Measured data is preferred over secondary data. Methodologies on how to set up and perform benchmark tests (or assess the power consumption) are provided for OS and application software (or virtual machines).
  • The results reported should include a description of the chosen methodology
Examples of implementation / experience feedback

Williams and Tang (2012) Methodology To Model the Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Electronic Software Distributions

Interaction with other methodologies
  • [IEC TR 62725] Analysis of quantification methodologies of greenhouse gas emissions for electrical and electronic products and systems
  • [IEC 62430] Environmentally conscious design for electrical and electronic products
  • [IEC 62474] Material declaration for products of and for the electrotechnical industry
  • [IEC 62623] Desktop and notebook computers - Measurement of energy consumption
  • [IEC TR 62635] Guidelines for end-of-life information provided by manufacturers and recyclers and for recyclability rate calculation of electrical and electronic equipment
  • [ISO 14064-1] Greenhouse gases - Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals
  • [ISO/TS 14067] Greenhouse gases -- Carbon footprint of products -- Requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication
  • [ISO 14040] Environmental management - Life cycle assessment - Principles and framework
  • [ISO 14044] Environmental management - Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines
  • [GHG Protocol] Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard
  • [ETSI TS 103 199] Environmental Engineering (EE); Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of ICT equipment, networks and services; General methodology and common requirements
  • [ITU-T L.1410] Methodology for environmental life cycle assessments of information and communication technology goods, networks and services
  • [EU Energy Star]

How do I use this methodology? Ask for support!


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