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Environment
News article16 December 2021Directorate-General for Environment

Environmental footprint methods

Commission adopts Recommendation to help companies to calculate their environmental performance and manufacture more environmentally friendly products

A company wishing to market its product as environmentally friendly on the market of several Member States faces a range of choices of methods and initiatives. Without a reliable, state of the art, life cycle assessment, companies are not able to make the right decision to improve their environmental performance. This results in costs for companies, lack of clarity for consumers and potentially a missed opportunity to promote truly sustainable products that are respectful of the environment. Today, the European Commission adopted a revised Recommendation on the use of Environmental Footprint methods, helping companies to calculate their environmental performance based on reliable, verifiable and comparable information, and for other actors (public administrations, NGOs, business partners, for example) to have access to such information. It will incentivise industry to manufacture products that have a better environmental performance. The revised Recommendation therefore also contributes to the EU’s European Green Deal and circular economy ambitions.

Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

The EU Environmental Footprint methods are the most reliable, comparable and verifiable way to know the real environmental footprint of a product or organisation to date. Europeans are increasingly aware of their own environmental footprint, and many want to make environmentally friendly choices in their daily lives. These methods will help to improve environmental performance and help achieve a truly clean and circular economy.

The Environmental Footprint methods measure and communicate about the environmental performance of products (both goods and services) and organisations across their whole lifecycle, relying on scientifically sound assessment methods agreed at international level. They cover 16 environmental impacts, including climate change, and impacts related to water, air, resources, land use and toxicity. The general methods are complemented with product- or organisation- specific calculation rules enabling comparison of environmental performances between similar products and companies active in similar sectors.

The Recommendation adopted today revises a previous 2013 Recommendation and incorporates the methodological insights of the 2013 – 2018 pilot phase. During the pilot phase, the methods were tested with more than 300 companies and 2000 contributing stakeholders in different fields of activities, including food and feed, IT equipment, batteries and detergents. This was crucial in strengthening some methodological approaches, and produced a very substantial amount of knowledge from different experts and sectors involved.

The fundamental principles of the methods adopted in today’s Recommendation remain based on Life Cycle Assessment. Most of the changes introduced are of a methodological nature in the following three main areas: modelling requirements, data and data quality requirements and life cycle impact assessment. It also enshrines the development of category and sector rules, and therefore provide a sound basis for further policy development and implementation.

Background

The European Commission proposed the Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods as a common way of measuring environmental performance. The use of the Environmental Footprint methods is already foreseen in the context of EU policies and legislation such as the Taxonomy Regulation, the Sustainable Batteries Initiative and the Green Consumption Pledge. Based on the results of the comprehensive testing, the European Commission is now exploring how to use the Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods in other policies.

The 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan foresees that “The Commission will also propose that companies substantiate their environmental claims using Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods.” It is part of a set of interrelated initiatives to establish a strong and coherent product policy framework that will make sustainable products, services and business models the norm, and not the exception, and to transform consumption patterns so that no waste is produced in the first place.

For more information

Recommendation on the use of Environmental Footprint methods

Circular economy action plan (europa.eu)

Product Environmental Footprint website

Details

Publication date
16 December 2021
Author
Directorate-General for Environment