Environment

Know your Environmental Footprint

22/01/2016

The European Commission takes stock of progress towards an EU-wide method to measure the Environmental Footprint of 26 products and organisations.

The European Commission is halfway through a pilot phase testing the Environmental Footprint method for a number of products and organisations. This is the first attempt to create a tool to compare similar products based on their environmental performance along the value chain. It takes into account impacts during a product’s life cycle, from extracting or growing the raw materials, through processing, transport and use, to disposal or recycling.

Part of the Single Market for Green Products initiative, adopted by the Commission in 2013, the aim is to make it easier for companies to market green products in the EU, and to boost consumer trust in environmental claims attached to goods.

From batteries to T-shirts

More than 280 organisations are taking part in the test phase, which is developing footprint profiles for 26 products and processes (see box below). They are looking into 15 impacts, identifying those most relevant to a given product, such as climate change, ozone or water depletion, land use and eco-toxicity.

At a conference organised by the European Commission in November, the pilot leaders confirmed their interest in having a single, common method to measure the Environmental Footprint, rather than the current confusing array.

More than 1000 stakeholders are following the process closely, and appreciate the transparency of the pilot phase, which allows contributions from stakeholders worldwide.

“The green sector is growing across the global market,” said EU Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, addressing the conference. “Four out of five EU consumers buy environmentally friendly products at least sometimes, but nearly half of them do not fully trust the environmental claims.”

For Europe to make the transition to a circular economy, it needs a single market where it is easy to demonstrate the environmental impact of products, measured using a common methodology.

“If environmental information is easily available and trustworthy, the market for these products will grow,” said Commissioner Vella. Giving people the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development is also one of the commitments of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “There is no doubt that the footprint can help here,” he concluded.

Environmental Footprint pilot-phase products

Products:

  • batteries and accumulators;
  • decorative paints;
  • hot and cold water supply pipes;
  • household detergents;
  • intermediate paper products;
  • IT equipment;
  • leather;
  • metal sheets;
  • footwear;
  • photovoltaic electricity generation;
  • thermal insulation;
  • T-shirts;
  • uninterruptible power supply;
  • beer;
  • coffee;
  • dairy;
  • feed for food-producing animals;
  • seafood;
  • meat;
  • olive oil;
  • packed water;
  • pasta;
  • pet food;
  • wine;
  • retail sector;
  • copper-production sector.

 

 

Industry and technology