What is a Product Environmental Footprint?

Definition, goals & methodology

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is being developed by the European Commission in order to record the sustainability impacts of products and make them comparable.

Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement Product Environmental Footprint

A Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is a new method for measuring sustainability performance developed by the European Commission in cooperation with companies and sustainability experts.

The aim is to improve the validity and comparability of the environmental performance evaluation compared to existing methods.

The PEF makes it possible to determine all relevant environmental and health impacts as well as resource-related burdens caused by a product. For the calculation, the entire life cycle of the products is considered, from raw material procurement to disposal.

The need for an environmental performance assessment exists not only for products, but also for companies and other organisations. The Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) exists for this purpose.

We consult you on PEF

The ifu Hamburg was involved in the pilot phase of the PEF development and is your reliable partner for all questions concerning this topic. Come aboard and let us discover together what opportunities and possibilities the Product Environmental Footprint has in store for you.

We offer you:

  • Methodical and implementation-oriented knowledge about PEF and other instruments of environmental performance assessment
  • 25 years of expertise in sustainability management
  • Strategic classification of the potential and relevance of the PEF for your company
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PEF phases

What aims the European Commission to achieve with PEF?

PEF and OEF are intended to promote "Green Businesses" by making the environmental performance of companies measurable and communicable according to a uniform procedure. The aim is to make it easier for consumers to recognise how environmentally friendly a product or company is.

PEF is the EU Commission's response to the demand for standardisation and comparability of the environmental performance of products.

Recognised standards and methods already exist to assess the environmental impact of products (e.g. LCA - Life Cycle Assessment). However, due to the universal applicability of some standards, there is scope for interpretation and questions of interpretation which can impair the consistency and comparability of the results.

In order to achieve the goal of a uniform methodology throughout Europe, the PEF is subject to strict rules. The Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) have therefore been developed in collaboration with companies from various sectors.


Further goals of PEF:

  • Reduction of the negative environmental impact of the production system
  • Optimization of the production process and identification of problem areas
  • Simplification of B2B and B2C communication
  • Dissemination of the environmental performance evaluation by low expenditure
  • Saving of costs in environmental analysis


If you are interested in the history of the PEF, we have summarized a short timeline for you.

▶ More about the PEF phases (PDF)

What is the difference between PEF and LCA?

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in accordance with ISO 14044 is one of the already recognised and widely used standards for environmental assessment. Like the LCA, the PEF takes a life cycle perspective, but follows further product category specific requirements and standardised specifications which create a higher comparability of the results.

Examples of which key requirements differ:

  • System Boundary
    The PEF method by default covers the entire cradle-to-grave cycle of a product, unless broken by PEFCRs. Classical Life Cycle Assessments vary in their metrics depending on the objective and scope of the study.

  • Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) Methods
    In the PEF approach, there is a standardised set of LCIA methods, while in Life Cycle Assessments different variants can be identified, which in turn complicates the comparison of LCAs.

  • Dealing with End-of-life phase
    The requirement of ISO 14044 only states that the End-of-life phase should be considered, e.g. the disposal or recycling of a product. PEF, on the other hand, provides a concrete approach and a formula for end-of-life processes.

To the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Guide

▶ To our LCA Software Umberto

What is the difference between PEF and LCA?

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