Pro Carton

Methodology of Pro Carton's Carbon Footprint for Cartons


In the absence of a standardised approach to the development of Carbon Footprints, the European paper and board industry, under the leadership of CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries) worked together on a common framework, as a first step to enable companies to calculate the carbon footprint for paper and board products.

As a second step, trade associations in the paper and board packaging industry sector, under the umbrella of CITPA (International Confederation of Paper and Board Converters in Europe), took the CEPI Framework as a starting point and further refined the methodology to suit paper and board packaging.

Pro Carton inserted cartonboard and carton industry specific data into the CITPA Guidelines, to reach the carbon footprint calculation, which is a European industry average for cartons.

Finally, Pro Carton has developed tools to help members of Pro Carton to apply this methodology, so that they can calculate average carbon footprints for their own products.  For example, carton converters could apply this methodology to calculate the average carbon footprint for a carton, or use the industry average figures, and so respond quickly to a customer’s request.





A Step by Step Approach to Developing a Carbon Footprint for Cartons

Step1:  CEPI Framework for the Development of Carbon Footprints for Paper and Board Products

CEPI faced the challenge of beginning the process of defining a carbon footprint for a paper or board product, when the process is:
· Completely dependent on system boundaries
· Product, producer, site and country specific
· Dependent on fuel, fuel mix and waste policy

CEPI’s Working Method:

All relevant existing developments, standards, definitions and information sources were studied and ten key elements of carbon footprints for paper and board products were identified, with guidance on how to make calculations, to establish system boundaries:

1. Carbon sequestration in forests
Sustainable Forest Management secures the stocks of carbon in forests and with more trees being planted than harvested, stocks will even improve over time

2. Carbon stored in forest products
A forest product contains biomass carbon, and as long as it is in use, it will keep this biomass carbon from the atmosphere

For further information about accounting for biomass carbon, please click on "carbon sequestration" in the menu bar on the left

3. Greenhouse gas emissions from forest product manufacturing facilities

Emissions from fossil fuel combustion at manufacturing facilities that produce forest products, including primary manufacturers and final manufacturing facilities

4. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing fibre
For virgin fibre, this includes forest management and harvesting and for recovered fibre, it includes collection, sorting and processing of recovered paper before it enters the recycling process

5. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing other raw materials / fuels
Emissions generated during the manufacturing of fuels and non wood-based raw materials (e.g. chemicals and additives) used in manufacturing forest products and also direct emissions and emissions associated with purchased electricity to manufacture these raw materials

6. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with purchased electricity, steam, heat, and hot and cold water
Emissions associated with purchased electricity, steam and heat used at facilities that manufacture forest products, including chip mills, pulp mills, paper and paperboard mills and final manufacturing facilities (e.g. carton converters).  This includes electricity for pollution control equipment used to treat manufacturing-derived wastes and emissions

7. Transport related greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting raw materials and products along the value chain.  It includes emissions from transporting wood, recovered fibre, other raw materials, intermediate products, final products and used products

8. Emissions associated with product use
Emissions that occur when a product is used.  These are very unusual for forest products

9. Emissions associated with product end-of-life
These consist primarily of CH4 resulting from the anaerobic decomposition of forest products in landfills

10. Avoided emissions and offsets
Emissions that do not occur because of an attribute of the product or an activity of the company making the product

Guidelines accompanying the CEPI Framework state that none of these elements have to be accounted for, but it should be made clear which are included and which are excluded and why.

The CEPI Framework also encourages the aim to include 90% of all emissions within the system boundaries in the carbon footprint of a product.

A key conclusion of the work undertaken to develop the CEPI Framework is that it is not possible to develop a “one-size-fits-all” standard for carbon footprints for paper and board products.  Choices have to be made by different industry sectors and individual companies.

Please click here to download the pdf of “CEPI Framework for the Development of Carbon Footprints for Paper and Board Products




Step 2:  CITPA Guidelines for Calculating CO2 Footprints for Paper Based Packaging

The CITPA Guidelines are the product of collaboration between the following associations representing different industry sectors within the paper based packaging sector:

Pro Carton – Association of European Cartonboard and Carton Manufacturers
ECMA – European Carton Makers Association
FEFCO – European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers
ACE – Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment
Eurosac – European Paper Sack Manufacturers Association
PaperImpact – Speciality Paper Manufacturers Association

The Guidelines follow the CEPI Framework for the Development of Carbon Footprints for Paper and Board Products. The ten elements establishing the system boundaries were taken as a starting point.  The associations then identified where a common approach for paper based packaging could be taken, and where the specific needs of each industry sector needed to be addressed.

Common Approach

The system boundaries are cradle-to-gate (elements 1 – 7) therefore transport to the customer, the use phase and the end-of-life processes are not included (elements 8 – 10).

Carbon Footprints are calculated on a mix of virgin fibre and recycled fibre based packaging, reflecting the ratio of activities belonging to virgin and recycled fibre products by each industry sector.  No further allocation of activities belonging to virgin fibre produced and recycled fibre produced is made.

The Carbon Footprint includes a statement on carbon in forests, but the sequestration is not actually included in the footprint calculations

The Carbon Footprints use the CO2 factors from background processes from the ELCD, Ecoinvent, Gabi and KCL databases¹.

The outcome for each industry association is a European industry average carbon footprint, based on industry data specific to each industry sector.



Issues dealt with by each Association

Each industry association has (and maintains) its own Environmental Database.  Some characteristics are different for each sector and have to be addressed in addition to the overall guidelines.  

The individual associations:
· determine the country specific electricity mix
· determine which chemicals contribute at least 90% of the total footprint for future improvement

As not all transport steps are covered by the Industry Databases, assumptions have to be made for a “typical” transport distance and mode. 

The calculations made by Pro Carton are in line with the Carbon Footprint Assessment Guidelines for Transport  issued by CEPI in December 2009.  Available to download from



Step 3: Pro Carton’s Carbon Footprint Calculation

CITPA developed a spreadsheet containing the CO2-equivalent background datasets (CO2 factors) to allow each industry association to calculate its own Carbon Footprint.  Pro Carton’ introduced its own gate-to-gate industry data into the spreadsheet.  The CO2-equivalent background datasets together with Pro Carton’s own industry data, allowed the calculation of the cradle-to-gate CO2 footprint per tonne of product.

The size of Pro Carton’s Carbon Footprint

These are the average calculated greenhouse gas balances for cartonboard and cartons (cradle-to-gate):

Fossil CO2 equivalent per tonne of cartonboard produced and converted: 915 kg  (average of primary and recycled fibres)

CO2 stored in a tonne of cartonboard packaging:  1474 kg





Step 4: Review of Pro Carton’s Carbon Footprint Calculation

The calculations for this carbon footprint have been reviewed by an independent third party: IFEU (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research) Heidelberg, Germany

Commission's "European Reference Life Cycle Data System",
The ecoinvent database v.1.3. from the ecoinvent Centre, also known as the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, is a joint initiative of institutes and departments of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Zürich (ETH Zurich) and Lausanne (EPFL), of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa), and of the Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon (ART),
GaBi database from PE INTERNATIONAL,
 KCL EcoData, calculated for CITPA,




Comparing the latest ISO specifications with Pro Carton's Carbon Footprint


ISO/TS 14067:2013 specifies principles, requirements and guidelines for the quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of a product based on International Standards on life cycle assessment (ISO 14040 and ISO 14044) for quantification, and on environmental labels and declarations (ISO 14020, ISO 14024 and ISO 14025) for communication.

The aim of the ISO/TS 14067 is to achieve more consistency in the quantification and communication of carbon footprints of products. It includes aspects such as land use change, soil carbon, carbon storage in products and other carbon related requirements which are not specified in the existing ISO standard 14044.
Most notably, the requirements for communication are going beyond existing standards. The Technical Specification includes reporting, performance tracking, carbon footprint declarations and labels.


It was clear from the ISO discussions that more data would be required when updating Pro Carton’s carbon footprint figure in future years.  It is not mandatory, but the new ISO/TS is expected to become the benchmark methodology.  So once the ISO/TS was finalised, an independent expert was asked to compare it to the methodology currently used by Pro Carton.  When comparing an existing methodology to new thinking, it was expected that some gaps would be found, but Pro Carton’s methodology was shown to be robust.

The conclusion was that Pro Carton’s methodology closely follows the quantification part of the TS, but does not include certain considerations such as allocation for recycling and land use change etc.   Furthermore, as Pro Carton’s methodology predates the Technical Specification, it does not cover communication.  So it seems that Pro Carton’s methodology is still sound in that it follows closely the quantification aspects (minus some items) but that communication has yet to be addressed.


Clearly, the whole area of footprinting is still developing.  For example, the European Commission is working with industry on a methodology for Product Environmental Footprinting. So taking all this into consideration, Pro Carton is working with its sister paper packaging associations to align its footprinting methodology with the ISO/TS requirements and at the same time, closely follow developments in the European Commission’s Product Environment Footprint.