Experiences Applying the (Product) Environmental Footprint (PEF) Method and connection to Existing and Upcoming European Legislation and Policy

Main Presenter:    Wouter van Kootwijk;Freya Goffart De Roeck 

Co-Authors:   Max Sonnen                                               

Life cycle assessment (LCA) has a track record of being a well-established methodology for holistic product environmental performance measurement. To deploy a common way of doing LCA in the EU, The European Commission adopted the Recommendation on the use of Environmental Footprint (EF) methods in 2021, which has been in development for over a decade. One of the main objectives of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method is to stimulate a harmonized approach, to ensure that environmental footprints are universally comparable against an industry benchmark or any other product.

The EF method safeguards the development of credible footprints by imposing demanding requirements regarding process, content, format and quality. To streamline the process of doing EF studies, industry associations are developing Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) in which the LCA process and data needs are largely standardized for groups of products. As Ecomatters has been involved in development, review and implementation of PEFCRs, we will share our experiences and lessons learned.

The value of the EF method in a policy context is increasingly being recognized by regulators in the EU. Although the Recommendation to use the EF methods to calculate the environmental performance is not mandatory in itself, it is referred to by other mandatory existing or upcoming EU legislations or policies. Examples of the latter are numerous and include;

* The EF methods being recommended as a basis for calculating and reporting environmental impact under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)
* The role of EF methods in sustainable product design, green public procurement criteria and communication requirements under the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR).
* The anticipated development of more specific rules on substantiating green claims, building upon the EF methods.
* The use of EF methods for development of labelling system, such as the EU Ecolabel that aims to ensure systematic inclusion of durability, recyclability and recycled content.
* The announced development of an EU environmental footprint database to enhance data availability and accessibility.

In the session we discuss the main developments, challenges, advantages, disadvantages and fallbacks of practical implementations of EF methods for future-proof legislation and industry operation.

About the authors: Wouter van Kootwijk, sustainability consultant at Ecomatters & Max Sonnen, director of Ecomatters (>10 years of experience with PEF and member of the EF Technical Advisory Board)

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