In January of 2018, SUMA Net Impact signed on CoClear as a client to assist with the product data analysis that forms part of CDP’s Supply Chain Program. CoClear is a New York consultancy firm with proprietary technology that specializes in fast life cycle analysis (LCAs). Their unique interactive application uses company supply chain and cost metrics to help brands optimize their product and supply-chain. They are recognized as industry leaders and have partnered with CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) to identify trends in product LCA reporting. Throughout the semester, a team of graduate students closely worked with the company’s CEO, Sally Paridis, towards completing a defined scope of work which involved taking the first deep dive into the data.
Our team members consisted of real estate finance, project management, marketing, and climate science professionals from various international backgrounds. They were Marielena Alcarez, Ashley Bae, Dolores Alicia De La Cruz, Charlotte Gueye, Laura Korhonen, and Tanmai Mahesh.
Through CDP, companies annually self-report on Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions as well as the recent introduction in 2012 of reporting on product lifecycle emissions. CoClear’s first report on the 2012-2015 product data can be found here: http://www.coclear.co/latest-report.
The team worked on the most recent collection of product data from 2016-17. The data included Scope 3 and LCA stages on more than 500 goods and services belonging to companies in 43 different GICS industry sectors. Using this data, the team’s mission was to identify data gaps, where weights were not included, research and identify product weights, calculate the carbon intensities of each product, and look for trends across various sectors.
We developed weekly meetings with the client and monthly deliverables: first we organized the data into categories that reflected the completeness of the data, then we looked up the weights of the products and found out their carbon intensity. We then mapped the wide range of industry sectors into 8 CoClear sectors, identified where emissions changes had occurred from year to year, identified whether the change was due to a product change or change in the supply chain and finally built a dataset that reflected our findings and other important factors such as the percent change in CO2.
One of the main challenges the team faced was working with certain data points that were incomplete and incoherent, since some were self-reported. If the team members could not figure out what the information meant after extensive research, they unfortunately had to leave that product out of the analysis, rather than make educated assumptions. We suggested that it may be helpful for CDP to implement simple add-ons to the data collection process, such as providing a set of defined answers to choose from instead of free-form response.
Another challenge faced was working with large datasets, and coordinating with team members who are collaborating with the same data due to datasets being exported to Microsoft Excel and grouped into separate tabs. To overcome calculation and classification errors, the team members methodologically cross checked each other’s work. We divided ourselves into 3 teams of 2, then cross checked all of the data rotationally.
The final deliverable was a comprehensive report of the original data and key performance indicators that determined the year-over-year change. Within the report, were dashboards that allowed visualization of Excel datasets. These deliverables would ultimately roll up to various CDP reports.
The report was published in the scientific journal Nature Research. Click here to view the full report titled: Carbon Emissions Embodied in Product Value Chains and the Role of Life Cycle Assessment in Curbing Them.
Through this project, team members were able to develop their data analysis methodology and learn the discipline and patience required with ‘cleaning’ data sets so that further analysis is possible. Simultaneously, through the challenges, we learned the importance of accurate and complete data reporting, especially in the field of sustainability. This experience was unique in that members were able see the source data that ultimately drove sustainability-related decisions.
The team members were exceptionally thankful for the opportunity to work for first hand with the client. We developed a weekly meeting schedule to address questions and comments. At the same time, CoClear provided fast and efficient responses that allowed the team to tackle each barrier quickly.
Charlotte Gueye, Project Team Member