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Feb

8, 2016

FAQ: How does the International EPD® System relate to the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative?

Kristian Jelse

Many EPD stakeholders have heard about and would like to know more about the Product Environmental Footprint. Who is behind the initaitive, how will it be used and how does it relate to long-running voluntary initiatives, such as International EPD® System?

We met with Kristian Jelse, Project Manager for the PCR database and PCR development at the Secretariat to try to answer some of these questions:

What is "PEF"?

- The 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 (among others) the international standards for Life Cycle Assessment (ISO 14040/14044) and voluntary type III environmental declarations (ISO 14025).

What is the current status of the Product Environmental Footprint?

- 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.

Despite the PCRs already available for a large range of product categories, the ongoing pilots have assessed that PCRs based on the ISO standards are currently not valid as PEFCRs (and thus vise-versa) as the two types of documents are based on different rule documents (the PEF Guide versus the ISO standards, and General Programme Instructions of a programme).

How is the International EPD® System involved in this initiative?

- 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 and from standardisation 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. We have also provided comments during at least one consultation phase on draft PEFCRs of dairy, pasta, wine, paints, detergents, packed water and others in order to encourage harmonization of the new guidance with existing PCRs and the international standards.

What will happen next?

- In parallel with and after the next version of the PEF methodology has been set, a discussion will be had regarding benchmarking, communication vehicles and policy options. Some other questions that remain open are the ongoing operation after the pilot phase, how new product categories are to be included, alignment with existing standards as well as the international application.

Will the International EPD® System be aligned with PEF?

- The International EPD® System 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 and European standards.

Awaiting the finalization of the pilot phase and the succeeding discussions on how it will be used in Europe, 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.

How can I lean more?

- I would like to encourage EPD stakeholders to stay up-to-date with the latest information about EPD and related issues at www.environdec.com. The Secretariat is also available to answer your questions with e-mail or telephone. The European Commission has a website for the PEF initiative, where you can learn more abouy the policy background, ongoing pilots and also find a Q&A.