Life Cycle Thinking
LCA, EPD, and PEF are all part of the Life Cycle Thinking approach. Life Cycle Thinking is a holistic approach to assessing the environmental impact of a product or production site which takes the entire life cycle into account. This means going beyond the manufacturing process and also considering resource extraction, transportation and distribution, consumption, and end-of-life processes. The main goal of this approach is to reduce a product’s resource use and emissions to the environment. By taking all life cycle stages into account, you gain the ability to focus reduction efforts on the life cycle stages with the highest burdens. When making improvements, this helps to avoid the shifting of impacts between stages.
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). We’ll guide you through what they are, why they are useful, and when to choose which.
At Ecomatters, 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 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 completed 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
- 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.
LCA, EPD & PEF
Life Cycle Assessment
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that identifies the environmental impact of a product or organisation 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 including raw material extraction, producing and using a product, transport, and 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 identify 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, make 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 used to calculate the impacts which will be included within the EPD according to specific standards (e.g. EN 15804). The finished document is then 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 an LCA and follow ISO 14025 type III protocols. They are valid for use in compliance regulations and 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 provide a strong foundation 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 between them, and when do you use each one? To summarise:
- LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) quantifies the environmental impact, such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, and acidification, of a product or organisation throughout its life cycle.
- EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) is a document describing an LCA study, that is compliant to specific guidelines, reviewed by a third-party, 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 study compliant with the PEF framework.
LCA can be used for both internal decision-making and for communications to stakeholders and the public. For external communication an EPD is often appropriate and sometimes required.
The range of projects for a diverse set of clients illustrates the vast experience we have with conducting LCAs and EPDs