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Environmental Footprint Pilot (PEF): Status mid 2017

About three and a half years ago the European Commission started their Environmental Footprint (EF) pilot, commonly referred to as the PEF. Many industries and stakeholders have been involved and you are probably well aware of it.

Still, a short recap: The EF Pilot was the outcome of an invitation from the European council to “develop a common methodology on the quantitative assessment of environmental impacts of products, throughout their life-cycle, in order to support the assessment and labelling of products“.

The EF pilot running till end of 2017 entails 26 different industries that are currently finalizing their work. The European Commission is at the same time planning the transition phase, which will continue from 2018 till end of 2020.

What have been the key deliverables from the pilot phase? What can we expect from the transition phase? Should your company get involved? Hereby an overview of the current status of the project and the expected developments for the future.

Key deliverables from the pilot phase

  • PEFCR’s and OEFSR’s from 23 different pilots

All the technical secretariats of the pilots are currently in the final stage of creating their Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR’s) and Organisation Environmental Footprint Sector Rules (OEFSR’s). All this work will be finalized during fall 2017. Three pilots where discontinued due to various reasons, but 23 out of 26 are on track to deliver by the end of the year.

  • Free models and datasets for PEF calculations

In order to ensure that the users of the PEFCR’s and OEFSR’s in the upcoming years can calculate the Ecofootprints without paying a data license cost, the European Commission is creating LCA models and has commissioned open background Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) datasets. These will be freely available for anybody who wants to do a PEF or OEF study. This work will be finalized during 2017 and will boost the harmonization.

  • Evaluation of the EF pilot

While the pilots are finalizing, in parallel, the evaluation of the EF pilot and the EF method started. All the outcomes of the pilots are being collected and used as key input to the policy discussions that will start during 2018.

Plans and expectations for the transition phase

  • Policy discussions and implementation of the EF methodology

The main focus of the policy discussions will be on the implementation of the EF methodology in legislation, in one way or another. This could take many forms: from a voluntary scheme up to full legislation. One key place is the Circular Economy Package, where PEF is explicitly mentioned as the best option for consumer communication. In addition the method could also be used as a basis for the EU Ecolabel, in Green Public Procurement or to compare the environmental performance of producers of products and services. This interaction with policy makers designing the policy and stakeholders will be facilitated the IPP (Integrated Product Policy) / SCP (Sustainable Consumption and Production) group and the EF Technical Advisory Board.

  • Implementation of the EF by industries form the pilot

While the policy makers discuss the way Europe and/or the member states can implement the EF, the sectors who have participated in the pilot will get the opportunity to implement the EF throughout their industry. Although there is no regulation in place yet, individual users will be able to start using the developed PEFCR voluntary, to calculate their footprint and see how they potentially score against the benchmark. This will give them the opportunity to calculate and show their PEF based on the official EF system and communicate this to their customers.

  • New industries can come on board

Currently there are still many product categories without category rules. This timeframe can therefore very well be used to develop OEFSR’s and PEFCR’s for additional industries, so they can also get ready for the EF.

  • Additional work on the EF methodology

Even with the pilot coming to an end in 2017, not all methodological topics will be closed and finalized. A number of working groups are expected to work on topics such as agricultural production, resource depletion, the functional unit and granularity. But also, additional developments on data and methodology, for example regarding toxicity, are expected. All this work guarantees more harmonization and further improvement of the EF Methodology.

Should your company get involved?

The end of the pilot marks the start of the Environmental Footprint. After a lot of testing and developing, the pre-requisites for policy making are likely met: a harmonized European method to calculate the environmental impact of a product.

This is a significant development that will potentially change the entire landscape around sustainability. Are you curious to know more? Would you like to test the methodology? Or do you want to know how you could get involved? Feel free to contact us! We will be happy to share more about the EF pilot and what you could do to prepare for these new developments.

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Max Sonnen

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Pau Huguet Ferran

Sustainability Lead Spain

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