What is an Environmental Product Declaration? And What is it Good For?

Written by Moritz Bühner   // February 21, 2012    5 Comments

When talking about product labels that deal with the environment, it is often argued that there is an excessive variety of labels swamping consumers with information they don’t understand. I have to admit that you can indeed call them irritating, this vast number of redundant “eco labels” invented by creative marketing departments all around the globe. However, in contrast to the superficial information given by some mainstream companies, environmental product declarations (EPDs) give consumers serious information. Thoroughly assessed, easily verifiable, and transparently made, EPDs visualize the results of life cycle assessment (LCA). What the LCA reveals, is the environmental performance of a product throughout its whole lifespan. Because LCAs follow a predefined methodology (ISO 14040), their results are precise and comparable.

Simple Visualization of LCA Results

That was the positive aspect. What about the downside? Well, for every LCA, there are at least five result categories, five descriptions of the ways in which the environment is affected by your product. As you can imagine, the LCA culminates in a complex document. The idea of an EPD is to outline these results very briefly, yet in a comprehensive way. Most commonly, this comprehensive way is based on one graphic. This graphic not only visualizes the LCA results, but also how the results (and the product) compare to competitors’ in terms of environmental performance.

Facilitation of Customers’ Green Product Choices

As a result, EPDs help consumers reward companies that pay attention to the environment. The importance of a precise LCA, which serves as a basis for an EPD, can be seen in Wimmer, Züst and Lee “ECODESIGN implementation: a systematic guidance on integrating environmental considerations into product development” (2004).

The basis of a successful ecodesign process is a comprehensive analysis of the given situation. It’s of central importance to understand a specific situation from an environmental viewpoint for developing specific improvement strategies and measures.

The “comprehensive analysis of the given situation” mentioned above is exactly what the LCA  deals with. Improving the positive environmental effects is one option you have, once an LCA has been conducted. Moreover, it is a good idea to make these results public – and that is exactly the purpose of an EPD. By applying an EPD to your product, you communicate your green efforts and convince prospective customers of your product’s environmental quality.

In other words (see www.environmentalproductdeclarations.com, where the following three quotes originate):

EPD is voluntarily developed information and the purpose is to provide quality-assured and comparable information regarding environmental performance of products.

Quantifying Improvements

Furthermore, by quantifying the environmental effects, it is easy to prove positive developments:

EPDs can reflect the continuous environmental improvement of products over time and are able to communicate and add up relevant environmental information along a product’s value chain.

Apart from giving companies the possibility to pride themselves on offering green products, EPDs can serve as a serious advantage for improving customer relations.

EPDs also add new market dimensions to inform about environmental performance of products and services – objectivity, comparability and credibility.

This is where it all comes back to the introduction. Instead of confusing your customers with some obscure and potentially misleading marketing label, the EPD represents your, and your company’s self-confidence about the quality of your products. Why? Because it is objective. It follows a methodology you can verify. And it offers precise information: backed up by numbers, quantified data, and ISO standards. Since we are witnessing the transit to an era of full transparency, it is better to be honest. I’m sure it will pay off, and sooner, rather than later.

Also see:

Article image by girlingearstudio


About Moritz Bühner :

Blogger at knowtheflow from 2011-2013, now Sustainability Manager in the wood-based products industry. Bachelor in Environmental and Bioresource Management at the University of Applied Life Sciences Vienna. Born in Hamburg, Germany, lived in Quebec (CAN), Vienna (AUT) and Pamplona (ESP). Why he blogged? "The possibility of going into detail with every link, satisfying the desire to learn. The direct feedback. The free global distribution. I just love the medium!"

Tags:

eco label

ecodesign

environmental product declaration

EPD

LCA

life cycle assessment


5 COMMENTS

  1. By Martina Prox, February 28, 2012

    Thanks Moritz,
    Recently I came across EPDs for Pumps published by the Swiss Company Sulzer. They created EPDs for several of their pumps. You can find the pdfs on Sulzer\’s website:
    http://www.sulzer.com/en/DesktopDefault.aspx/tabid-4291/8273_read-18521

    They write about Applied Standards and Limitation:

    The document was prepared based on the EPD General Program Instruction, the product specific requirements for submersible pumps and mixers, and the ISO 14025:2010 standard.
    Environmental product declarations from different programs with different product category rules may not be comparable.

    This highlights the importance of Product Category Rules (PCR) for comparability. PCRs are developed for more and more product categories, but not only for assessing all environmental impacts PCRs are used and developed, also in Product Carbon Footprinting PCRs are used.
    The Japanese Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) published a list of approved PCRs for Carbon Footprinting of Products:
    http://www.cfp-japan.jp/english/pcr/pcrs.html
    Don\’t worry it\’s the english version!

    You can also search for PCRs on http://www.environdec.com/en/Product-Category-Rules. This page also includes PCRs under development.

    Reply
  2. By Martina Prox, March 12, 2012

    Hi again,
    Today I came across another source for PCRs, which may be of interest for our blog readers:
    http://pcr-library.edf.org.tw/product_country/index.asp

    Reply
  3. By property valuations sydney, January 22, 2017

    Quality content is the key to invite the visitors to visit the website, that’s what this site is
    providing.

    Reply

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