Use Phase Emissions for Cosmetic Products

Use Phase Emissions for Cosmetic Products

Feb 25, 2024

What are Use Phase Emissions?

Measuring the carbon footprint of something requires thinking about the entire life cycle of the product, including the emissions from product after the point of sale.

These are called Use Phase emissions, and in the GHG Protocol they are listed under Scope 3, Category 11: Use of Sold Products.

There are two types of Use Phase emissions, direct and indirect.

Direct use phase emissions are GHG’s that come from using the product. These include things that consume energy (like automobiles), or have incidental GHG emissions during use (like aerosols).

Use emissions are quantifiable like this:

Use Phase Emissions per product = Emissions per Use * Uses per product

Direct use phase emissions are mandatory to report in every GHG reporting framework, including the CSRD (Section ESRS E1 AR3.b) .

Indirect emissions are emissions incurred from use indirectly. This includes clothing (from washing and drying), food (cooking and refrigeration), and cosmetic products (heating water for use).

Indirect emissions are harder to measure as they depend more on the user profile and some specifics about the use habits, geography and more.

Indirect emissions are not mandatory to report, but we will see that most cosmetic companies tend to report them anyway.

Shampoo is a high emitter

An example we encounter a lot are the use phase emissions for a shampoo product.

Shampoo does not have any ‘direct use’ emissions. However, the indirect emissions are significant.

To calculate them you need to know the following:

  • how much is used per application (aka the ‘functional unit’)?

  • what are the energy and material inputs into the system?

  • how many uses are in a product?

For a shampoo product, we utilize a 10.46g Functional unit, based on this study.

For material and energy inputs, we use the following:

  • 15L of water for rinse phase, based on this LCA study

  • 1.6MJ of heat energy for the water, a mixture of gas heating and oil heating (data from the same study)

This amounts to the following for a 150ml shampoo:

Shampoo’s are not the only cosmetic product’s that have use phase emissions.

The following products all have use phase emissions associated with them:

  • Facial Cleansers: which use water and heat

  • Decorative makeup: water, heat and make-up remover

  • Aerosols: direct GHG propellants

How are cosmetic companies reporting?

As more companies are reporting their carbon footprints in detailed accounts, we can see how much of their carbon footprint is wrapped up in use phase emissions.

For L’Oréal, shampoo represents a larger portion of their overall market-mix, and as a result, their use phase emissions are almost half their company’s total carbon footprint. A company like Shiseido sells less use phase intensive products and as a result it’s a smaller portion of their overall emissions.

It will be interesting to see how cosmetic companies respond to new regulations mandating GHG reporting. Will use phase emissions be artificially reduced by excluding indirect emissions in reporting? Or will cosmetic companies be transparent about their product’s and their carbon impact?

On verra!

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