Methodology for FLAG Emissions

HowGood's methodology for calculating FLAG emissions, in accordance with the GHG Protocol's Land Sector and Removals Guidance

Written by Erin Taner
Updated over a week ago

What is HowGood’s research methodology for calculating carbon emissions?

HowGood’s methodology for calculating GHG emissions is developed in accordance with the GHG Protocol, with special attention to the Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard.

  1. Data Collection: HowGood draws on a diverse collection of data sources, including peer reviewed journal articles to calculate the CO2e values for ingredients. For each data source, HowGood performs a data certainty assessment based on the age and comprehensiveness of the findings. This process is completed for every ingredient on which there is accurate and verifiable data.

  2. Ingredient Mapping: Once the data is collected and analyzed, HowGood conducts a proprietary process of mapping each ingredient to its source crop, animal or material. Using global import/export data and HowGood industry partnerships, HowGood then maps each source crop to its corresponding geographic location to account for the specific on-the-ground practices, impacts, and risks in each locale. On-farm emissions are multiplied by the ingredient concentration of the product’s ingredient to account for the total amount of material required to grow or raise the ingredient.

  3. Data Aggregation: HowGood, to date, has mapped nearly every ingredient, chemical and material (33,000 in total) in the CPG industry, including where and how it is produced. This mapping is used to aggregate data across geographic regions or ingredient categories and develop industry-average impact profiles for CO2e across every ingredient.

Based on the ingredient mapping process, HowGood assigns a default location and corresponding industry-average profile for every ingredient in a product. If deeper levels of data granularity are available (from a specific supplier, industry partner, or publication), these specifics are applied.

What data sources does HowGood use to assess GHG emissions?

HowGood draws on a diverse collection of data sources, including peer reviewed journal articles to calculate the CO2e values for ingredients. For crops and locations where no current data exists, HowGood uses supplementary studies and relevant LCAs from proxy locations where environmental conditions and farming methods are deemed as similar.

FLAG Emissions

FLAG (Forest, Land, and Agriculture) emissions are a component of the Farm to Farm Gate Emissions stage, and must be broken out separately in accordance with FLAG Guidance as established by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Note that FLAG emissions are still included as a component of Category 1 emissions.

The following categories must be measured and broken out for FLAG reporting:

  • Farm to Farm Gate (Land Management) emissions: any activity occurring on the field where a commodity is grown

  • Land Use Change: any land conversion that has occurred in the last 20 years

  • Carbon Removals: any carbon that has been removed from the atmosphere due to on-farm activity

Farm to Farm Gate Emissions

This stage covers GHG emissions due to the growing and harvesting of the material used to create an individual ingredient in a product. The material could be a crop, animal, mineral, or petroleum product. HowGood asks the customer to provide a source location for the crop to provide the best data. If the customer does not know the location where the crop was grown, HowGood uses the most likely location where the crop would be grown.

GHGs are collected at farm gate, which includes all on-farm processes including primary inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and farm machinery fuel needs. On-farm processing, cooling or fermentation, and off-farm cleaning and sorting are included. The farm emissions are then multiplied by the ingredient concentration of the product’s ingredient. We include all of this in xi in the equation above.

Measurements are directly sourced from location and crop-specific Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) from all over the world as well as environmental assessments.

Land Use Change

Land Use Change is measured in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of product (kg CO2e / kg), and takes into account the following factors to assess emissions:

  1. Land conversion or transition - Whether land conversion or transition has occurred within a landscape or jurisdiction over the preceding 20 years, in the form of deforestation or drained soils. We include pasture in our calculations, in addition to traditional cropland. This data is reported by 245 countries to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

  2. Product allocation factor: We take the shared responsibility approach to allocating emissions to any crop that was grown in a given jurisdiction that has experienced land use change. This approach attributes land use change emissions based on the percentage of land that a crop has occupied during a given year.

  3. Time discounting: We take a linear discounting (or “20 year decline”) approach to distributing emissions over the 20-year assessment period. This approach weights recent land use change heavier than it weights older land use change.

  4. Crop location - We consider the jurisdiction of the crop’s location, at a national level.

  5. Crop yield - We take into account the production yield of the crop in order to calculate land use change emissions per kilogram of product.

  6. Ingredient concentration - We take into account the ingredient concentration value of the crop.

  7. Regional feed mix - For animal-based ingredients, we consider the breakdown of pasture, soy and palm oil in the typical animal feed mixes regionally as well as the amount of feed required to produce the ingredient. For farmed aquatic species, we consider the soy in the typical diet as well as how much feed is required by the species. Regional feed mixes are typically reflective of the crops that are predominantly grown in a region, the affordability of crops and generally accepted animal welfare standards. As we increase the granularity of our Land Use Change assessment, we will add additional feed ingredients to reflect the variability of feed mixes throughout the world.

Carbon Removals

The impact of Carbon Removals is calculated as kilograms of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of the primary commodity ingredient. GHG removals include things like improving forest management practices, and enhancing soil carbon sequestration on working lands.

Carbon Removals are calculated following the submission of primary data from the customer, as specified by the GHG protocol. The primary data required for submission to HowGood is as follows:

Including removals in a GHG inventory requires primary data, ongoing monitoring (and reporting of removals as emissions if monitors are lost), traceability, and quantitative uncertainty estimates.

Stock Change accounting (for land emissions and removals) must be used and cover:

  • Biomass

  • Dead organic matter (DOM)

  • Soil Carbon Pools

HowGood then uses the submitted primary data in the stock difference method as defined in the GHG protocol.

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