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The carbon handprint describes the positive climate impacts of a solution compared to the baseline solution.

Carbon handprint - what does it mean and how is it defined?

Apr 13, 2023 | Sari Siitonen |

Unlike carbon footprint, which focuses on negative climate impacts, carbon handprint describes how we can help mitigate climate change. A positive carbon handprint arises when a solution provided by a company reduces the carbon footprint of others - typically their customers. In contrast, actions taken to reduce one's own carbon footprint do not increase the company's carbon handprint.  

Recently, the goal of increasing a positive carbon handprint has been set both at national level in Finland and in the export industry. The Climate Leadership Coalition (CLC) and Business Finland, among others, have been strongly promoting carbon handprint research and development and encouraging companies to strive for a bigger carbon handprint.  

Standards-based carbon handprint methodology developed in Finland 

Finland is a pioneer in the development of handprint calculation methods. One of the Europe’s leading research institutions, Finnish state owned VTT and LUT University introduced the carbon handprint calculation methodology in autumn 2018. Since then, the handprint methodology has been extended to include other positive environmental impacts in addition to climate impacts.  

The carbon handprint can be calculated for a single product or service. The calculation methodology is based on the requirements of the standard for determining the carbon footprint of a product (ISO 14067). The carbon handprint of the whole company can be determined by putting together the carbon handprints of the products manufactured by the company.  

A positive carbon handprint can be achieved by improving energy or material efficiency, for example, or by replacing fossil fuels with renewable ones. 

Carbon handprint is based on carbon footprint calculation 

Carbon footprint information is an essential part of the carbon handprint calculation. The carbon handprint of a product - or a raw material, fuel, process, or service - is calculated as the difference between two carbon footprints. When the solution offered by a company has a lower carbon footprint than the so called baseline solution, a positive carbon handprint is created.  

The choice of baseline solution depends on whether the product is a replacement for another solution on the market or whether it is completely new. The baseline can be either a situation without the product, a commonly used product, a market leader, an average product in the given market or a so-called best available technology (BAT) solution. The baseline can also be a product currently manufactured by the company and still on the market. The correct choice of baseline is crucial both for the reliability of the calculation result and for the environmental claims presented based on them. 

Unlike the carbon footprint which can be determined unambiguously, the carbon handprint can be different depending on the situation. For example, the same more advanced product can substitute different solutions in different markets. Therefore, in each case, the carbon handprint is determined by comparing the product to the relevant baseline. 

Increasing of carbon handprint as a strategic objective  

If a company chooses to focus not only on reducing its own carbon footprint but also on increasing its positive carbon handprint, this will have a significant impact on the company's operations and development potential. While potential emission reduction measures are often sought outside the company, the carbon handprint increases when a company focuses strongly on its own processes, innovation, and product development. Own emission reduction measures are often assessed from a cost-effectiveness perspective, while the potential of new, more climate-friendly solutions for customers can be assessed in terms of their market potential and the strengthening of the company's competitive advantage.   

When a company's strategic objective is to increase its carbon handprint, strategy is closely linked to business growth: the wider the market to which these solutions can be sold, the larger the company's positive carbon handprint will be. And increasing your positive carbon handprint is also a much more psychologically inspiring goal than reducing your own carbon footprint.  


OpenCO2net offers its customers tools and consulting services to determine carbon footprints and carbon handprints and to implement emission reductions. The carbon footprint platform's paid services provide you with a comprehensive toolkit that includes carbon footprint and carbon handprint calculators as well as an extensive  and reliable emissions database. 

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Sari Siitonen

Founder, CEO


+358 40 761 5221