Why are EPDs suitable for Environmental Management?
EPDs are based on the standard ISO 14025 “Type III Environmental declarations”, which is one of the standards in ISO 14000-series regarding environmental management. There is therefore a natural link between environmental declarations and environmental management. The International EPD® system has also built its framework based on the principles in the ISO 14000-series of standards to make it easier to implement EPDs in the EMS.
The General Program Instructions are based on the principles of the standard ISO 14001 for environmental management.
HOW TO USE EPDS AS A PART OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
1. Identification of significant environmental aspects
Environmental management systems, such as ISO 14001 and EMAS, require the organization to identify the environmental impacts from its activities, product and services. One way to identify any organization’s significant environmental aspects is to make use of LCA methodology, although a detailed LCA is not required by the standard. Information for a life cycle assessment can be obtained from the organizations suppliers of products and services. EPDs are very useful for this purpose and will provide valuable information for the identification of the significant environmental aspects in a life cycle perspective.
2. Operational planning and control
Environmental management systems require the organization to consider its environmental aspects in its operational planning and control of its activities. EPDs can be used to get a life cycle perspective on its operations. In specific, two examples of activities were the organization can make use of EPDs is procurement and design of it products.
Environmental requirements for procurement of product and services, and external providers
EPDs are a very useful tool for public and private procurement and this is further described here
Environmental requirements on the design of its products
Environmental considerations in the design and development stages give a great opportunity to minimize the environmental impact from the products life cycle. Life cycle assessments can provide insights in the choice of materials and components with the regard to their environmental impact for their whole life cycle. LCAs can also be used to test the environmental impact from different design options. Fort this work, EPDs can provide LCA information for example when choosing among different materials or components. Read more about the use of EPDs in Eco-desig here.
3. Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation
The EMS requires the organization to monitor, measure, analyze and evaluate its environmental performance. The organization must evaluate its environmental performance and effectiveness of the environmental system, this includes the products the organization produce or services it provides. Relevant environmental performance shall be communicated both internally and externally.
To monitor the environmental impact of its products and services the organization can make use of LCA and EPDs. By using relevant product category rules (PCRs) the LCA will be done according to methods generally agreed on by companies within the certain product category and the result can be communicated as EPDs.
The organization is required by the EMS to establish processes for its environmental communication both internally and externally. The organization shall also see to that the information is relevant and reliable. EPDs can be used to communicate continuous environmental improvement of goods and services over time following measures taken to make its product more environmentally-effective. As EPDs are third-party verified they have a high credibility and thus serve as a good base for communication to all types of stakeholders, as customers, consumers and authorities.
Several organizations update their EPDs regularly to communicate such improvements, for example regarding the climate impact from their products or services.
Example on using EPD to report continous improvements, COOP Italia Mineral Water (S-P-00279)