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What is an EPD?
An EPD® (Environmental Product Declaration) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products.
Having an EPD® for a product does not imply that the declared product is environmentally superior to alternatives — it is simply a transparent declaration of the life-cycle environmental impact.
A "type III environmental declaration" according to the standard ISO 14025 is created and registered in the framework of a programme, such as the International EPD® System, where the name "EPD® " is used for the declarations.
What are the most important applications of EPDs?
EPDs are designed to meet various information needs within the supply-chain and for end-products both in the private and public sector, as well as for more general purposes in information activities and marketing.
The overall goal of an EPD® is to provide relevant and verified information to meet the various communication needs. An important aspect of EPD® is to provide the basis of a fair comparison of products and services by its environmental performance. EPDs can reflect the continuous environmental improvement of products and services over time and are able to communicate and add up relevant environmental information along a product's supply chain.
EPDs are based on principles inherent in the ISO standard for Type III environmental declarations (ISO 14025) giving them a wide-spread international acceptance.
The uses include:
- Green public procurement (GPP)
- Environmental management systems (EMS)
- Business-to-business communication
- Business-to-consumer communication
- Building assessment schemes
What is the cost for developing an EPD?
The International EPD® System has two types of fees: registration fee (one-time fee, which includes future updates) and an annual fee paid per organisation. The latest information is available here: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPD/Costs-and-fees/
The total cost associated developing an EPD® is, however, difficult to estimate. The costs consist of:
- Performing the underlying Life Cycle Assessment in accordance with the PCR
- Compiling the data into the EPD® reporting format
- Verification by an accredited certification body or a recognized individual verifier
If there are no valid product category rules (PCR) for the product to be declared, these need to be developed. The Secretariat of the International EPD® System will provide support during PCR development and there are no fees associated with PCR development and publication.
How can EPDs be used in public procurement?
There are three main methods on how to use EPDs in public procurement:
1. To obtain environmental information on the product
To get information on the environmental impact from the goods and serviced being procured can be seen as the first step in greening the procurement activities. Knowledge about the impact of the subject matter is vital in order to be able to put down relevant GPP criteria in the tendering documents. EPDs can therefore give very useful input to GPP, either in the market analysis or as a first step in greening the GPP.
Information obtained from the EPDs can also serve as environmental information to different stakeholders.
2. As verification on environmental requirements in the tendering documents
As the EPDs contain information on the products environmental impact in a life cycle perspective, the EPD can be used to verify compliance provided that the environmental requirements put in the tendering documents is information that can be found in an EPD. Examples on such requirements are:
- the contents of hazardous materials and substances in the product
- environmental requirements on the production of the product
- energy consumption when using the product.
3. To be reward the environmentally best product
Information in EPDs within the same product group and based on the same PCR can also be used to compare products from an environmental point of view and also to reward the environmentally best product. This must be done according what is allowed in the legislation and the reward criteria must be transparent and non-discriminatory.
May several similar products be included in the same EPD?
The International EPD® System offers the possibility for similar products from the same company to be included in the same EPD. The following requirements must be met:
- Similar products with differences between the mandatory impact indicators lower than ±10% may be presented in the same EPD using the impacts of an environmentally representative product. The criteria for the choice of representative product shall be presented in the EPD, using, if applicable, statistical parameters;
- Similar products with differences between the mandatory impact indicators higher than ±10% may be presented in the same EPD but using separate columns or tables.
For the purpose of these requirements “similar products” means products covered by the same PCR and produced by the same company with same core process.
How long time does it take to create an EPD?
Developing and publishing an EPD® in The International EPD® System consists of the following steps:
- Find or create relevant PCR document for the product category
- Perform LCA study based on PCR
- Compiling environmental information into the EPD reporting format
- Registration and publication
The two most time-consuming steps are to create a PCR (if not already available) and to perform the underlying LCA study. Developing a PCR in an open and transparent process normally takes between 5-12 months. Conducting an LCA study in accordance with the PCR may take anywhere between 1-12 months depending on the availability of data and the amount of LCA work that has been done in the company to date. If a PCR is being developed, the LCA study may be carried out in parallel to drafting the document.
It is recommended to make contact with a potential verifier early on in the process so that this step may start as soon as the LCA study is done and the information compiled into the EPD reporting format.
Registration by the Secretariat upon receiving the proper documentation normally takes 1-3 working days.
What is a Climate Declaration?
A Climate Declaration is single-issue type declaration focused on the carbon footprint of the product. The emissions of greenhouse gases of a product or service, reported in CO2 equivalents, from the different life cycle stages of the product.
Climate Declarations may be published based on a registered EPD, or if the full information about the other types of environmental impact of the product is available upon request. The Climate declaration shall give information on how to obtain information on the full environmental impact from the declared product.
Other types of "single-issue EPDs" are also possible. Contact the Secretariat for more information.
What is the difference between an EPD® and an environmental label?
Environmental declarations and environmental labels are tools that serve similar purposes but provide complementary information, depending on the purpose and target audience of the information. Both are voluntary instruments based on international standards and independent verification.
An EPD® provides verified, objective and detailed information about the life cycle environmental impact of a product. Having a certified EPD® does not imply any environmental advantage of the product itself, only that the presented information has been verified to comply with the rules set out in the General Programme Instructions and the relevant Product Category Rules. The reference standards are ISO 14025 for the management of a programme for type III environmental declarations and ISO 14040/14044 for the procedure to carry out a life cycle assessment (LCA).
An environmental label (type I) according to ISO 14024 is a third-party verified demonstration that the product fulfils certain environmental criteria as defined by the programme owner. The design of the programme is normally such that only a certain share of the market will fulfil these requirements, and thus intend to drive the market into a direction with a lower environmental impact.
Is a programme operator needed to publish an environmental declaration?
Yes, to publish a type III environmental declaration, it must be registered in the scope of a programme operator operating in accordance with ISO 14025.
This is made clear already in the introduction of ISO 14025:2006, where it states that:
[Type III environmental declarations] are subject to the administration of a programme operator, such as a company or a group of companies, industrial sector or trade association, public authorities or agencies, or an independent scientific body or other organisation.
A programme operator may be started by any organisation, but choosing an existing programme gives the credibility of a third party and of recognition of an existing brand such as The International EPD® System. The tasks of a programme operator, as described in detail in ISO 14025, are many and require constant maintenance.
The International EPD® System is a programme operator of type III environmental declarations with a global scope and applicable to any type of goods and services. With more than fifteen years of experience, EPD® serve as a credible choice for communication of the environmental impacts of products over their life cycle.
What opportunities are there for LCA consultants to work with the International EPD® System?
The International EPD® System offers many opportunities for LCA and sustainability consultants. They may assist companies or trade associations in preparing the LCA study underlying an EPD as well as creating the EPD document based on the LCA study. If there is not a PCR document available, a consultant may assist by taking on the coordinating role of PCR Moderator.
For experts with review experience, there is also the possibility to apply to become a recognized individual verifier in the programme. Verifiers work independently in seeking out assignments and get listed on this page: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPD/List-of-verifiers/
As a service to companies and consultancies to find each other, the International EPD System offers a list of LCA consultants on this page: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPD/List-of-LCA-consultants/ Please note that the listing shall not be misidentified as an endorsement or recommendation of these consultancies by the International EPD® System over other consultancy companies nor the use of in-house experts.
The EPD International Secretariat is available to support LCA practitioners with data and descriptions of the EPD and PCR processes, EPD applications and their benefits upon request.
What considerations must be made when making claims based on EPDs?
Environmental claims are under hard scrutiny to ensure that consumers are not misled. The ISO standards in the 14020-series gives guidance focusing on things like the correctness of information (not being misleading), using scientific methods, using the life cycle perspective, transparency and including all relevant environmental aspects.
The contents in the EPD® must be in line with the requirements and guidelines in ISO 14020. Any environmental claims based on the EPD is recommended to meet the requirements in ISO 14021 and national legislation and best available practices in the markets in which it will be used. The international standard ISO 14021 states that only environmental claims that can be supported by up-to-date and documented facts may be used. Vague claims about a product such as "environmentally friendly" should be avoided.
Are EPDs only useful for large companies?
No, using EPD for communicating the environmental impact of products is applicable for companies of any size.
Data from the International EPD System show that in 2017:
- 44% of the companies with published EPDs are large (more than 250 employees),
- 46% of the companies are small- and medium-sized (SME),
- 10% of the companies are micro-sized (up to 10 employees), or industry associations.
It is, however, more common for large companies to register many EPDs for a range of their products, while smaller companies normally only publish one or two EPDs focusing on their key products.
The International EPD® System is working to be relevant for companies of any size. In 2013, a new tier was added for micro companies to the annual fee. For companies up to 10 employees, the annual fee is only €500.
Who can help my company perform a Life Cycle Assessment?
Performing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in accordance with the relevant Product Category Rules (PCR) is one of the largest tasks in the process to create an EPD. If such expertise is not available in-house, a consultant is often employed to assist and work with the company to collect the relevant data, model the product life cycle and calculate the results.
In its role as the programme operator according to ISO 14025, the Secretariat does not recommend any specific company or person for you to perform the Life Cycle Assessment.
As a service to companies and consultancies to more easily find each other, we have prepared a list of potential consultancies to consider here: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPD/List-of-LCA-consultants/
In order to find the most suitable LCA practitioner for a specific project, it is recommended that companies ask for tenders from several potential candidates.
How can EPDs be used in building rating and assessment schemes (e.g. BREEAM or LEED)?
The interest for environmental declarations in building rating systems and certification schemes has increased in the last few years. This may be due to recognition of EPD benefits such as the life cycle approach, the transparent disclosure of relevant impact categories and the independent verification.
LEED by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is one of the schemes that have come the furthest in giving benefits for projects where EPDs are available to encourage the use of products with life-cycle information. In LEED v4 introduced in November 2013, two "points" are possible for projects that have product-specific declarations such as EPDs available and that demonstrates and impact reduction compared to an industry average. More information is available on the USGBC site: http://www.usgbc.org/credits/new-construction-core-and-shell-schools-new-construction-retail-new-construction-healthca-22
BREEAM has several national implementations where the requirements are somewhat different. Normally, only pre-approved national databases of LCA information are accepted. Please contact your local BREEAM national scheme operator for more information: http://www.breeam.org/
There are also other national and international building rating and assessment schemes that may or may not accept EPDs as part of their scope.
The International EPD® System is based on ISO 14025 (environmental declarations) and EN 15804 for applicable EPDs and PCRs. As a founding member of ECO Platform, the system works on harmonization efforts EPDs for construction products across Europe. International EPD® System is allowed to give the right to use the ECO Platform logotype on EN 15804-compliant EPDs for construction products during registration.
Are the LCA results of an EPD available in a data format for import into LCA software?
The output format of an EPD is a PDF document containing the information as mandated by the General Programme Instructions and the relevant Product Category Rules. This information consists of indicator results from the LCA study, but also other verified quantitative and qualitative information about the product, the company and the environmental impact. An EPD is thus more than the LCI/LCA indicators, but they form an important sub-set of the EPD.
EPD owners are welcome to publish the LCA/LCI information in parallel with the EPD at www.environdec.com or elsewhere for import into LCA software such as GaBi, SimaPro or openLCA.
Is there a template available for creating EPDs?
Yes, a voluntary EPD template is available on http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPD/The-EPD-process/Compiling-environmental-information/. The current template is only for non-construction products.
The use of the template is voluntary, as companies are free to use their own branding in the EPD.
The text and headings in the document do not overrule the requirements in the General Programme Instructions and the relevant PCR. These shall always be fulfilled.
How do I leave feedback or complaints on an EPD, PCR or other document?
For our quality management it is very important that the Secretariat get information if there are any irregularities with EPDs, PCR or other published documents. To file a complaint, send an e-mail to the Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To handle the complaint we need information about name, registration number, etc. of the document complained of. The complaint also must be clear in what way the document not meets the requirements in GPI, ISO 14025, EN 15804 or other steering document.
Anonymous complaints are not considered.
The secretariat will handle the complaint within two weeks.
What possibilities are there to make an "EPD tool" to create EPDs in a more cost-efficient way?
Different stakeholders currently refer to slightly different things when referring to the use of "EPD tools". The International EPD® System has several options for cost-effective EPDs:
The International EPD® System does not currently offer any way to create a fully automated EPD tool, from which the output may be published directly as an EPD. The reason is that such an approach would not have any verification in the way the tool has been used nor on the data input to the tool.
One of the pioneering systems for fully automating EPD creation via tools is the Earthsure programme in the USA. The International EPD® System is collaborating with Earthsure to explore the possibilities of automated EPDs and see what role they can play in meeting market demands of the future.
A company is very welcome to create and use an internal or external tool to use in carrying out an LCA. Such a tool needs no approval from the programme to be used, and the results and the EPDs based on the results are verified in the same way as though the calculations had been done in dedicated LCA software (SimaPro, GaBi, etc.).
The International EPD® System also offers these possibilities that are similar to what is referred to as "EPD tools" by some stakeholders:
- A company may use an internal LCA tool as part of its EPD Process Certification. When using a tool together with a certified process or routines for making an EPD, this replaces external verification of each EPD.
- An industry association may develop a pre-verified EPD tool to be used by its members. Such a tool would simplify LCA calculations as the tool would be verified to produce correct results based on a correct input. The resulting EPD would, however, still need to be verified.
Please contact the Secretariat at email@example.com for more information.
What is the fee for updating an already-registered EPD?
There is no fee for updating already-registered EPDs. This is included in the annual fee.
What is the validity of an EPD?
An EPD® is valid from completion of the last step of the EPD process (Registration & publication) until a final validity date, which is declared in the EPD.
The EPD validity is normally three (or five years for construction products). An expired EPD can still be published to give environmental information for products still in use, but may not been used in marketing.
Regardless of the validity, a published EPD shall be updated during its validity if one of the environmental indicators has worsened for more than 10% compared with the data currently published.
How do I link to an EPD from my company website?
As EPDs are administered by the programme, ensuring that the declaration is still valid, it is recommended to link to the EPD page at www.environdec.com instead of publishing the PDF file on the company website.
Links to EPDs registered in the International EPD System may normally be reached through a link of this format:
where 000 is replaced by the three last digits of the EPD registration number (e.g. 123 if the registration number is S-P-00123).
How do I recognize an EPD conformant with ISO 14025 and/or EN 15804?
An EPD is a type III environmental declaration according to ISO 14025 or EN 15804. However, on the market there are other documents that could be mistaken for being type III environmental declarations, but rather should be seen as self-declarations or the results from LCA studies. Such documents are lacking some important characteristics of EPDs that are conformant with the standards.
Here are three important things to look for when reading a document claiming to be an EPD, with or without a reference to ISO 14025 or EN 15804:
1. Reference to an EPD programme
According to ISO 14025 and EN 15804, the EPD shall refer to the EPD programme under which it has been registered. The EPD programme operator is responsible for making sure that its documentation fulfills the requirements in the standards. The programme operator has many duties to fulfill, and is intended to ensure transparency and credibility in the declarations. As the programme operator shall maintain a public register over all registered EPDs it is also easy to check the validity of the EPD by visiting the website of the program operator or by contacting the operator.
2. Reference to product category rules (PCR)
The EPD shall also refer the PCR-document that has been used for the EPD development. The programme operator is responsible for that the PCR is developed according to the ISO standard. The PCR document ensures that the EPDs within the same product category are developed and presented in the same way and also gives information on the methods used in the life cycle assessment. The programme operator shall maintain a record over the PCR documents developed within the programme.
3. Information on the verification
The EPD shall have information on the verification process. Most EPD programmes requires a third party verification and the EPD shall contain information on the name of the verifier, which can either be a person or organisation. The EPD shall also give information on the validity date.
Is there a fee to publish an EPD in multiple languages?
No, publishing an EPD in multiple languages is included in the registration fee.
Is the EPD database available in a machine-readable format for import into my software/tool/database?
Incorporating data from EPDs into software platforms is currently ongoing discussion internationally. Unfortunately, there are some potential problems beyond the technical and formatting issues, including:
- the ownership (as well as liability) of the data lies with the manufacturer and not by the programme in which the EPD is registered. This is true for all programmes based on the standard EN 15804.
- the validity of the data is dependent not only on the stated validity in the EPD, but requires that the EPD owner monitors the environmental impact and updates the EPD if necessary. This process is ensured by the continued publication and registration of the EPD with the programme, which the EPD owner may choose to terminate before the end of the stated validity of the EPD.
- an EPD contains more information than the quantified environmental impacts. Some impacts are describes in a qualitative way, there is a content declaration, description of the product, description of system boundary, etc., to enable the proper use and interpretation of the EPD.
If an EPD owner wishes, the International EPD® system allow the publication of a machine-readable LCI dataset in parallel to the EPD. Such data sets are available on the individual EPD page and may be produced in multiple of the available formats currently available on the market.
Questions or suggestions on how the International EPD® system may enable or facilitate the use of EPDs may be sent to the Secretariat.
What are the dates to be displayed in an EPD?
The Secretariat recommends the following three dates to be displayed in an EPD:
- "Publication date" (sometimes referred to as "issue date" or "registration date"). This date is set as the date when the company submit the EPD registration. In case the documentation is incomplete or contains errors, the publication date on the EPD should be updated to correspond to the date of the final resubmission for registration. This date remains the same even with later updates of the EPD.
- "Revision date". In case of a new version of an already-published EPD, this date should be set corresponding to the date when the updated EPD is submitted for publication. It should not be included in case of a first EPD edition.
- "Validity date". This date is set during during verification as +3 years or +5 years (construction products) from the finalization of verification/date of the verification report.
Who prepares the PCR documents?
PCR documents shall be developed with the intention of publishing and enabling publication of EPDs. The development shall be done in an internationally-accepted manner based on an open, transparent and participatory process either by:
- companies and organisations in co-operation with other parties, such as trade associations and interest organisations,
- institutions involving LCA/EPD experts in close cooperation with companies or trade associations and interest organisations, or by
- single companies or organisations in case they have the necessary in-house competence or choose to engage outside LCA/EPD experts.
The overall management of the PCR development is the responsibility of the programme operator. The programme operator also maintains the copyright of the document to ensure that it is possible to publish, update when necessary and available to all companies to use to develop and register EPDs in the International EPD® System. Participants in PCR development are acknowledged in the document and on the website.
What is the procedure for approving PCR documents?
Prior to the final publication of PCR documents, they shall be subject for an open consultation procedure giving all interested parties and stakeholders an opportunity to be informed about, to influence and to comment on the draft document.
The open consultation procedure can either be performed via the PCR Forum or have the form of a meeting, which shall be arranged by the party/parties responsible for preparing the proposal for PCR. If the consultation is carried out via the PCR Forum, special Product Category Stakeholder Consultation Groups are formed and invited to comment on the PCR proposal.
After consultation, the PCR Moderator is responsible for the finalisation of the PCR proposal taken into due consideration to the comments received during the open consultation procedure. A report shall be prepared including a short description of the open consultation process carried out, the parties participating in the consultation, the main comments received and how these have been handled. In case certain comments have not been considered, this has to be justified. Based on this report and the updated draft PCR, the Technical Committee will review and formally approve the PCR document prior to publication.
The approval and publication phase normally takes about four weeks from the submission of a final draft by the PCR Moderator to the Secretariat.
What is the validity of the PCR documents?
A PCR document is valid for a pre-determined period of time, normally three to five years. When the PCR has expired, the document must be updated before being used to produce new EPDs or to register an update of an existing EPD with a prolonged validity.
How to find existing PCR documents?
The International EPD® System provides a searchable database of available PCR documents within the framework of the system including those under preparation, approved or subject for review and update. The PCR database is meant to provide an overview of all available PCR documents and it is available in the PCR section of this website.
When starting up PCR development, it is important to also search for available PCR documents also in other ISO 14025 compliant environmental declaration programmes. PCRs in other programmes may be found through a Google search of relevant key words and via the webpages of the programme operators. Please contact the Secretariat for further guidance.
How to comment on existing PCR documents?
An important element of the International EPD® System is to enable all interested parties the possibility to comment on all phases of the PCR development - during preparation, the consultation phase, well as under the review and update of the documents.
Comments on PCRs may be given in the PCR Forum on this website (accessible on the page of each PCR) or sent directly to the PCR Moderator via e-mail.
What is the ECO Platform?
ECO Platform is an initiative in Europe relating to the development of verified environmental information of construction products, especially through EPDs based on the standard EN 15804. It was established by European EPD program operators, European trade associations in the construction sector and LCA practitioners.
ECO Platform is not a programme or programme operator in itself, but it has the objective to ensure that information about a product's environmental and sustainability performance complies with the new EU standard and is harmonised across borders.
The International EPD® System (EPD International AB) is one of the eleven founding organisations of the platform and works to align with the common understanding of technical issues, quality management and communication of environmental declarations of construction products. The President of ECO Platform is Sven-Olof Ryding, also founder and Senior Advisor of the International EPD® System.
Since 2014, the International EPD® System is an approved programme to use the ECO Platform logotype on its EPDs for construction products compliant with EN 15804.
For more information about ECO Platform, see http://www.eco-platform.org/ or contact the Secretariat.
Is it possible to use a PCR Basic Module as Product Category Rules (PCR) when developing an EPD?
No. PCR Basic Modules act as templates for PCRs, but they are not (with a single exception) PCR documents in themselves.
PCR Basic Modules do not specify the detailed calculation rules that are required in order for EPDs of the same product group to be comparable.
How does the International EPD® System relate to the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative?
Product Environmental Footprint (“PEF”) is a proposed European methodology for calculating the life cycle environmental impact of products. It is part of the "Single market for Green products" initiative by the European Commission released together with the Organisation Environmental Footprint ("OEF") methodology in April 2013.
The PEF methodology has been developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. It is inspired by (amongst others) the international standards for Life Cycle Assessment (ISO 14040/14044) and voluntary type III environmental declarations (ISO 14025).
The PEF is in a pilot phase between 2013 and 2016, where so-called PEFCR documents and other aspects of the methodology and format of communication will be developed. PEFCRs are the corresponding documents to Product Category Rules (PCR) used for type III environmental declarations in ISO 14025. The ongoing pilots have, however, shown that PCRs based on the ISO standards are currently not valid as PEFCRs (and vice-versa) as the two types of documents are based on different rule documents (the PEF Guide versus the ISO standards).
The Secretariat and the Technical Committee of the International EPD® System stay informed and participate in this pilot phase to ensure that knowledge developed during the long history and extensive PCR library of the International EPD® System is taken into account in this testing and update of the proposed methodology.
To date, the Secretariat has chosen to join the Technical Secretariat PEFCR of Intermediate paper products, but is also acting as a stakeholder for all other PEFCR pilots, such as those for food products, where there are many PCRs according to ISO 14025 already available. Comments have been provided during at least one consultation phase on draft PEFCRs of dairy, pasta, wine, paints, detergents, packed water, etc., in order to encourage harmonization of the new guidance with existing PCRs and the international standards.
In parallel and after the next version of the PEF methodology has been set, a discussion will be had regarding communication vehicles, policy options, ongoing operation after the pilot phase, how new product categories are to be included as well as the international application.
Awaiting the finalization of the pilot phase and these discussions, EPDs and the International EPD® System exists as an open, credible, robust and transparent system for companies' voluntary communication of the environmental performance of products on the international markets.
The programme via the General Programme Instructions is in constant development, why some of the key learnings from the PEF Pilot Phase and updated PEF Guide will likely influence the next major revision of our General Programme Instructions and PCRs. The extent of the harmonization possible will depend upon, among other things, to what extent the outcomes of the PEF initiative are compliant with the international standards.
We encourage EPD stakeholders in Europe to stay up-to-date with the latest information from www.environdec.com and the European Commission website for the PEF initiative (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/smgp/product_footprint.htm). The Secretariat is also available to answer your questions.
Where can I find the PCR template?
The PCR Basic Modules are intended to act as starting points and templates for PCR development. PCR Basic Modules are available through the EPD Search, and are classified according to the two-digit level of the UN CPC classification.
E.g. the PCR Basic Module for UN CPC division 22 (Dairy products and egg products) act as a template for all groups (three digit), classes (four digit) and sub-classes (five digit) starting with 22 such as:
- Group 222 Other dairy products
-- Class 2225 Cheese, fresh or processed
--- Sub-class 22251 Cheese from milk of cattle, fresh or processed
Is the International EPD® System compliant with the Guidance for PCR Development?
The "Guidance for Product Category Rule Development" was an initiative for increasing quality and alignment of PCR development. It was led by the US Environmental Protection Agency and PRé Sustainability with participation from 40 organisations in 13 countries. The International EPD® System participated in the steering committee of the initiative and has had an active role in providing comments on the different drafts.
The Secretariat has assessed the compliance of the version 2.0 of the General Programme Instructions and working procedure of the International EPD® System with the guidance. The result was that the system is compliant with the Guidance with the exception of:
- The rules for who prepares a PCR document is less strict in the International EPD® System. The Guidance requires that two industry representatives from different companies participate in the group preparing the draft PCR. As this has proved to be difficult in practice, this is a recommendation in the International EPD® System, but not a requirement. Sufficient industry involvement is instead made possible through the open consultation phase.
- The PCRs developed in the International EPD® System are not (yet) fully consistent with the template for PCRs provided by the Guidance. This will be an ongoing process for new PCRs.
- The nomenclature is somewhat different, e.g. the "PCR Committee". This has been improved for version 2.5 of the programme instructions.
Future updates of the General Programme Instructions are expected to be further aligned with the Guidance. The Guidance is also an important starting point for the standardisation of PCR development that is currently ongoing (ISO/DTS 14027).
How does the International EPD® System relate to EN 15804?
EN 15804 refers to the European standard EN 15804:2012+A1:2013, “Sustainability of construction works - Environmental product declarations - Core rules for the product category of construction products”. This standard was developed to function as a “Core PCR” to harmonize environmental declarations across programme operators. The European standard is complementary to ISO 14025, which provides rules on how to operate a programme for type III environmental declarations.
The International EPD® System is actively working towards complying with this standard, through the General Programme Instructions and the relevant PCRs. As the International EPD® System has both a geographical scope and scope of product categories that is larger than construction products in Europe, the compliance with the standard is defined on a case-to-case basis for PCRs. EPDs and PCRs for construction products shall state their compliance or non-compliance with EN 15804.
There are three types of PCRs currently available for construction products:
- PCR 2012:01 for Construction products and construction services. This document is the main option for EPDs compliant with EN 15804. Using this document, any construction product of construction service may be declared using a declared unit and a cradle-to-gate with options system boundary. An appendix ("sub-oriented PCR") shall be developed if a functional unit is to be used.
- Stand-alone PCRs, compliant with EN 15804. PCRs that are independent from PCR 2012:01, but aligned with EN 15804.
- Stand-alone PCRs, NOT compliant with EN 15804. This is often legacy PCRs intended to be updated or de-registered after they have expired.
The International EPD® System is a founding member of the ECO Platform to collaborate with other programme operators for alignment with EN 15804. The system also has mutual recognition agreement with the IBU and AENOR EPD systems for construction products in Germany and Spain, where EPDs of these programmes are accepted mutually without further verification. With an additional registration fee, the owner of such an EPD may carry the logotype of both programmes.
What is the difference between a PCR and an LCA Guidance document?
There is currently some market confusion regarding the difference between PCRs and LCA Guides as many LCA consultants and industry associations are new to the world of environmental declarations.
Product Category Rules (PCR) define the calculation rules for life cycle assessment (LCA) and the declaration format of a Type III Environmental Declaration based on this LCA study and additional information. A PCR is developed in the auspices of a programme operator - as required in ISO 14025 – according to the operator's publically-available PCR process described in the General Programme Instructions. The International EPD® System is one such programme and publishes its PCR library and all PCRs under development at www.environdec.com.
An LCA Guidance document that provides calculation rules for LCA regardless of purpose of the study and without the involvement of a programme operator is not a PCR. If such a document is developed by an industry association or other stakeholders, it may provide input to PCR development, but it cannot be used directly as a PCR. LCA studies performed based on such an LCA guidance documents are not type III environmental declarations (EPDs).
What is the definition of a "construction product"?
The recent focus on EPDs for construction products in Europe has led to the problem of defining the scope of what constitutes a "construction product". This poses a problem for PCR and EPD product categories as the UN CPC classification is material-centric instead of focusing on the sector in which the product is used.
As the standard EN 15804 provides limited guidance on this definition, the best reference is the European construction product regulation that states:
"construction product’ means any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works"
Non-permanent products in construction works or products that do not have any effect on the performance of the construction work are thus not included in the definition.
There is no exhaustive list of what products are covered by this definition. All products that are covered by a harmonized standard according to the construction product regulation (or the earlier construction product directive) are, however, considered as construction products: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/construction/product-regulation/harmonised-standards_en
As it is unwise for different interpretations to exist of what constitutes a construction product, the International EPD System is expecting guidance to be made available via the ECO Platform or the CEN/TC 350 working group, who are responsible for the standard EN 15804.
What systems' approach in Ecoinvent is applicable for EPDs?
Ecoinvent is a well-known and extensive Life Cycle Inventory database. With the launch of version 3.0 of the database, a major change has been introduced as now users can choose between several system models for each dataset to allow for additional types of modelling.
The basis for all calculations is unlinked ecoinvent datasets (e.g. “real-life” activities that commonly have more than one product output), from which the user can create fully independent system models.
Moreover, Ecoinvent provides system models already structured and ready for the user in the form of aggregated data sets. Two classes of system models are distinguished, each corresponding to a different approach: system models with partitioning (allocation) and system models with substitution (system expansion).
In version 3.0, two system models are available to the user, one for each class:
- Partitioning class: “Allocation, ecoinvent default”, based on a “true value” allocation approach, similar as in previous Ecoinvent versions. The allocation is made at the “point of substitution”.
- Substitution class: “Substitution, consequential, long-term”, based on a system expansion approach
In version 3.1, a cut-off system model was added as well.
The system approach of the International EPD® System may be described as attributional LCA and a polluter pays allocation approach, which falls within the first class (partitioning – allocation). The undefined system and cut-off system model are thus most applicable to develop EPD®s according to the International EPD® System.
The “Substitution, consequential, long-term” system approach should not be used, while the use of “Allocation, ecoinvent default” may only be seen as an approximation of the correct system model. The use of the latter data sets must be validated by the practitioner to be good approximations of the correct system model used in the International EPD® System.
Read more about Ecoinvent at www.ecoinvent.org
Product Category Rules
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