An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardized document informing about a product’s potential environmental and human health impact.
The EPD is produced on the basis of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculations, and provides a quantitative basis for comparison of products and services. It is normally provided by the product manufacturer and must be verified by an independent expert. An EPD normally has a validity of 5 years.
The basis of an EPD is the norm ISO14025. In that document, EPDs are called Type III environmental declarations (never mind about Type I and II, which are not based on LCA and in the case of Type II not even externally verified).
In addition, the EPD must be produced according to a specific set of Product Category Rules (PCR) which provides calculation rules and guidelines to ensure that all Environmental Product Declarations under the same category report the same type of information. The range of existing PCRs is wide, from clothing to food and chemicals.
An EPD can be created for a company-specific product or for the average product of members of a branch organization.
Difference between LCA and EPD
An EPD is a short version of an LCA report. It is simpler to read, and therefore easier to use in communication than an LCA report.
Where an LCA report often contains sensitive company details which you don’t want the whole world to know, an EPD contains not much more than the LCA results and a proper description of the product, and can be shared without worry.
However, a proper LCA study including a full LCA report must be performed before an EPD can be created!
What are EPDs used for?
The general goal of EPDs is to use verifiable and accurate information to encourage the demand for, and supply of products that have a lower negative impact on the environment.
EPDs are often required in green public procurement (GPP), tenders by private companies, and in building assessment schemes such as LEED, BREEAM and GreenStar.
Environmental Product Declaration in construction
Although Environmental Product Declarations could be made for any type of product, the construction sector has the most advanced EPD system. An extensive PCR (EN15804) provides detailed instructions for the performance of the LCA calculations (and the Dutch PCR called ‘Bepalingsmethode’ follows the EN15804 closely).
In an international collaboration called Ecoplatform, EPD program operators from many countries join forces to ensure that construction EPDs are comparable between countries. The Dutch program operator is Stichting MRPI. Ecochain is one of the recognized LCA/EPD reviewers for MRPI.
Difference between countries
Despite the international collaboration, several countries (e.g. The Netherlands) have some EPD requirements additional to the EN15804 standard. These can be the addition of indicators such as toxicity, slightly different certification procedures, and different lists of certified reviewers. Ecochain has experience with producing EPDs in several countries, and is a certified reviewer in The Netherlands and Ireland.
How to get an EPD
In short, this is how it works:
- The Product Category Rule (PCR) most appropriate for the studied product is selected.
- The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study is conducted according to the PCR and the general LCA norm ISO14044.
- Based on the full LCA report, the EPD document is created according to the format of an EPD program operator (e.g. Stichting MRPI)
- An independent recognized LCA expert reviews the LCA report and EPD according to the PCR and verification protocol of the program operator
- The verified EPD is submitted to the program operator, who will publish the EPD within its own national as well as in the international Ecoplatform system.