FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

 

General questions

 

What are the advantages for businesses in using myEcoCost?

myEcoCost can help businesses by:

  • Gaining transparency of their ecological costs
  • Understand the ecological impacts of the wider supply chain
  • To optimise processes and reduce sustainability impacts
  • Help the design of sustainable products and services
  • Increasing consumer trust
  • Build opportunities for competitive advantage

 

What's the motivations for consumers to engage with myEcoCost?

  • Consumers are increasingly concerned with the source and ethical credentials of products they buy
  • They are looking for solutions to reduce their ecological footprint
  • It provides the opportunity to provide a convenient and easy to understand measure of sustainability
  • It has been designed to be user-friendly and compatible with a range of technologies
  • It can be both educational and fun in creating a more sustainable society

 

What does it mean that the system computes ecoCosts in real-time? What are the system limits?

  • EcoCosts are sent electronically with every financial invoice in real time
  • The EcoInvoices are accrued and passed along the supply chain
  • Every process in the supply chain affects the final product EcoCost

 

How is data quality assured?

The entire Project is about the enhancement of data quality in environmental accounting.

Specific data for a specific product is much better than the currently used average figures from LCA data bases.

Within the myEcoCost software, a measure of data quality is foreseen, that will include a range of parameters, that will be visible to the supply chain users and the final consumer.

It is also proposed that data is audited externally for data quality and integrity.

 

In the Demonstration only a few products are featured. Can myEcoCost calculate the impact of any product? Services too?

Yes. For the purposes of the Demonstration we have selected a few products, based on the Industry Partners' expertise. However potentially any product or service could use this system to create an EcoCost.

 

How much will it cost to use myEcoCost for businesses and consumers?

A pricing structure hasn't been developed yet, but it will have options relevant to all sizes of businesses.

There will be no cost to the consumer.

 

How easy will it be to integrate myEcoCost into existing business systems?

The intention is to make this compatible with and/or integrated in to existing financial accounting and other management systems.

 

What costs & hardware will be required for a large business / retailer?

For the majority of businesses, the system should run on existing hardware. There may be exceptions to this rule but the intention is to make myEcoCost as user-friendly as possible for businesses.

 

Is myEcoCost aware of the changes in retailing, including online shopping, bespoke products and home delivery?

We are aware of all these changes in future retailing and manufacturing. The system is very capable of handling a whole range of future scenarios because it is systems based.

 

Processes

 

What are overheads and how are they calculated?

Overheads are processes applicable to more than one product. For example, the electricity used in a factory, or a tractor used on a farm, which cannot realistically be attributed to a single product.

We have included these to a certain extent in the Demonstration, due to the limitations of data collection for the Demonstration model. But theoretically all overheads can be included for any process, and attributed accordingly to any product.

Overheads are accrued in an overhead account, which is collected over a given time period. This can then be attributed to any product going through the process.

 

What level of detail is used in producing EcoCosts?

The aim of myEcoCost is to include all inputs from primary sources from nature. Furthermore all inputs to products along supply chains are included when calculating the final myEcoCost score.

 

Have the calculation factors / methodology been externally peer reviewed?

The entire accounting framework is based on the internationally accepted LCA Framework based on ISO Standards and International standards for Material Flow accounting. The methodology and calculation factors of the two indicators Material Footprint and Carbon Footprint were published in peer reviewed journals.

We also have a programme to validate the system through stakeholder consultation, which take place before the end of the Project.

 

How will the system be implemented when supply chains are global and all companies in the supply chain will need to be on-board to make this work?

This will be addressed as part of our Commercialisation Strategy, which be produced before the end of the Project. Project Partner GS1 are are experts in this field.


What happens if a company in the supply chain does not want to take part in myEcoCost?

As an interim, generic data from recognised eco accounting databases will be used to plug gaps. Over time it is intended that more and more businesses in the supply chain will become EcoCost users.

 

How is data confidentiality protected?

myEcoCost uses known and up-to-date data security standards. Company data is stored on secure business servers. Only the EcoCosts of products sold to customers will leave the secure data system.

 

Will data gaps be visible in the data presented to the consumer?

Yes, as reflected by the data quality score.

 

Technical

 

What are the current limits to the integration of the myEcoCost system with financial accounting and what is foreseen in a future deployment?

 

The current project has developed an interface for

  • financial accounting systems to communicate what products have been dispatched to a customer (details of an invoice).
  • a manufacturing system to instruct the calculation of an ecoCost.

The intention is to:

  • copy product information from the ERP system to myEcoCost, and keep this information up-to-date
  • copy from the ERP system the bill of material information into processes
  • copy supplier information from the ERP system to myEcoCost, and keep it up-to-date
  • copy customer information from the ERP system to myEcoCost and keep it up-to-date
  • some product volume reconciliation facility (for products purchased and sold)

 

What would be the environmental (carbon) impact of the computing power and hardware (servers etc) required to run myEcoCost - assuming it gains global acceptance?

This is something which we are investigating. However we believe that any negative impacts created from running the system will be far outweighed by the benefits created by businesses and consumers producing and buying lower EcoCost products and services.

 

How secure is the system for consumers and businesses?

The personal details of consumers and businesses are protected using encryption technology when their details are transmitted over the Internet. Consumers and businesses will be able to use the myEcoCost system safely if they have Web-based browser, such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, installed on their desktop or mobile devices.

[also see previous question regarding data security]

 

Future potential/plans

 

When will myEcoCost be available to consumers and businesses in Europe?

The current implementation of myEcoCost is a proof of concept for the transmission mechanisms of ecoCosts, the management structures of ecoCosts within companies and consumer interfaces.

 

What are the current limits of the system automation and what is foreseen in a future deployment?

The current limit of the system automation is dependent on the ability to handle some hotspots in the current system – one of the main hotspots is the Invoice service. Since the system is built to support load balancing and delegation of functions to dedicated services the current architecture can handle significant loads.

For future deployments changes in the overall architecture can be evaluated to support new technologies and approaches more efficient for very large-scale implementations of the systems.

 

Can the technology and processes developed in myEcoCost be used in other applications? Have you considered what these could be?

Potentially, yes. Systems such as GS1's fTRACE and other supply chain traceability systems could potentially be integrated with myEcoCost.

 

What are your plans for next steps?

We are looking at a number of options to develop myEcoCost and commercialise the system. Options include:

  • Further enhancements of the system, to include the consumer use phase
  • Supply chain traceability
  • Gathering of statistical information for Policy development
  • Applications for commercialisation in a consumer arena