What is sustainability?

According to the 1987 Brundtland Commission report for the United Nations, sustainability is ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’

How does UEIL define Sustainability for Lubricants?

Lubricants created by innovative businesses enable the use of safe, resource saving technologies and processes which reduce the burden on the planet, local environments and benefit people and society.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is the process that occurs when gases in the earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s heat. The result is a rise in the average temperature of the air, land and oceans; or in other words, global warming.

What is the global warming?

‘Global warming is the long-term heating of the earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the Earth’s atmosphere’. Source: https://climate.nasa.gov/resources/global-warming-vs-climate-change/

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns, locally, regionally and globally. Causes of climate change can be due to natural effects, for example, solar cycles but there is widespread acceptance that climate change is the result of human activities, especially related to the burning of fossil fuels.

What are Greenhouse Gases?

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases (GHGs). GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

What is meant by global warming potential of gases?

The Global Warming Potential (GWP) was developed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases. It is a measure of how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a given period of time, relative to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). The larger the GWP, the more that a given gas warms the Earth compared to CO2 over that time period, most usually 100 years. 

What are the global warming potential values of the different GHGs (carbon equivalent values)?

  • CO2 has a nominally value of 1, and is essentially the base line value against which other gases are compared
  • Methane has GWP estimated between 28 and 36
  • Nitrous Oxide has a GWP estimated between 265 – 298
  • PCFs, HFCs and SF6 typically estimated in the range 100 – 10,000

What are Scope 1 emissions?

Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, including fuel combustion, company vehicles and fugitive emissions (accidental emissions of vapours or gases from pressurised apparatus).

What are Scope 2 emissions?

Energy indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy consumed, including purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling.

What are Scope 3 emissions?

All other indirect emissions that occur in an organisation’s value chains, for example, purchased goods and services, use of product sold, waste disposal and business travel

In total there are 15 Scope 3 emissions, categorised either as upstream emissions or downstream emissions

Upstream Scope 3 emissions include raw material production and transport, capital investments and travel. Upstream generally refers to everything prior to an organisation’s incoming gate

Downstream Scope 3 includes emissions from products in use. Downstream generally refers to everything after an organisation’s outgoing gate.

What is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol?

The most widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

What is a corporate carbon footprint (CCF)?

The Corporate Carbon Footprint includes all emissions that are influenced by a company’s decisions, including all direct emissions and all indirect emissions (Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions).

What is a carbon footprint?

The emissions of greenhouse gases (in carbon equivalents) for an activity or organization over a given period of time.

What is meant by net zero, carbon neutral and zero carbon?

Net zero is the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere, achieved when the amount of GHG emitted is no more than the amount removed.

Carbon neutral refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions, which can be done by balancing carbon emitted with an equivalent amount sequestered and / or offset through the purchase of carbon credits to make up the difference.

Zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are being produced from a product or service (for example, a wind farm generating electricity, or a battery deploying electricity).

What is meant by carbon negative?

This refers to reducing a carbon footprint to less than neutral, so the overall effect is that of removing greenhouse gas from the atmosphere as opposed to adding it.

What is meant by carbon sequestration?

This can be defined as the capture and secure storage of carbon that would otherwise be emitted to or remain in the atmosphere. The idea is to keep carbon emissions produced by human activities from reaching the atmosphere by capturing and diverting them to a secure storage or to remove carbon from the atmosphere and storing it.

What is a product carbon footprint?

Product carbon footprint is a measure of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by a product, from extraction of raw materials through to end-of-life and is expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq). It is most usually an expression of the negative environmental impacts resulting from the manufacture of a product but there are exceptions depending on the sources of raw materials, for example, raw materials derived from crops may have a positive environmental impact based on CO2 adsorption being greater than GHG emissions resulting from the manufacture of a product.

What is a product carbon handprint?

A product carbon handprint describes the positive environmental impact of the product in use throughout its lifetime.

Lubricants are products which reduce friction, heat, and wear and tear between mechanical components that come into contact with each other. The positive environmental benefits that end-users and consumers expect to see can be described in terms of reduced energy consumption, reduced emissions, increased equipment lifetime, longer drain intervals, reduced lubricant consumption and reduced human and environmental impact.

What is life-cycle assessment (LCA)?

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a process of evaluating the effects that a product has on the environment over the entire period of its life thereby increasing resource-use efficiency and decreasing liabilities. It can be used to study the environmental impact of either a product or the function the product is designed to perform.

LCA’s key elements are: (1) identify and quantify the environmental loads involved e.g. the energy and raw materials consumed, the emissions and wastes generated; (2) evaluate the potential environmental impacts of these loads; and (3) assess the options available for reducing these environmental impacts. (Source: European Environment Agency)

When conducting LCAs, an organization or a group of stakeholders will define which impact categories they wish to assess. The most commonly assessed category is carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents but other examples may include (but are not limited to) water or land use.

What is a linear economy ?

A linear economy describes a process of taking materials from the earth, converting them into products, using those products and then disposing of the products. A common description of this process is Take, Make, Use, Dispose.

What is a circular economy ?

At its core, a circular economy is a “make/remake – use/reuse” economy. This means products and the materials from which they are made are recovered and reused wherever possible. The aim is to limit extraction of raw materials and reduce waste. The circular economy is not limited only to the product but also includes packaging and more. In a way, the circular economy tries to mimic natural ecosystems or living systems, where everything is in a continuous cycle.

What is a Cradle-to-Cradle product life cycle ?

Cradle-to-Cradle describes a complete circular product life cycle where the product at the end of its useful life is regenerated into the original raw materials, products or is re-purposed. Ultimately, there is no waste.

What is a Cradle-to-Grave product life cycle ?

Cradle-to-Grave describes a linear product life cycle, from resource extraction through to end-of-life disposal.

What is a Cradle-to-Gate product life cycle ?

Cradle-to-Gate describes a partial assessment of a product life cycle, from resource extraction to the factory gate. Cradle-to-Gate could be part of a linear or a circular economy.

What is a Gate-to-Gate product life cycle ?

Gate-to-Gate describes a partial assessment of a product life cycle from, for example, a supplier’s factory gate to the exit gate of an organisation which adds further value to the raw materials or products that it receives from its suppliers. For example, a lubricant blender receiving raw materials from base oil suppliers and additive suppliers may consider its contribution to a Cradle-to-Cradle or Cradle-to-Gate life cycle assessment as an intermediate Gate-to-Gate assessment.

What is Bioeconomy?

The European Commission defines the bioeconomy as “the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy.”Source: https://ec.europa.eu/research/bioeconomy/policy/bioeconomy_en.htm

Some lubricant base oils and additives fall under the description of ‘bio-based’ and are usually characterised by their ‘renewable carbon’ content, which may be calculated or more preferably verified through e.g. C14 analysis

What is biogenic carbon?

Carbon is part of the natural carbon cycle, so whilst plants and soil release CO2 to the atmosphere they also absorb CO2. In comparison, the burning of fossil fuels only results in the release of CO2 into the environment, hence have contributed to in a net increase in CO2 over time.

What is meant by renewable carbon?

Carbon from a bio-based source (for example, vegetable oils, fats and biomass) is considered renewable carbon. Carbon which is associated with fossil fuels (for example, coal, natural gas, crude oil) is not considered as renewable carbon. Renewable carbon can be identified by C14 analysis, which is only found in bio-based raw materials and not in crude oils and gases.

What is meant by Decarbonisation?

Burning fossil fuels results in a net increase in CO2 emissions released directly into the atmosphere. Decarbonisation is the term used to describe a reduction in carbon [dioxide] emissions into the atmosphere and may be the result of increasing efficiency, carbon [dioxide] capture and storage (CCS) or carbon [dioxide] capture, storage and use (CCSU).
Decarbonisation does not mean the removal of molecular carbon from carbon-based lubricating base oils or additives.

What is meant by De-fossilisation?

This term is not widely used currently but is a term which can describe the elimination or replacement of fossil-derived carbon from carbon-based fuels, base oils and additives. The idea behind de-fossilisation is to use biogenic carbon as a raw material source, as an alternative to fossil-derived fuels, base oils and additives. Using biogenic carbon can result in net-zero emissions or near net-zero CO2 emissions, if processing and transportation are considered. Examples of biogenic carbon sources include vegetable oils, fats and biomass.

What are avoided emissions?

While the product carbon footprint describes the sum of all GHG emissions and removals across the life of a given product, the use of the product may bring about changes that are not accounted for in the product carbon footprint. Changes in in-use GHG emissions may only be determined by considering the before and after, for example the replacement of a product A with a product B, in a defined lubricated system. The sum of the changes in GHG emissions occurring due to the change in product is considered the handprint. In general, the focus is on the positive change (avoided emissions) but it can also result in a negative impact i.e. increased emissions. The sum of all GHG emissions can only be estimated through a full assessment of the system (LCA).

While many lubricants have a potential to contribute to ‘avoided emissions in use’ compared to no or low-quality lubrication, it is not permissible according to ISO 14040 and 14067 to deduct avoided emissions from the product-related emissions, namely the product carbon footprint. Avoided emissions are in general a theoretical emission category, as they do not actually take place. It is therefore important to differentiate ‘avoided emissions’ from actively removing carbon from the atmosphere.

What is the Science Based Targets Initiative?

“The SBTi is a global body enabling businesses to set ambitious emissions reductions targets in line with the latest climate science. It is focused on accelerating companies across the world to halve emissions before 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions before 2050. The initiative is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments. The SBTi defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting, offers resources and guidance to reduce barriers to adoption, and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets”.


What are Science Based Targets?

“Targets are considered science-based if they align with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement: to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. To reach Net Zero emissions by no later than 2050, we need to see emissions reductions on a massive scale in the near-term aligned to 1.5°C, and a 90%* reduction in the long-term. Leading this area globally is the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership of organisations that supports companies to set targets using different methodologies, and then validates those targets. Science-based targets have become the globally accepted standard for companies setting carbon reduction targets in both the near- and long-term. They help build your brand reputation, drive ambitious climate action and offer greater engagement. “ *Sectoral Decarbonisation Approach (SDA) pathways may vary.

Source: Target setting | The Carbon Trust

SBTI is a framework mainly targeted at companies larger than 500 employees. However, companies of all sizes may set carbon emissions reduction targets (Scope 1, 2 and 3) independently of the SBTi framework, but it should be noted that SBTi does not permit the subtraction of emissions related to biogenic up-take, for example, through the use of biomass-based raw materials in lubricants and greases.

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