Unveiling the Future: Empowering Sustainability through Carbon Efficiency


Over the last two years, we’ve conducted independent LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), or sustainability design assessments on over 500 retail fixtures for more than 40 global brands. We call these agreements dc Circular Design Certificates.

Obtaining and processing the data to complete these LCA certificates has not been easy, but the 50,000+ calculations we’ve produced are highly insightful. Best of all, they allow us to benchmark Carbon Efficiency.

What is Carbon Efficiency? 

Firstly, we need to calculate the ‘Carbon Footprint’ of the product, in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Scope 3 reporting requirements for ‘Bought in Goods’. Like Cradle-to-Cradle analysis, this requires an assessment of 6 key categories: 

  1. Materials
    This includes embodied carbon within the materials plus the sourcing, production and distribution of the product to a global wholesaler. 
  2. Sourcing
    This consists of the carbon produced from transportation, from the wholesaler, sometimes via a distributor to the place of production, accounting for the method of transport and distance.
  3. Production
    This is the net carbon emissions produced during the production/manufacturing of a product – from transportation, from the production facility to a place of use, accounting for method of transport and distance.
  4. Consumption
    This involves the carbon produced to create the energy consumed. This is calculated using the number of hours each year and the total of expected years of usage.
  5. End of life
    This is the carbon produced during the disposal process, which could be recycling, incineration or landfill. The total carbon produced is the product’s carbon footprint, which is measured in kg CO²e. It’s this data that manufacturers need to disclose to customers, in order to comply with Carbon Reporting Regulations.

While this total amount of carbon is useful, it’s just a receipt of the design’s outcome. It doesn’t consider the design potential or how much carbon is used for how long.

If a product has a carbon footprint of 100 kg and is used for 5 years, it is less ‘efficient’ than if it’s used for 10 years, which in turn may require the product to be more robust and have a slightly bigger footprint.

Example 1
Product A is 100 kg and lasts 5 years
Product B is 110 kg and lasts 10 years

Over 10 years, the customer will need two of product A but only one of product B, which would save 45% of the total amount of carbon.

Additionally, designing a product that uses less carbon with the same floor space will increase ‘efficiency’ and in many cases, such as retail and offices, floor space is a limiting factor. 

Example 2
Product A is 100 kg and takes up 1m² of floor space 

Product B is 100 kg and takes up 2m² of floor space 

Carbon per m² is a recognized accounting measure, much like Watts per m², but it doesn’t account for the life of the product. An office space might use 30 Kg CO2e per m², but if that’s over 10 years rather than 5 years isn’t it more efficient?


Carbon Efficiency is the total carbon footprint, divided by the total m², divided by the life in years of usage.

By using this measurement process, we can account for both the density of carbon within a space and the usage period.  

What are the benefits of measuring carbon efficiency?

Firstly, it allows us to measure the impact of sustainable design on the carbon footprint. By implementing the key principles of the dc Design Guide, namely – reduce, reuse and recycle – designers can measure the environmental outcome.

Using a material with a reduced carbon impact, such as a recycled wood product, will allow us to see a reduced carbon footprint. But if that product is designed to last longer it becomes more ‘carbon efficient’ because the same amount of carbon can be used for longer.

Secondly, it allows us to compare different types of products such as a chair and table, a display cabinet or a refrigerated display, all on a m² basis. This allows us to measure the carbon density of floor space.

We’ve calculated the Carbon Efficiency of over 500 retail fixtures in 3 different categories of equipment and our data is expanding every day. This data has allowed us to define what constitutes a good ‘score’ and products can now be rated on C1 to C7 – similar to the EPC rating for a building. C1 is for products that have less than 12.5 kg CO²e per m², per annum. Adversely, products that use between 500-1000 kg CO²e, per m², per annum score a C7. We call this a Carbon Efficiency Rating.


Measuring Carbon Efficiency also allows us to benchmark designs and measure category averages.  

Example 3
The Carbon Efficiency of an illuminated retail fixture display in 2022 is 266 kg CO²e per m², per annum, which is a C6.

Knowing this means different illuminated retail fixture displays, from different manufacturers for different brands can be compared. We’re beginning to work with a number of different industry bodies to report Carbon Efficiency within product categories and we’ll soon be highlighting top-performing manufacturers for their designs.

Carbon reduction

Additionally, knowing the benchmark means targets can be set and improved upon to reduce the carbon footprint of products. We’re working with a growing number of retailers to introduce Carbon Efficiency targets. 


Finally, the Carbon Efficiency label allows manufacturers to report the Carbon Efficiency Rating of their products and if applicable, the potential future Carbon Efficiency Rating if the display elements have been reused and waste products recycled.


A unique Carbon Footprint Estimator!

CE’s Carbon Footprint Estimator is the industry’s first benchmark tool for Carbon Efficiency. It allows designers, estimators, and procurement managers to quickly estimate the total amount of carbon a retail display fixture produces in its life cycle. Additionally, users can also produce self-declaration certificates for their customers confirming the Carbon Footprint and Carbon Efficiency. 


Design, Benchmark and Certify  

 The Carbon Footprint Estimator is the first sustainable design tools to be offered by Carbon Efficiency Software Ltd. and brings the following benefits:  

– Uses unique dc Circular Design Certification data to help designers reduce carbon impact

– Provides an accurate carbon footprint figure that can be reported to clients (90-95%)

– Allows manufacturers to compare their design variations and benchmark against industry averages

– Helps customers to make better informed decisions about reaching the sustainability goals

– Allows the manufacturer to produce a declaration of conformity for sustainable design

The calculations and declaration take less than 5 mins to complete which allows more time to be spent on design rather than admin. You get exactly what you need when you need it. 


The carbon footprint estimator has been developed for designers to estimate the potential carbon footprint of design and allows for:
 – Material comparison

– Weight comparison

– Sourcing, comparisons

– Production location comparisons

– Electrical efficiency comparisons

– Carbon Efficiency benchmarking to top 50 dc approved products by category

How does it work?

The online Carbon Footprint Estimator from Carbon Efficiency Rating is an intuitive online tool that allows designers to estimate Carbon Footprints and Carbon Efficiency of for products, quickly and easily, usually within a few minutes.

Step 1
Export your bill of materials for the drawing program to CSV file, totalling the top 5 materials.

Step 2
Identify the sourcing, production and distribution regions – not the exact distances, the tool already has data from over 1000 approved designs.  

Step 3
Enter your basic product details into the calculator, choose your sourcing, production and distribution regions and enter the materials saving each material line.

Step 4
Once you’ve saved all the data you can create an estimate and print off a PDF certificate.

Step 5
To create variations, simple copy the estimate by using the Edit button, rename the cert and save. Then make the changes you’d like to create a comparison with the original design. 

All in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee. So to learn more get have a look at carboneffciencyrating.com and get in touch to book a demonstration.

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