Determining your Product Sustainability
It is becoming increasingly important to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or even achieve the ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral as an organisation or company. Measuring the sustainability of your product(s) is a valuable way to start looking at the overall impact they have and better understand and reduce the current impacts and costs, and future risks associated with the product carbon emissions. For instance, high levels of carbon-equivalent emissions in a products production process can signal areas in need of energy efficiency upgrades, which can lead to future cost savings.
The sustainability of a product can be determined in various ways, including carbon footprint calculations and eco-efficiency analyses.
Carbon Footprint Calculations
A carbon footprint is defined as the total greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by an entity, and is expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2kg eq). An entity can refer to any source including from an individual, organization, locality, product, or project. Emissions are generated from all kind of activities from energy use and land clearing, to waste management and services purchased. GHG emissions are usually divided into three categories, scope 1 (direct emissions), scope 2 (indirect fuel emissions), scope 3 (other indirect emissions).
A carbon footprint calculation is the first step to developing more energy efficient business operations and identifying sustainability targets. It is important to begin by measuring a carbon footprint before investing in efficiency or sustainability improvements. Carbon calculations of products and services are also necessary for sustainability reporting, such as complying with the Global Reporting Initiative standards, participating in the Carbon Disclosure project, or seeking an Eco Label.
Ecomatters has been quantifying environmental impacts for over a decade and have extensive experience with carbon footprint (CF) calculations. In addition, we can help you develop customized carbon footprint calculation tools for your products or organization as a whole.
Eco Efficiency analysis
An Eco Efficiency Analysis (EEA) is the method that assesses environmental as well as economic aspects of products and services. The Eco Efficiency calculation determines the ratio between the value of products and the environmental impacts, and gives clear financial results. It is conducted through the integration of financial information into an existing product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
In an EEA study, the sustainability performance of a product is evaluated by comparing various scenarios. For this, the focus can be on procurement, logistics, manufacturing, distribution and/or sales. Therefore, an EEA can provide insights on producing with the use of fewer resources, creating less waste and pollution and improving the bottom line. This makes an eco-efficiency assessment a powerful management application that can assist in decision-making processes.
Methods to assessing your Product Sustainability
https://www.ecomatters.nl/services/lca-epd/The sustainability of a product can be determined in various ways, applying various methods. At Ecomatters we specialize in applying the following methods to assess your products.
Lifecycle assessment (LCA)
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a widely known and well-established methodology to analyse the environmental impact of a product and service throughout its life cycle. LCA quantifies the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, acidification, and ozone layer depletion, to show “hot spots” across a value chain. An LCA is used to break down different input 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).The results of an LCA can be extended to include financial information for an Eco Efficiency Analysis (EEA), or serve as a baseline for certifications like Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), Product Environmental Footprints (PEF), and Eco-labelling. You can find more information the process of making an LCA here.
At Ecomatters, we have a long history in the field of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and conducting assessments. We focus on determining the methodologies that fits your needs best, and can help you with the preparation of product claims and environmental product sheets. We follow the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines and are proficient with the various types of assessment software (GaBi & SimaPro)
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
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, a Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is first used to generate the impact results which are included into 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. Certified EPDs are based on LCAs 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 (PEF)
The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is part of the “Single Market for Green Products Initiative” initiated by the European Commission. Their goal is to make it easier for companies to put green products on the European market and for consumers to identify them. The PEF methodology is designed to be a standardized way of measuring environmental performance of a product.
Physically, the Product Environmental Footprint is a standardized document similar to an LCA / EPD. Per product, it outlines all the steps and specific rules established to make the appropriate environmental performance calculations. The rules for similar products are organized in documents called PEF Category Rules (PEFCR). A PEFCR is created at industry level, usually by a (European) industry association or similar market organization.
Sustainability Product Legislation
Further to determining the sustainability of your product Ecomatters supports companies with the necessary legislation compliance for their products. This includes REACH compliance, food contact & packaging regulations, and waste & recycling legislation.
With more than tens of thousands of chemicals already on the market and the yearly introduction of hundreds of new formulas, manufacturers, importers or downstream users are faced with the task of determining potential risks for human health and the environment, as well as cataloguing, updating and sharing certain information in a registration dossier. Regulations such as REACH support hazard assessment, risk management and provision of appropriate safety information of the chemicals available on the European market. It is critical to comply with these regulations in order to guarantee safe use of chemicals for humans and the environment.
Ecomatters supports companies in complying with REACH and achieving a registration for their chemicals and products. We support both REACH registrants as well as downstream users.
Food contact & packaging regulations
During production, transport, and consumption, food comes into contact with all kinds of materials (including packaging, conveyor belts, filters). These materials are called: Food Contact Materials (FCMs). The responsibility for the food safety of materials lies with the businesses putting them on the market. Specifically, the safety of materials relies on ensuring that there is no migration of unsafe levels of chemical substances from material (packaging) to food. Therefore, producers and importers must check and document that their food contact materials meet this safety and other legislative requirements. As a result, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regulates the safety of food contact materials.
In the EU, a declaration of compliance (DOC) is mandatory for food contact plastics (including recycled plastics), active and intelligent materials, ceramics and regenerated cellulose film. For other types of food contact materials (i.e, paper, inks), a DOC is currently not mandatory. However, it is common for actors further upstream in the value chain to request one.
Waste & Recycling legislation
When you throw something away it becomes waste. More specifically, the EU Waste Framework Directive or WFD defines waste as ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’. Driven by the need to reduce the use of raw materials and reduce waste, the interest in the re-use and recycling of products has increased very fast. For recyclers, it is highly important to know exactly when they deal with waste and when not. For example, they need to establish whether their ‘raw materials’ are waste within the meaning of the WFD or possibly remain substances, mixtures or articles.
In addition, various EU strategies and directives are being set up to regulate the types of plastics used and end-of-life of plastics products. As a part of the EU Plastic Strategy, European Parliament created a Single-use Plastic Directive to tackle marine litter coming from single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, together with fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
Ecomatters has a long trackrecord in performing case-by-case risk-based legislation screenings, in determining the potential regulatory obstacles and in suporting companies in meeting regulations. Such screenings re specifically relevant when the use of secondary raw materials could be for different applications with different exposure profiles than the original products.
Related Case studies
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