Are you prepared for the Product Environmental Footprint?2 min read

Roel's Environmental Update
The PEF methodology will radically change how we calculate and compare footprints. And it might be implemented next year.
Roel Drost

by Roel Drost, PhD​

Man in supermarket

Imagine a world where you have full visibility over the environmental footprint of products you can buy. It would provide you with the freedom to buy ‘green’ products. But this would only work if you can rely on the quality of the information: you need to know that such information can be trusted.

PEF methodology: Make it easy to recognize environmentally friendly products

This is why the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) methodology is underway, fueled by the European Union and its steering committees.

The PEF method provides a new and improved method for measuring the environmental performance of any good or service throughout its life cycle. The aim is to make it easier for consumers to recognize how environmentally friendly a product, a service or a company is.

PEF thereby improves the validity and comparability of the environmental performance evaluation compared to existing methods. Ultimately, such a robust instrument will drive the EU’s environmental policies to strengthen the market for green alternatives.

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Product Environmental Footprint and LCA: What is the difference?

The PEF methodology, similar to an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), is robust and science-based: it quantifies all environmental impacts over the life cycle of your product, including emissions to water, air and soil, resource use and depletion, and impacts from land and water use.

However, PEF has more stringent rules than a regular LCA and may have product category-specific rules, all determined by the European Commission. Therefore, PEF assessments are more robust and comparable. This makes PEF more suitable, for instance, for benchmarking products or services.

When will PEF be rolled out?

The PEF method is currently in the ‘transition phase’ before its finalization. In this phase, the main objective is to develop further detail for the PEF ‘Product Category Rules’ (PEF-PCR’s) and to finalize methodology developments. The transition phase will pave the way for policy development and wider industry rollout.

Over the past years, PEF has already been tested with various business and for various product categories such as textiles, food and construction products. These pilots have already delivered and extensive set of PEF-CR’s and have established confidence that the methodology is robust.

2021: Implementation of PEF?

In 2021, PEF is likely to enter the ‘implementation & communications’ phase.

Although policy development is underway and not yet completely defined, PEF is certainly on its way to make an impact on businesses. In various markets, we are already seeing an increased demand for environmental transparency and hence several businesses already made their move.

Given the amount of work to capture and structure data, it is expected that first movers will have an advantage as they have built capacity, knowledge and captured their data to enable PEF. Therefore, we believe Laggards will eventually have a hard time to catch up.

Is your business already prepared for PEF?

About the Author

Roel Drost is Ecochain’s Chief Value Officer. He leads our team of Environmental Specialists and has more than 20 years of experience in creating sustainable value through LCA, Sustainably Supply Chain Management and Natural & Social Accounting. Previously, he worked for Philips and EY.

In his column, Roel regularly writes about current developments in sustainable business practice.

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