EPDs are here to benefit your business and here is how
Picture this, you’re strolling through the aisles of your favourite store, picking out items to purchase. You may be thinking about the colour or price, but have you ever considered the environmental impact of the product? That’s where Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) comes into play.
An EPD is like a secret agent, working behind the scenes to provide information on a product’s environmental performance. It’s a document that’s standardised, verified, and transparent. It means that it’s trustworthy and gives you a clear view of what’s going on. Think of it as a nutritional label for the environment. In more formal terms, an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document that provides transparent and verifiable information on the environmental impact of a product. This is achieved through a life cycle assessment (LCA). It is based on the international standard ISO 14025. (ISO 14025 specifies the principles and procedures for developing Type III environmental declarations. These are then used to communicate information about the environmental performance of products to consumers, businesses, and other stakeholders.)
Now, you may ask what goes into an EPD? How is it determined? The process is rigorous and thorough, starting with identifying the product’s life cycle stages. From raw material extraction to production, use, and disposal, every step is examined to determine the environmental impact. Indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and resource depletion are then calculated using this information. The EPD then undergoes a verification process to ensure the information is accurate and reliable. This is like having a second opinion from a professional, making sure that everything checks out and nothing is hidden from view.
What is an EPD?
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document that communicates information about the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle. It is based on a comprehensive and standardized methodology called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA considers the environmental impact of a product from the extraction of raw materials to its disposal at the end of its life.
EPDs are developed according to international standards such as ISO 14025 and EN 15804. These standards specify the requirements for developing and verifying EPDs. They are increasingly used by companies and organizations to communicate the environmental performance of their products to customers and stakeholders and to support their sustainability reporting and decision-making processes.
Table of contents:
- What is an EPD?
- EPD & Product Category Rules
- Business benefits of EPDs
- What does Environmental Product Declaration measure?
- What do you use Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for?
- Why is this important from a consumer mindset?
- How to create an EPD?
- What are the stages of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
- Who oversees EPD compliance?
- Other things to consider before developing EPDs
- EPDs in Europe
- So does EPD matter?
EPD & Product Category Rules
Product Category Rules (PCR) are the rules and guidelines that define the requirements and procedures for conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). It is then used for developing an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for a specific product category.
PCRs are used to ensure that EPDs are consistent and comparable within the same product category. They define the specific environmental impacts that need to be assessed, the data quality requirements, the functional unit of measurement, and the reporting format.
PCRs are typically developed through a consensus-based process involving stakeholders from the relevant industry, academic experts, and NGOs. Once a PCR is established, it is registered with a program operator, such as the International EPD System or UL Environment. This procedure provides oversight and verification of the EPDs developed according to the PCR.
Business benefits of EPDs
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have several business advantages that can help organisations increase their sustainability performance, strengthen their brand image, and spur innovation. Here are a few of the main advantages:
1. Competitive advantage: Businesses can use EPDs to distinguish their products in the market by showcasing their dedication to sustainability and giving clear information about the environmental impact. This has the potential to be a potent instrument for increasing customer loyalty and luring in new clients.
2. Cost savings: EPDs assists businesses in lowering their environmental impact and running expenses by pointing out product life cycle improvement opportunities. Companies can, for instance, spot opportunities to cut back on their use of resources, energy use, and waste production. Doing so can eventually result in substantial cost savings.
3. Innovation: EPDs promote innovation by enticing businesses to create products and processes that have less impact on the environment. This may result in increased client satisfaction, new business possibilities, and brand reputation.
4. Compliance: EPDs assist businesses in meeting legal standards for environmental performance and reporting. They also streamline compliance efforts and lower the risk of non-compliance by offering a standardised and verified method of sharing environmental information.
5. Supply chain management: By offering transparent and comparable data about the environmental effect of goods, EPDs support sustainable supply chain management. This can support sustainability throughout the supply chain and assist businesses in making more informed choices about suppliers and products.
What does Environmental Product Declaration measure?
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) measures the environmental impact of a product or service throughout its entire life cycle. That is right from raw material extraction to disposal. The environmental impact is assessed in several different categories like:
- Global warming potential: The potential impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change because of the product.
- Resource depletion: Depletion of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, minerals, and metals.
- Ozone depletion potential: The potential impact of emissions because of the product on the depletion of the ozone layer.
- Acidification potential: Possible impact of product emissions on the acidification of soil, water, and air.
- Eutrophication potential: Measures the potential impact of emissions on the growth of algae and other organisms in water bodies.
- Photochemical ozone creation potential: Measures the potential impact of emissions on the formation of ground-level ozone.
- Water use: Measures the amount of water used in the production process.
What do you use Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for?
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are used for various purposes related to sustainable procurement, design, and reporting. Here are some of the key uses of EPDs:
- Sustainable procurement: EPDs are increasingly used by public and private sector organizations to support sustainable procurement decisions. EPD can help buyers make more informed purchasing decisions with the help of transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of different products
- Design for sustainability: EPDs provide valuable information about the environmental impact of products at different stages of their life cycle, which can be used to identify areas for improvement and innovation. By incorporating environmental considerations into the design process, companies can develop products with lower environmental impacts.
- Sustainability reporting: Many companies are using EPDs as part of their sustainability reporting and disclosure efforts. By providing information about the environmental impact of their products, companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and track progress over time.
- Marketing and communication: EPDs can be used as a marketing tool to promote the environmental performance of products and differentiate them from competitors. By providing transparent and verified information about the environmental impact of their products, companies can build trust with customers and stakeholders and enhance their brand reputation.
Why is this important from a consumer mindset?
Well, imagine you’re choosing between two products that look the same on the surface. Without an EPD, it’s impossible to know which one is better for the environment. But with an EPD, you can see the difference in the environmental indicators and make an informed decision.
A longer explanation on the same tells why EPDs are useful for businesses and organizations too. Keeping consumer analysis and purchase trends, businesses can use EPDs to make informed decisions about the products they purchase. Additionally, leverage it to communicate their environmental performance to their customers and stakeholders.
Consider this instance to understand how EPDs impact consumer interactions with products within the same category: Let’s say you’re in the market for a new pair of shoes. You have a choice between leather and synthetic material. Without an EPD, you may assume that leather is the more eco-friendly option because it’s a natural material. But when you compare the EPDs of both options, you may find that synthetic material has a lower impact on the environment due to lower water consumption and fewer greenhouse gas emissions during production.
When businesses and organizations have access to detailed information about the environmental performance of their products, they can identify areas for improvement and work towards reducing their impact on the environment, allowing space for calculated innovation and improvement.
How to create an EPD?
Creating an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) typically involves the following steps:
- Define the product scope: Determine the product or service to be evaluated and define the boundaries of the life cycle assessment (LCA). This includes identifying the raw materials, production processes, transportation, use phase, and end-of-life disposal or recycling.
- Conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA): Collect data on the environmental impacts of the product throughout its life cycle. This involves identifying and quantifying the inputs, outputs, and emissions associated with each stage of the product’s life cycle.
- Develop a Product Category Rule (PCR): PCRs provide guidance on how to conduct a life cycle assessment and what information to include in the EPD. The PCR must be developed in accordance with ISO 14025 and other relevant standards.
- Draft the EPD: Use the LCA results and PCR guidance to draft the EPD. The EPD should include information on the product’s environmental impact, functional unit, data quality, and assumptions made during the LCA process.
- Verify the EPD: Have the EPD verified by a third-party verifier to ensure that it meets the requirements of the relevant PCR and ISO 14025 standards.
- Publish the EPD: Publish the EPD on a recognized EPD program operator’s website or database to make it available to stakeholders, such as customers, regulators, and other interested parties.
It’s important to note that creating an EPD can be a complex process that requires specialized knowledge and expertise in life cycle assessment and environmental reporting. Many companies choose to work with experienced consultants or EPD program operators to help them navigate the process. Experienced personnel ensure that the EPD is accurate and reliable.
What are the stages of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
- Goal and Scope Definition: This stage defines the purpose of the study, the system boundaries, the functional unit, and the data requirements to analyse goals and scopes.
- Inventory Analysis: This stage involves identifying and quantifying all the inputs and outputs of the product system, including energy, materials, and emissions.
- Impact Assessment: This stage involves assessing the potential environmental impacts of the product system. It covers resource depletion, climate change, air pollution, water pollution, and ecosystem damage.
- Interpretation: This stage involves evaluating the results of the LCA and drawing conclusions about the environmental performance of the product.
The results of the LCA are then used to create the EPD, which provides transparent and verifiable information on the environmental impact of the product studies. The information includes GHG emissions, energy consumption and water use. Furthermore, it covers information on its compliance with relevant environmental regulations and standards.
Who oversees EPD compliance?
In the UK, EPDs can be certified according to the British Standard BS EN 15804, which sets out the requirements for the development and verification of EPDs.
EPDs certified under BS EN 15804 are typically verified by independent third-party certification bodies that are accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS is the national accreditation body for the United Kingdom. It is responsible for ensuring that certification bodies meet the relevant international standards for quality management.
The BRE Global Environmental Product Declaration scheme is one of the leading certification schemes for EPDs in the UK. It is based on the BS EN 15804 standard and is accredited by UKAS.
In addition to EPD certification, the UK government provides guidance and resources to businesses that are interested in developing and using EPDs. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guide the use of environmental labelling and eco-design. The Carbon Trust, on the other hand, offers resources for measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of products.
Overall, compliance with EPD standards is voluntary in the UK, but businesses may choose to follow these standards. They can use it to prove their commitment to environmental sustainability and provide transparent information to consumers.
Other things to consider before developing EPDs
- Are they compulsory? Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are not currently compulsory for anyone in the UK. However, businesses can choose to develop and use EPDs as a way of demonstrating their commitment to environmental sustainability.
- Who benefits? While there are no specific regulations or laws in the UK that dictate what size organisations benefit from EPDs, larger organizations benefit well by managing their environmental risks and enhancing their reputation. EPDs can be particularly relevant for businesses that operate in industries with high environmental impact, such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
- A recap of where businesses will have to invest their time: Developing and defining the scope of the exercise for themselves and having a tentative idea of the product life cycle. This is followed by data collection of their environmental impact in developing their product to enable LCA study; light familiarisation with guidelines for ISO 14025 and EN 15804, willingness to corporate and disclose information to third-party verification body, and willingness to communicate the findings and reports with stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulators.
In general, businesses, regardless of size, should consider developing and using EPDs. The assessments involved to achieved EPD certifications further help in improving their environmental performance, enhancing their reputation with customers and stakeholders, and providing transparent information about the environmental impact of their products. However, the decision to develop an EPD should be based on a thorough assessment of the costs and benefits, risks and opportunities associated.
EPDs in Europe
In Europe, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are widely used as a tool for measuring and communicating the environmental performance of products and services. EPDs are recognized as an important component of sustainable development. The fact that they are supported by a robust framework of standards and regulations, including the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and the International EPD System.
Here are some Europe-specific updates related to Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs):
- The European Commission has launched the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative. It aims to harmonize and standardize the calculation of environmental footprints across the EU.
- The PEF initiative is supported by a robust framework of standards and regulations. That includes the European standard EN 15804 for construction products.
- The International EPD System, which is based in Sweden, is one of the most widely recognised EPD programs in Europe. The system provides a platform for the registration and publication of EPDs.
- In some European countries, such as France and Sweden, there are national EPD programs that provide guidance and support for the creation and verification of EPDs.
- EPDs are used by a wide range of European industries, including construction, food and agriculture, textiles, and electronics.
- European governments and municipalities are increasingly using EPDs as a tool for sustainable procurement. Some even require the use of EPDs in public tenders.
- The European Commission has developed a database of environmental information on products called the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) database. The database is intended to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.
- EPDs are used in the European Union Ecolabel scheme. It is a voluntary eco-labelling scheme that certifies products and services that meet specific environmental criteria.
So does EPD matter?
To sum up, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an important tool for assessing and communicating the environmental effect of products. EPDs give stakeholders access to transparent and comparable data so they can make choices that will promote sustainable development. A strong framework of norms and laws, like the International EPD System and the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), supports the widespread use of EPDs in Europe. EPDs contribute significantly to the advancement of environmental goals and the preservation of the environment for future generations by promoting sustainability and assisting in reducing the environmental effect of goods and services.
What is EPD?
An EPD, or Environmental Product Declaration, is a standardised report that provides information on the environmental impact of a product or service throughout its entire life cycle.
What is an EPD certification?
EPD certification is a verification process in which an independent third party reviews and verifies the information provided in an EPD to ensure its accuracy and compliance with relevant standards and regulations.
What is meant by life cycle assessment?
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodology used to assess the environmental impact of a product or service throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal or recycling.
What are the 4 stages of a life cycle assessment?
The four stages of a life cycle assessment are: goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment, and interpretation.
What is the importance of LCA?
LCA is important because it provides a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impact of a product or service, allowing for informed decision-making and the identification of opportunities for improvement in sustainability.
Why is life cycle assessment used?
Life cycle assessment is used to evaluate the environmental impact of products and services. This further helps to identify opportunities for improving sustainability by reducing environmental impact throughout the product or service life cycle.