What is an EPD?
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardized document informing about a product’s environmental and human health impact. It’s based on the ISO 14025 standard and the scientific footprinting method Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The goal of an EPD is to inform and communicate with stakeholders about a product’s environmental impact. Therefore, companies often use EPDs for commercial purposes.
An EPD is produced on the basis of LCA calculations and provides a quantitative basis for the comparison of products and services. An LCA calculates the environmental footprint of a product throughout its lifecycle – expressed in 15+ impact outcomes. You can create an EPD for a company-specific product or for the average product of members of a branch organization.
An EPD 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 ISO 14025. This norm calls EPDs Type III environmental declarations – also Type III EPDs.
EPD & Product Category Rules
Additionally, you produce EPDs according to a specific set of Product Category Rules (PCR). PCRs provide calculation rules and guidelines to ensure all Environmental Product Declarations within the same product category report the same type of information. The range of existing PCRs is wide, from building materials to natural fibers, food, and chemicals.
In this article you learn:
- The difference between LCA and EPD
- What Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) are used for
- EPD differences between countries
- 8 steps to get an EPD yourself
Difference between LCA and EPD (Environmental Product Declaration)
An Environmental Product Declaration 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 doesn’t contain sensitive product information such as a bill-of-material (i.e. the product’s exact recipe) or detailed information regarding production processes.
Meaning; you can share an EPD with stakeholders, without worrying about sharing any competitive data.
An EPD includes:
- The LCA results,
- A proper description of the product,
- The assumptions used in the LCA study for different life cycle stages (e.g. the installation stage, module A5),
- The calculation rules used (e.g. a PCR).
No EPD without an LCA
However, you must perform a proper LCA study including a full LCA report before you create a Type III EPD! Without performing an LCA you can’t make an EPD. That’s because an EPD is one of the options when you want to certify a product. Therefore it’s subject to a third-party verification process.
What do you use Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) 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. It functions as proof and/or claim for a sustainable product, which companies can use for commercial reasons.
EPDs are often required in green public procurement (GPP), tenders by private companies, and building assessment schemes such as LEED, BREEAM, and GreenStar. But companies also increasingly use them in non-construction industries like apparel and chemicals, due to their clear, useful format.
You can find a great practical example of an EPD created by floor tiles manufacturer Royal Mosa using Ecochain Helix here.
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in construction
Although you can make Environmental Product Declarations 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 ‘the NMD Bepalingsmethode’ follows the EN15804 closely).
In an international collaboration called ECO platform, 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 and EPD reviewers for MRPI.
In addition to the Dutch program operator MRPI there are several other EPD standards that are relevant. It helps to identify which program operator is relevant for your business, based on customer demand or your local geography. Find out more and see which programs are available here: EPD programs.
EPD differences 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 LCA impact 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.
EPD Program Operators
An EPD Program Operator (PO) is an independent agency that conducts, administers, and supervises Type III EPD development according to ISO standards. Many countries have their own EPD Program Operators and rules.
Program Operators are responsible for creating and/or identifying already existing PCRs for EPDs. As they often have different rules – bear in mind that different POs can have different Product Category Rules (PCRs) even for the same product. Therefore, make sure to first select the PO that is most applicable to your situation.
The Program Operators (POs) Ecochain works with are:
How to get an EPD with Ecochain: 8 steps
1. Select a program operator (PO) relevant to your specific need.
- Base it on your geography, customer demands, or public tender requirements.
- To select the right program operator, look into what’s required the most in your industry and geography.
- For example, in the Nordics, most public tenders for a construction project will require an EPD using the EPD Norge as a PO.
2. Select the Product Category Rule (PCR) most appropriate for your product.
- The PCR has to fit with the requirements of the Program Operator.
- Not sure if there’s a relevant PCR for your product out there? Have an LCA expert or sustainability consultant research and identify if there is a relevant PCR to adhere to.
- Environdec provides a PCR library, it is one of the first places to research yourself if there’s a relevant PCR for your product.
3. Collect your Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data & perform an LCA
- Conduct an LCA for your product according to the PCR and the general LCA norm ISO14044.
- Use a credible and verifiable LCA software tool like Ecochain Helix (EPDs for all your products at once) or Ecochain Mobius (EPDs for individual products).
4. Involve a third-party verifier
- Find a verifier acquainted with the Programme Operator and the Product Category Rules.
- Once you have a suited verifier, create an LCA background report (a full LCA report).
5. Create a draft EPD document
- Do so according to the Product Category Ryles (PCR) and the format of an EPD program operator. EPD International, PEP, IBU, or Stichting MRPI.
- This can be done in parallel with creating your LCA report – which is the case at Ecochain.
6. Have an independent recognized LCA expert review the LCA report and EPD.
- This is done by a third-party verifier.
- Do so according to the PCR and verification protocol of the program operator.
7. Implement feedback from the third-party verifier.
- Creating an LCA is an iterative process. Certain aspects of your LCA calculation or report can be deemed insufficient during the review. They can lack certain details. Might not match the requirements of the PCR. Or the selected datasets from LCIA databases might not fit with certain input materials.
- Revise your LCA, LCA report and EPD based on the feedback received.
- Do this step properly – as it can delay the envisioned completion date of verifying your EPD.
8. Submit the verified EPD to the program operator.
- They publish the EPD on the ECO platform.