Environmental Footprint (PEF)

The EU is about to establish an EU wide system for the calculation and communication of environmental performance of products and organisation, the so called “Product / Organisational Environmental Footprint” on a – still voluntary – basis.

With the PEF the EU wishes to introduce a comparative footprint (Environmental Emissions) for products and services with the intention to provide customers with a decision tool for their purchases, similar to the already existing Kcal declaration. To do so it will be necessary to agree on so called Product Category Rules (PCR) for several hundreds to thousand product categories, to determine system boundaries, calculation methods and relevant emissions. Besides CO2 emissions, which must be calculated mandatorily, several others out of the total 14 emission parameters shall be calculated and communicated for each product category. The instrument for the calculation of these footprints shall be a publicly available date base for LCA data.

At the moment we are still relatively far from this target because only a few product categories rules exist and the data bases for life cycle are neither publicly available nor harmonised. However first pilot projects are being tested at the moment. In the USA there is a similar initiative “The Sustainability Consortium” (TSC) which however was initiated by and is based on business companies. In addition the TSC also takes into consideration social factors and not only ecological ones as does the PEF.

Currently only large companies are in a position to stem the working time and costs needed for a PEF or TSC declaration. In a foreseeable future, however, one can anticipate that also suppliers will be asked to contribute with their data via internet links.

Technicaly speaking there are considerable questions marks as to the feasibility of both initiatives. The precision of a life cycle assessment is negative proportional to the costs. Or to make a long story short, if it is tried to simplify life cycles, so that they remain economically affordable, the information and accuracy provided is minimal.

On can imagine, however, that in the future by linking all data networks and ERP systems together an automatic and continuous calculation of environmental emissions of a product over the whole life cycle, from raw material to recycling – will be possible.

Heinz Schmid disposes of an excellent international network in the PEF and TSC community and can inform you about the possible consequences of PEF on your company.