As mentioned on our environmental and LCA claims page, a claim can be anything from a logo or symbol to a statement regarding the environmental aspect of a product. There are three different types of environmental claims, namely type I (ISO14024), type II (ISO 14021), and type III (ISO 14025). Environmental claims based on an LCA study can be, depending on its goal and scope, from type II (self-declared) or type III (EPDs). This article will focus on type II claims, more information about type III claims can be found on our webpage on ISO 14025.
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 information on environmental product aspects that is not misleading. Besides, it also aims at homogenizing the use of self-declared standards and aims to facilitate consumers to make informed choices by avoiding 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 or avoiding chances for misinterpretations.
- Claims must be specific to the environmental aspect that is presented and thus not imply 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 of a product to identify the impact along the value chain, and whether an environmental decrease in one stage may lead to an increase in another.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is very useful to evaluate this last aspect, despite the fact that the ISO14021 standard does not mandate to perform one. These types of claims cannot be used to claim your product is better than that of a competitor, as it can be hard for the audience to trust such a claim since there is no 3rd party verification or certification process.
The environmental claim is entirely the responsibility of the claimant, therefore 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 that 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, an ISO 14021 environmental claim will not be enough. You usually need an ISO 14025 Type III claim.
What type of documentation is needed for these types of claims?
In order to ensure reliability without independent verification, the claimant is responsible for evaluating and providing the data for verification if requested. This requires that the claimant has 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 and documentation that serves as evidence of how the environmental claim was assessed. Therefore, in a practical sense, making a report would be required.
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 accuracy 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, including self-declared claims based on LCA. We can advise and guide you through the process.
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