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Environmental management systems

Image: (c) Nan Palmero (via Flickr). License: CC BY 2.0

Environmental management systems

EPD is a useful tool for environmental management, whether the environmental management system (EMS) is certified according to ISO 14001 or EMAS or based on other guidelines. By using EPDs, the organization can identify, control, monitor and evaluate the environmental performance in a life cycle perspective and also communicate the result to different stakeholders.

With the recent update to the standard ISO 14001 (ISO 14001:2015) there will be an increased focus on the life cycle perspective of the environmental impact from the activities of an organization.

EMS and EPD Process Certification

The EPD Process Certification gives the organization a possibility to incorporate the development of EPDs in the management system.  Read more about the EPD process certification here.

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.

4. Communication

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.

Figure from EPD S-P-00279 COOP Mineral Water

Example on using EPD to report continous improvements, COOP Italia Mineral Water (S-P-00279)

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