Over the past few years, the European Commission has run a pilot on their Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisational Environmental Footprint (OEF) projects. The EU Environmental Footprint Final Conference, which tool place from 23 – 25 May 2018 in Brussels, Belgium, brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the progress of and vision for PEF.

Survey among conference participants on expectations for the future of the environmental footprint.

Key topics discussed related to a more general vision of a green market as well as concrete achievements and challenges of the pilot project. In addition, a major focus was on experiences with communicating environmental information and the role of PEF within that context. One key question discussed throughout the three days of the conference was how PEF could be used to actually help steer the European economy towards a more sustainable path. As such participants and speakers discussed not only the PEF approach itself, but also and especially about its envisioned role. To this end, the discussion focused on whether or not PEF should become part of a mandatory labeling scheme, whether it should be used to harmonize and inform existing labelling schemes or whether it should be used more with a focus on business to business trade, rather than for informing end-consumer choices.

While various presentations outlined different possible ways forward, a number of contributions were also critical of the PEF itself, highlighting that issues such as biodiversity, marine litter or health are not being addressed properly, or that PEF and LCA approaches should not be the only approaches to inform sustainability decisions. To this end, it was also highlighted that while PEF can provide good indications on environmental hotspots, it currently does not offer any guidance on how to address or properly communicate them.

In conclusion the conference highlighted a variety of opportunities, but also various challenges that lie ahead if PEF is going to be scaled up and used to inform decision-making not only with regard to sustainable consumption and production, but also with regard to policy making. Concrete steps forward were not presented during the conference and thus it is now on the European Commission to review the input and decide on the future of PEF.

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