Environmental performance indicators

Introduction to the default list of environmental performance indicators

This is a list of the default environmental impact and inventory indicators, and impact assessment methods, to use in EPDs of the International EPD System.

Requirements or recommendations in a PCR may deviate from the default list, if such deviations have been justified in the PCR development process. An example of such a deviation is the PCR for construction products, which instead uses the list of indicators and methods in EN 15804 (see the Further information section below).

The default list is regularly updated based on developments in LCA methods, practices and standards, while ensuring the market stability of EPDs. In case of updates, the previous version of the default list is valid in parallel to the new version during a transition period of at least 90 days. Information about such transition periods are published here.

The latest update of the default list was made 2022-03-29, referred to as Version 2.0. This version has adopted the core environmental impact indicators of EN 15804:2012+A2:2019/AC:2021 as mandatory indicators. Among the inventory indicators of EN 15804, the six indicators of use of primary energy are mandatory, while the remaining 11 inventory indicators are optional. As such, Version 2.0 entails significant changes of the impact indicators compared to Version 1.0, while the inventory indicators remain the same but some of them have become optional. Note that the default list is for non-construction products, and that all inventory indicators of EN 15804 remain mandatory for construction products. More information about the indicators in Versions 1 and 2, respectively, can be found below.

Version 1.0 of the default list will remain valid for a transition period ending 2022-12-31. EPD owners are, however, recommended to use Version 2.0.

Clarifications to the indicators and their methods may be found further down, in the Guidance on environmental performance indicators. Further guidance for the indicators of EN 15804 and Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators will be added during 2022.

Global warming potential (GWP)

Four GWP indicators shall be declared, both for Versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the default list of indicators. The four indicators differentiate greenhouse gases depending on their origin: GWP-fossil, GWP-biogenic, GWP-land use and land use change (luluc), and GWP-total (the sum of the other three GWP indicators). More guidance can be found in the below section on Guidance on environmental performance indicators.

Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators (valid from 2022-03-29)

GWP100, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
IPCC (2013)

Examples
1 kg carbon dioxide = 1 kg CO2 eq.
1 kg methane = 36.8* kg CO2 eq.
1 kg dinitrogen oxide = 298 kg CO2 eq.

Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators (valid until 2022-12-31)

GWP100, CML 2001 baseline. Version: January 2016.

Original reference
IPCC (2013)

Examples
1 kg carbon dioxide = 1 kg CO2 eq.
1 kg methane = 28* kg CO2 eq.
1 kg dinitrogen oxide = 265 kg CO2 eq.

*Please notice that the original source, IPCC (2013), differentiates "Fossil methane" from methane.

Acidification potential (AP)

Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators (valid from 2022-03-29)

AP, accumulated exceedence, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original references
Seppälä et al. 2006, Posch et al. 2008

Examples for unspecified emissions to air, unspecified location
1 kg ammonia = 3.02 mol H+ eq.
1 kg nitrogen oxides = 0.74 mol H+ eq.
1 kg sulphur oxides = 1.31 mol H+ eq.

Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators (valid until 2022-12-31)

AP, CML 2001 non-baseline (fate not included). Version: January 2016.

Original reference
Hauschild & Wenzel (1998)

Examples
1 kg ammonia = 1.88 kg SO2 eq.
1 kg nitrogen dioxide = 0.7 kg SO2 eq.
1 kg sulphur dioxide = 1 kg SO2 eq.

Please notice the use of non-baseline characterization factors for acidification potential.

Eutrophication potential (EP)

Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators (valid from 2022-03-29)

Three different EP indicators shall be declared:

EP, aquatic freshwater, EUTREND model, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
Struijs et al. 2009 as implemented in ReCiPe

Examples, emissions to fresh water
1 kg phosphorus = 1 kg P eq.
1 kg phosphate = 0.33 kg P eq.
1 kg phosporic acid = 0.32 kg P eq.

EP, aquatic marine, EUTREND model EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
Struijs et al. 2009 as implemented in ReCiPe

Examples, unspecified emissions to air, unspecified location
1 kg nitrogen oxides = 0.389 kg N eq.
1 kg ammonia = 0.092 kg N eq.

EP, terrestrial, accumulated exceedance, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
Seppälä et al. 2006, Posch et al. 2008

Examples, unspecified emissions to air, unspecified location
1 kg nitrogen oxides = 4.26 mol N eq.
1 kg nitrate = 3.16065 mol N eq.
1 kg ammonia = 13.47 kg N eq.

Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators (valid until 2022-12-31)

EP, CML 2001 baseline (fate not included), Version: January 2016.

Original reference
Heijungs et al. (1992)

Examples
1 kg phosphate = 1 kg PO43- eq.
1 kg ammonia = 0.35 kg kg PO43- eq.
1 kg COD (to freshwater) = 0.022 kg kg PO43- eq.

Photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP)

Same indicator and method in Version 2.0 (valid from 2022-03-29) and Version 1.0 (valid until 2022-12-31) of the default list of indicators

POCP, LOTOS-EUROS as applied in ReCiPe, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
Van Zelm et al. 2008, ReCiPe 2008

Examples, unspecified emissions to air, unspecified location
1 kg nitrogen oxides = 1 kg NMVOC eq.
1 kg carbon monoxide (fossil) = 0.0456 kg NMVOC eq.
1 kg acetic acid = 0.164 kg NMVOC eq.

Ozone depletion potential (ODP)

Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators (valid from 2022-03-29)

ODP, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original reference
WMO 2014

Examples for unspecified emissions to air
1 kg halon-1211 = 6.9 kg CFC 11 eq.
1 kg methyl bromide = 0.57 kg CFC 11 eq.
1 kg CFC 11 = 1 kg CFC 11 eq.

Please notice that this indicator is not included in Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators.

Abiotic depletion potential (ADP) for minerals and metals (non-fossil resources)

Same indicator and method in Version 2.0 (valid from 2022-03-29) and Version 1.0 (valid until 2022-12-31) of the default list of indicators

ADP minerals & metals, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original references
Guinée et al. 2002, van Oers et al. 2002, CML 2001 baseline (Version: January 2016)

Examples
1 kg antimony = 1 kg Sb eq.
1 kg aluminium = 1.09 * 10^-9 Sb eq.
1 kg silver = 1.18 kg Sb eq.

Disclaimer is mandatory
The results of this indicator shall always be accompanied with the following disclaimer, both in the LCA report and in the EPD: "The results of this environmental impact indicator shall be used with care as the uncertainties of the results are high and as there is limited experience with the indicator."

Please notice that in Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators, this indicator may also be referred to as ADP elements.

Abiotic depletion potential (ADP) for fossil resources

Same indicator and method in Version 2.0 (valid from 2022-03-29) and Version 1.0 (valid until 2022-12-31) of the default list of indicators

ADP fossil resources, EN 15804. Version: August 2021.

Original references
Guinée et al. 2002, van Oers et al. 2002, CML 2001 baseline (Version: January 2016)

Examples
1 kg coal hard = 27.91 MJ
1 kg coal soft, lignite = 13.96 MJ

Disclaimer is mandatory
The results of this indicator shall always be accompanied with the following disclaimer, both in the LCA report and in the EPD: "The results of this environmental impact indicator shall be used with care as the uncertainties of the results are high and as there is limited experience with the indicator."

Water deprivation potential (WDP)

Same indicator and method in Version 2.0 (valid from 2022-03-29) and Version 1.0 (valid until 2022-12-31) of the default list of indicators

Water deprivation (Available water remaining (AWARE) method), EN 15804.

Original reference
Boulay et al (2017)

Example
The AWARE method is based on the inverse of the difference between water availability per area and demand per area. It quantifies the potential of water deprivation, to either humans or ecosystems, and serves in calculating the impact score of water consumption at midpoint in LCA or to calculate a water scarcity footprint as per ISO 14046. It is based on the available water remaining (AWARE) per unit of surface in a given watershed relative to the world average, after human and aquatic ecosystem demands have been met. The resulting CF ranges between 0.1 and 100, and is meant to be multiplied with the local water consumption inventory.

582 m3 water consumed per ton of grapes produced in Mendoza, Argentina:
WDP = 582 m3 water x 37.597 (Agg_CF_irri for Argentina) = 21,881 m3 world eq. deprived/ton grape

Disclaimer is mandatory
The results of this indicator shall always be accompanied with the following disclaimer, both in the LCA report and in the EPD: "The results of this environmental impact indicator shall be used with care as the uncertainties of the results are high and as there is limited experience with the indicator."

Please notice that in Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators, this indicator may also be referred to as water scarcity footprint (WSP). Sometimes it is also referred to as deprivation-weigthed water consumption.

Further information on impact indicators

For construction product EPDs, Table 3 in EN 15804 (“Parameters describing environmental impacts”) shall be applied in the PCR. These are the same as the Version 2.0 indicators listed above.

To find corresponding methods available in your LCA software, such as SimaPro, GaBi or openLCA, please see the documentation or contact your LCA software provider. To see the compliance of different versions of the CML-IA, see the version history available on their website.

The source and version of the impact assessment methods and characterisation factors used shall be reported in the EPD. Alternative regional impact assessment methods and characterisation factors are allowed to be calculated and displayed in addition to the default list. If so, the EPD shall contain an explanation of the difference between the different sets of indicators, as they may appear to the reader to display duplicate information.

Other impact indicators

To better characterize the environmental performance of a product category, a PCR may list further mandatory or voluntary indicators of potential environmental impacts. Also indicators not listed in the PCR may be declared if environmentally relevant for the product. Examples of further environmental impact categories to declare are:

  • ionising radiation, and
  • impacts of land use and land use change.

Any indicators declared should be based on international standards or similar methodologies developed in a transparent procedure. Reference to the declared indicators and their impact assessment methods shall be reported.

Use of resources

All the indicators for resource use listed below are mandatory if Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators are used. If Version 2.0 is used, the six indicators for primary energy resources are mandatory, and the other four indicators are optional.

Notes:

  • To identify the primary energy used as an energy carrier (and not used as raw materials), the parameter may be calculated as the difference between the total input of primary energy and the input of energy resources used as raw materials.

  • The energy content of biomass used for feed or food purposes shall not be considered.

  • The net use of fresh water does not constitute a “water footprint” as a potential environmental impact because the water use in different geographical locations is not captured. For this indicator:

  1. Evaporation, transpiration, product integration, release into different drainage basins or the sea, displacement of water from one water resource type to another water resource type within a drainage basin (e.g. from groundwater to surface water) is included.
  2. In-stream water use is not included.
  3. Only the net water consumption (such as the reintegration of water losses) of water used in closed-loop processes (such as a cooling system) and in power generation should be considered.
  4. Seawater shall not be included (it may be relevant to include seawater if it is used to obtain energy from it, or it is the only source of water in a definite site; this may be displayed separately, e.g. as “seawater for desalinization”).
  5. Tap water or treated water (e.g. from a water treatment plant), or wastewater that is not directly released into the environment (e.g. sent to a wastewater treatment plant) do not count as elementary water flows, but intermediate flows from a process within the technosphere.
  6. Additional transparency in terms of geographical location, type of water resource (e.g. groundwater, surface water), water quality, and temporal aspects may be included as additional information.

Waste production and output flows

The indicators for waste production and other output flows listed below are mandatory if Version 1.0 of the default list of indicators are used, and optional if Version 2.0 is used.

Indicators describing waste production

Indicators describing output flows

Notes:

  • The parameters are calculated on the gross amounts leaving the system boundary of the product system in the life cycle inventory. If, e.g. there is no gross amount of “exported energy, electricity” leaving the system boundary, this indicator is set to zero.
  • The parameter “Materials for energy recovery” does not include materials for waste incineration with energy recovery, unless all criteria for end-of-waste state have been fulfilled prior to the incineration. See Section A.5.2 of the General Programme Instructions (version 4.0) for further information.
  • In the event that flows of these types never leave the system boundary for a product category, the indicators may be removed from the PCR.

Other inventory indicators
The PCR may add other voluntary or mandatory inventory indicators to declare in the EPD. Any indicators declared should be based on international standards or similar methodologies developed in a transparent procedure. Reference to the declared indicators and their methods shall be reported.

Guidance on environmental performance indicators

Below are some clarifications for the indicators of climate change, water depletion, resource use and waste generation. A PCR may provide further guidance for its specific product category. If below guidance deviates from a PCR or the underlying standard (e.g. EN 15804), the guidance in the PCR or the underlying standard shall be followed.

GUIDANCE ON THE CLIMATE CHANGE INDICATORS

Greenhouse gas emissions and removals
The climate impact assessment shall include emissions and removals of greenhouse gases arising from fossil sources, biogenic sources, and direct land use change. The reporting shall be done in separate sub-indicators for the different sources, unless other guidance is provided in the PCR.

For human food and animal feed, emissions and removals arising from biogenic sources that become an ingested part of the product shall not be included. Greenhouse gas emissions (except carbon dioxide, CO2) arising from the degradation of waste food and feed and enteric fermentation shall be included.

Where a secondary material with a carbon content enters the system boundary, the quantity of carbon content should be accounted in the same way as if it were a primary material. Thus accounting for the total quantity of carbon that the new product will contain and continue to store.

When GHG emissions and removals arising from the use stage and/or from the end-of-life stage occur over more than 10 years after the product has been brought into use, the timing of GHG emissions and removals relative to the year of production of the product shall be specified in the life cycle inventory (unless otherwise is specified in the reference PCR).

The effect of timing of the GHG emissions and removals from the product system, on the climate impact results, shall, if calculated, be documented separately in the EPD under Additional environmental information.

More guidance on the GWP-biogenic indicators is given below.

Carbon sequestration and stored carbon
When some or all removed carbon is not emitted to the atmosphere within the 100-year assessment period, the share of carbon not emitted to the atmosphere during that period shall be treated as stored carbon. Carbon storage might arise where biogenic carbon forms part or all of a product* (e.g. a wooden product) or where atmospheric carbon is taken up by a product over its life cycle (e.g. cement).

As of Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators, it is not allowed to consider the effect of biogenic carbon storage (in the product or as a consequence of applying carbon capture and storage, CCS) when calculating GWP-biogenic results. In case of such storage, a virtual emission of biogenic CO2 shall be added to the end-of-life stage, so that the uptake and emissions of biogenic CO2 are balanced out over the life cycle of the product. Such a virtual emission of biogenic CO2 shall also be assigned to the product system (not necessarily to the end-of-life stage) in case biogenic carbon exits the system boundaries as material to recycling or reuse or as secondary fuel. This is according to EN 15804, and shall thus also be applied in EPDs of construction products. However, how consideration of storage of biogenic carbon would influence GWP-biogenic results may be declared under Additional environmental information.

Land management might result in changes of carbon stored as soil carbon or forest biomass. Unless otherwise stated in the PCR, it is optional to consider this in the climate impact assessment. If soil carbon change is accounted for, the guidance of how to account for this in ISO 14067 shall be followed.

GHG emissions and removals occurring as a result of direct land use change (dLUC) within the last decades shall be assessed in accordance with internationally recognized methods, such as the IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and included in the CFP. The net dLUC GHG emissions and removals shall be documented separately in the EPD. If site-specific data are applied, they shall be transparently documented in the project report. If a national approach is used, the data shall be based on a verified study, a peer reviewed study or similar scientific evidence and shall be documented in the project report.

More guidance on the GWP-biogenic indicators is given below.

Offsetting
Greenhouse gas emissions offset mechanisms shall not be used in the assessment of the carbon footprint indicators. The EPD owner may declare their participation in offsetting programmes or purchase of carbon neutral products separately in the additional environmental information section of the EPD, where these effects also may be qualified.

Aircraft emissions
Aircraft GHG emissions shall be included and documented separately if significant. Further, the guidance of how to account for aircraft GHG emissions in ISO 14067 shall be followed.

GWP-biogenic
As of version 1.2 of PCR 2019:14 Construction products, it includes an annex (Annex 2) explaining and illustrating the basic principles of collecting, reporting, and checking the mass balance of biogenic carbon and calculating the GWP-biogenic results. Below is included a short version of this. For more information, see Annex 2 in PCR 2019:14, which also includes an illustrative example.

The amount of biogenic carbon is an inherent material property and therefore seldom included in generic datasets from databases. Therefore, the biogenic carbon content must often be added for material flows that constitute part of the declared product or its packaging material (if not a cut-off rule is applied, as further specified in each PCR). Note that inherent energy stored in the product (net calorific value) must also often be added manually (to generic datasets) as energy used as material, and the same amount of energy then has to be removed from the figure on primary energy use.

According to the modular principle of EN 15804, if there is a biogenic CO2 emission, the initial uptake of this biogenic carbon shall be reported in the life-cycle stage/module where the emission occurs. This means that such emissions and uptakes are balanced out in each individual life-cycle stage/module. When calculating the GWP-biogenic results, an emission of biogenic CO2 and its uptake can therefore be set to zero for all flows that do not end up as content of the product or the packaging. In case the biogenic carbon ends up as product or packaging content, the LCA practitioner normally has to correct this manually in the LCA software. The biogenic CO2 emissions of incinerating or degrading this carbon will then appear in the end-of-life stage (for construction products: in module C for the product, or in module A5 for packaging), since such stored carbon shall be included in the LCI and be separately declared according to Section 6.4.4 of EN 15804. However, for construction products, if the carbon content of product or packaging is less than 5% of the mass of the product or the packaging, respectively, its declaration may be omitted, according to Section 6.4.4 of EN 15804.

When calculating the GWP-biogenic results, the LCA practitioner may notice that the LCI data as provided by the LCA tool/LCI database are not (normally) balanced out in each life-cycle stage/module, since the software/databases are not designed for this kind of calculation. Ideally this could be corrected by adding a sequestration of biogenic CO2 in the LCI within the same life-cycle stage/module. Alternatively, the emissions can be “neglected” by setting the CFs of these emissions to zero. Both alternatives follow the modular approach where the biogenic CO2 emissions are balanced out in each life-cycle stage/module.

Next step is to correctly account for the biogenic carbon in the product and its packaging. This amount of biogenic carbon will, if the product and the packaging are incinerated at end of life, be emitted as biogenic CO2 in the end-of-life stage/module C (A5 for packaging) and thus be balanced out over the product life cycle. Depending on the scenario, this amount may be divided into different processes of the end-of-life stage (for construction products: different C modules), but the sum shall always be the same as the sequestered amount reported in the previous life-cycle stages/modules. For construction products, the biogenic carbon of packaging material is normally emitted as biogenic CO2 emissions in module A5, why the biogenic carbon stored in the packaging material normally can be balanced out within module A (summed over A1-A5, why A5 needs to be reported in such cases). If the biogenic carbon content of the product is not incinerated at end-of-life, for example because the carbon is permanently stored in the product (for more than 100 years) or because the carbon leaves the product system for reuse or recycling into a new product, a virtual emission of biogenic CO2 shall be added to the life-cycle stage/module from which the carbon leaves the studied product system, which most often is the end-of-life stage/module C. Thus Version 2.0 of the default list of indicators, or EN 15804, does not allow credits due to delayed emissions or permanent storage of biogenic carbon (see Section 5.4.2 of EN 15804). In short, the sum of the sequestered and emitted biogenic carbon during the product life cycle will always be zero. Credits from permanent storage may, however, be described as additional environmental information, as the information may be of interest for users of EPD information.

Moreover, the LCA practitioner is recommended to use the dry matter of any biogenic material that is reported in the LCI. It is also recommended to check that the combustion figures in the LCI are correct. An example for wood: the lower heat value for dry matter of a certain wood species is 19.2 MJ/kg and the carbon content can be set to 50%. It can now be calculated that 95 g CO2/MJ is emitted when this wood is completely burned (1/19.20.544/12=0.095 kg CO2/MJ). Moreover, the dry matter for this wood species is 390 kg/m3, which is equal to a sequestration of 715 kg CO2/m3 (3900.544/12) dry matter of wood.

GUIDANCE ON THE WATER DEPRIVATION INDICATOR

Net freshwater use is included as an indicator in the section of resource use, calculated from the life cycle inventory. The water deprevation potential provides further information related to the availability of water in different geographical locations.

GUIDANCE ON THE INDICATORS OF PRIMARY ENERGY RESOURCES

To identify the primary energy resources used as an energy carrier (and not used as raw materials), the indicator may be calculated as the difference between the total input of primary energy resources and the input of primary energy resources used as raw materials.

Energy content of biomass used for feed or food purposes shall not be considered.

GUIDANCE ON THE INDICATOR FOR NET USE OF FRESH WATER

The net use of fresh water does not constitute a “water footprint” as potential environmental impacts due to the water use in different geographical locations is not captured. For this indicator:

  • Evaporation, transpiration, product integration, release into different drainage basins or the sea, displacement of water from one water resource type to another water resource type within a drainage basin (e.g. from groundwater to surface water) is included.
  • In-stream water use is not included.
  • For water used in closed loop processes (such as cooling system) and in power generation only the net water consumption (such as reintegration of water losses) should be considered.
  • Seawater shall not be included (It may be relevant to include seawater if it is used to obtain energy from it, or it is the only source of water in a definite site. This shall then be displayed separately, e.g. as “seawater for desalinization”.)
  • Tap water or treated water (e.g. from a water treatment plant), or wastewater that is not directly released in the environment (e.g. sent to a wastewater treatment plant) are not elementary water flows, but intermediate flows from a process within the technosphere.
  • Additional transparency in terms of geographical location, type of water resource (e.g. groundwater, surface water), water quality and temporal aspects may be included as additional information.

GUIDANCE ON THE RESOURCE USE AND WASTE INDICATORS

These indicators account for resource used and waste produced along the whole life cycle of the declared product (upstream, core and downstream processes). They are the result of the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), and represent net flows of resources and waste crossing the system boundaries.

Please note that the amount of wastes and the destination shall be declared as outflows from the system only when the waste treatment process is not included within the system boundaries.

Also note that some aggregated generic LCI datasets, most notably those from the Ecoinvent database, include all waste treatment processes within the system boundaries, i.e. there are no waste flows exiting the system boundaries and the waste indicators to be declared will be zero. In contrast, other aggregated generic LCI datasets, such as Gabi datasets, often have waste flows exiting the system boundaries, and the waste indicators to be declared will therefore be non-zero.

The parameters are calculated on the gross amounts leaving the system boundary of the product system in the LCI. If, for example, there is no gross amount of “exported energy, electricity” leaving the system boundary, this indicator is set to zero.

The parameter “Materials for energy recovery” does not include materials for waste incineration. Waste incineration is a method of waste processing and is allocated within the system boundary. For further information, see the GPI.