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Life Cycle Thinking

LCA, EPD & PEF are all part of the Life Cycle Thinking approach. Life Cycle Thinking is a holistic approach of assessing the environmental impact of a product or production site, where the entire life cycle is taken into account. This means going beyond the manufacturing process itself, and also considering the resource extraction of resources, transportation and distribution, consumption and end of life. The main goal of this approach is to reduce a product’s resource use and emissions to the environment. The benefit of taking all life cycle stages into account is the ability to focus reduction efforts on the life cycle stages with the highest burdens and thus avoiding shifting of impacts between stages when making improvements.

On this page, you can find an explanation of concepts such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), and Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). What are they, why are they useful, and when do you choose which?

At Ecomaters, we have a long history of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and conducting assessments. We focus on determining the methodologies that best suit your needs and can help you prepare product claims and environmental product sheets.

We support our clients with:

  • Execute certified LCA studies and LCA screening studies according to ISO14040/44
  • Review LCA studies done by other consultants;
  • Apply LCA to support EPDs, PEF, product claims and eco-labelling;
  • Use Eco Efficiency results to support the development of sustainable business models;
  • Help you get started and know what EPDs you need;
  • Complete ISO 14025 Type III, ISO 14021, and sector-specific EPDs following EN 15804 standards;
  • Manage the entire EPD process from conducting the LCA and completing the EPD, to getting it reviewed, certified, and published on the appropriate platform.

Life Cycle Thinking is a holistic approach of assessing the environmental impact of a product or production site, where the entire life cycle is taken into account.


Life Cycle Assessment

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that identifies the environmental impact of a product or organization throughout its life cycle. LCA quantifies the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, acidification, and ozone layer depletion. An LCA is used to break down different inputs and outputs at each stage of a product’s life cycle – from raw material extraction, producing and using a product, transport, and finally disposal or re-use (cradle to grave). For more information on why and how to conduct an LCA, you can visit our page on Life Cycle Assessment.

The results of an LCA can be used to understand the hotspots of your product in the value chain and to drive sustainability improvements. This supports businesses in their sustainability goals by helping establish environmental targets and improving decision-making for strategy development. The results can also be used to report the environmental impact of your product to stakeholders, making environmental claims, and improve product design. Additionally, LCA is a critical part of a sustainability strategy to support calculations such as a Carbon Footprint (CF), Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), or Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

Environmental Product Declaration

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a third-party verified document that is officially registered to show the environmental impact of a product or service. To construct the EPD, an LCA is first used to calculate the impact, which is included in the EPD according to specific standards (e.g. EN 15804). The finished document is verified by an approved system operator and published on one of the publicly available online platforms. EPDs provide transparent and comparable information about a product. Further details on EPDs can be found on our page Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

Certified EPDs are based on LCA and follow ISO 14025 type III protocols. They are valid for use in compliance regulation or for green building schemes (e.g. BREEAM, LEED).

Product Environmental Footprint

A PEF study is an LCA study that complies with the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodological framework developed by the European Commission’s science and knowledge service. This framework sets up specific rules for modelling the product’s life cycle, as well as for calculating and presenting the LCA results. For some product categories, PEF category rules (PEFCR) are available to complement the general method and provide more product-specific detailed technical guidance. Consequently, PEF studies give a more rigid based for comparing the performance of different products and are likely to become the base for environmental performance labelling of products on the European market in the future. More information on this topic can be found on our page on Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

The difference between LCA, EPD & PEF

LCA, EPD & PEF are all methods for calculating the footprint of a product, but what exactly is the difference? And when do you use which one? To summarize the explanations above:

  • LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) quantifies the environmental impact, such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, and acidification, of a product or organization throughout its life cycle.
  • EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) is an LCA that is compliant to specific guidelines, third-party reviewed, and published on an online platform.
  • PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) is a methodological framework with specific guidelines on how to perform an LCA; thus a PEF study is an LCA, compliant with the PEF framework.

LCA can be used both for internal decision-making as for communications to stakeholders and the public. For external communication an EPD is often appropriate and sometimes required.

Want to know more? Feel free to contact us.

Illustrated Projects

The range of projects for a diverse set of clients illustrates the vast experience we have with conducting LCAs and EPDs

Sustainable sanitation - Thetfort
Towards a more sustainable sanitation system with Thetford
Nobian - 1990 Carbon Footprint
Nobian – 1990 Carbon footprint
Comparative Assertion
DEJONG Hot Water Tanks – LCA Comparative Assertion
LCA Screening
LCA Screening for the Sustainable Repair Foundation
Decorative Paints - PEF Screening
PEF Screening Study: Decorative Paints
Eco Footprint Tool
Eco Footprint Tool

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