Renewable Energy and Carbon Management in the Cradle-to-Cradle Certification: Limitations and Opportunities

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    As part of the Cradle to Cradle® (C2C) certification program, the C2C certification criterion, Renewable Energy and Carbon Management (RE&CM), focuses on use of electricity from renewable energy (RE) and direct greenhouse gas offsets in the manufacturing stage and, to a limited extent, on the cradle to gate only at the highest level of certification. The aim of this study is to provide decision makers with a quantified overview of possible limitations of that C2C certification requirement and potential gains by introducing a full lifecycle assessment (LCA) perspective to the scheme. Scenario analysis was used to perform an LCA of an aluminum can system representing different levels of the C2C certification criterion, RE&CM, considering different strategies to achieve 100% RE in the manufacturing stage. The adoption of a broader life cycle RE perspective was considered through the implementation of electricity from renewable sources from cradle to grave. Our results show that compliance with the current RE&CM certification framework offers limited benefits, that is, significant reduction for climate change, but negligible reductions for other environmental impacts (e.g., particulate matter and acidification). However, increasing the share of RE in the primary aluminum production from a full life cycle perspective can greatly increase the environmental benefits brought up by the C2C certification not only for climate change, but also for the broader range of impact categories. In our striving toward environmental sustainability, which often cannot be approximated by climate-change impacts alone, we therefore recommend decision makers in industries to combine the C2C certification with LCA when they define strategies for the selection of RE and raw materials suppliers.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)760-772
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Aluminium
    • Circular economy
    • Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C)
    • Industrial ecology
    • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
    • Packaging


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