Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – A Complete Overview

A new term has risen in the field of LCA’s; the Product Environmental Footprint. A new methodology and standard, initiated by the EU, that will steer organizations to perform more reliable environmental measurements and creates a level playing field for everyone. And here’s how it all works.
PEF - woods

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – A Complete Overview5 min read

The Product Environmental Footprint, also the PEF, is a new and improved method that measures the environmental performance of any service or good throughout its Life Cycle (taking into account all the supply chain activities). 

The PEF outlines an improved common way of all the steps and specific rules that are necessary to make the appropriate environmental performance calculations. In short: the PEF is great news.

The PEF methodology is a new standard, initiated by the European Commission. The mission: to strengthen the (European) market for green alternatives and ensure that environmental impacts are transparently assessed and, in the end, of course; reduced

More Validity & Comparability

Therefore, the PEF helps improve the validity and comparability of the environmental performance evaluation of EU member states and the private sector, compared to the existing methods. In the end, this new organizational standard in environmental impact measurements will help consumers more easily recognize to what extent a product, company, or service is environmentally friendly. 

Man in supermarket

However, the PEF methodology is still in progress and is still in the so-called ‘transition phase’. This transition phase is planned to be completed by the end of 2024.

The European Commission is still further developing the details for the PEF Product Category Rules (also the PEF-PCR’s) in order to finalize the PEF methodology developments. This also means that using the PEF isn’t mandatory yet.

Only for the European construction sector, has the PEF resulted in some mandatory changes in LCA’s. This is due to the PEF norm EN15804+A2. You can read more about these changes here.

At Ecochain we are already working on the implementation of the PEF into our software to ensure it’s completely ready when the PEF-PCR’s are finalized and rolled out. It is already possible for construction companies to report according to the EN15804+A2 in our software. Currently, one of the first finished PCR’s is the ones for the Dutch asphalt sector. They are available in Ecochain as well.

PEF: Methodology + Database

The Product Environmental Footprint exists out of two components;

(1) The PEF methodology;

(2) The PEF database. 

The methodology includes new cohesive rules for performing LCA’s in line with the EU’s Green Deal and Taxonomy. Currently, we have reached the 3.0 version of PEF methodology. The main difference with the previous versions is that some environmental impact categories have been divided into new subcategories

The PEF database is meant to support the PEF methodology and create a new standard environmental database for the European industries. With the PEF database, the EU hopes to create a more complete database to use in LCA’s. The PEF methodology doesn’t need to be used solely with the PEF database. It’s also possible to mix the methodology with the biggest database for environmental data; Ecoinvent.

Although we reached the 3.0 version of the PEF methodology, the PEF database hasn’t reached version 3.0 yet. This is still a work in progress. 

The PEF Product Category Rules (PEF-PCR)

The PEF Product Category Rules are the Product Environmental Footprint rules specific to different industries. These Category Rules were created in collaboration with various industries and, therefore, will contain specific PEF rules per industry and even products. 

Indeed, these rules for similar types of products are organized and categorized in a document that will be released as soon as the PEF is finalized. The PEF Category Rules are very handy, as they will allow for more product specificity in environmental impact measurements. 

Organizational Environmental Footprint – OEF

Of course, it doesn’t end here. Next to the PEF, there is also the OEF. The OEF stands for Organizational Environmental Footprint

As you can probably imagine, the OEF was created to reduce the organizational environmental impacts associated with organizational activities, taking into account the supply chain activities (from raw material extraction to production-and use, to the final management of waste).

Therefore, it measures the environmental performances of goods- or service-providing organizations (businesses, administrative entities, non-profit organizations) from a life cycle perspective. 

white windmill during daytime

PEF & LCA’s: What’s the difference?

A lot of great abbreviations, we know. But we’re almost there. 

The PEF methodology is very similar to a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the common LCA calculation can, therefore, be used for the PEF calculations.

Just like LCA’s, PEF is science-based, clear, and quantifies all the environmental impacts over the entire life cycle of your products. This includes the product’s emissions to water, air, and soil, resource use and depletion, and the impact of land and water usage.

However, PEF will be more stringent in its rules than a normal LCA, due to the PEF Category Rules as explained above. Additionally, as they have been further specified, defined, and determined by the European Commission, the PEF assessments will be more comparable, and more suitable for benchmarking products and/or services than previous LCA’s. 

Are you ready for the PEF?

The PEF will most likely be finalized, launched, and implemented in 2021 and will have a significant impact on many businesses as it will create standard common environmental measurement rules for everyone. Creating a level playing field. Indeed, we can already see that there is an increasing demand for more impact transparency in various markets, which will only increase with the introduction of the PEF. 

Is your company prepared?

If you have any questions regarding the PEF and how Ecochain can help you, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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