As mentioned in our environmental and LCA claims webpage, there are different types of environmental claims. Namely type I (ISO14024), type II (ISO 14021), and type III (ISO 14025). When making an LCA study and depending on its goal and scope there is a possibility to make environmental claims from type II or type III (such as EPDs in the case of the latter). As mentioned in our webpage about environmental claims, a claim can be anything from a logo or symbol to a statement regarding the environmental aspect of a product. An interesting option for environmental claims is self-declared environmental claims compliant with ISO 14021.
A Type II (ISO 14021:2016 Environmental labels and declarations — Self-declared environmental claims) environmental claim, is a voluntary claim made by manufacturers and businesses, thus “self-declared”. Its main aim is to stimulate the demand and supply of products and services causing less burden on the environment by communicating verifiable and accurate environmental product aspects information that is not misleading. Besides, it also aims at homogenizing the use of self-declared standards and aims at is made asway to facilitate consumers to make informed choices by removing vague and deceiving information from the claims in question.
What are the principal requirements for an Environmental Claim Type II?
The main requirements are:
- Claims must be truthful, accurate, substantial, verified, and not misleading. Thus decreasing/avoiding chances for misinterpretations.
- Claims must be specific to the environmental aspect that is presented and thus not implying that other environmental aspects are covered by the claim as well.
- Claims must clearly indicate if they refer to a complete product or to a part of the product.
- Claims must be explicit and accompanied by an explanatory statement.
- Claims must consider the relevant life cycle stages to identify whereas an environmental decrease in one stage may lead to an increase in another.
This last element is in which life cycle assessment (LCA) is very useful, despite the fact that the standard does not mandate to perform one. Self-declared environmental claims do not mandate the performance of an LCA study (screening or in-depth LCA) but only require the consideration of relevant life cycle stages of a product to identify the impact along the value chain (for example that the impact is reduced in a life cycle stage but increases another one). This can be easily done from an LCA perspective but it does not imply that one should be done. Furthermore, these types of claims cannot be used to claim your product is better than a competitor and since there is no 3rd party verification or certification process can sometimes be hard to trust by its audience.
The environmental claim is entirely the responsibility of the claimant and as such proper documentation supporting the claim should be available for verification if requested.
When should you go for an Environmental Claim Type II?
A self-declared type II ISO 14021 compliant environmental claim could be an interesting option for your product when you have the intention of communicating the environmental performance of your product for tendering purposes or for business-to-business and it can even be used for business-to-consumer communications.
Given the fact that the ISO 14021 does not mandate the performance of an LCA, but rather to consider a life cycle approach, a detailed LCA screening study with the proper documentation would suffice to make these types of claims. However, depending on the purpose for which you would like to make the claim (i.e. publicly communicate the environmental impact of your product for extended marketing use), an in-depth LCA study might be more suitable. For this case, although not required a 3rd party review would even be advisable, as this adds more credibility to the study and is less likely to be questioned by external parties.
It should be mentioned that these types of environmental claims will not always serve to get credits in green building schemes purposes such as LEED and BREEAM. So, if the purpose of your environmental claim is for compliance with such schemes then and ISO 14021 environmental claim, will not be enough. You usually need a type III ISO 14025 claim.
What type of documentation is needed for these types of claims?
These types of claims do not require independent verification. Therefore, in order to still ensure reliability, the claimant is responsible for evaluating and providing the data for verification if requested. This requires that the claimer has a proper (i.e. transparent and scientific) documentation of the methodology used so that the validity of their claims can be ensured if needed.
In the documentation for a self-declared environmental claim, the followed standard or method needs to be indicated, documentation that serves as evidence of how the environmental claim was assessed. Therefore, in a practical sense, a report would be required to be done.
In addition, it should be pointed out that the organization making the claim is the owner of that claim and as such it is its responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the claim during the period of time that the product will be on the market.
So where to start?
If a self-declared environmental claim is what you want, then an LCA screening study may be sufficient for the purpose, depending on the availability and accurateness of company data needed for the LCA.
In any case, the first step is to set alongside your consultant the goal and scope of the LCA study and to discuss the reasons that are driving you to perform the study.
Ecomatters has a long track record of supporting various companies in various sectors in developing LCAs. We can advise and guide you through the process.