One year of environmental footprinting pilots (and what cows have to do with this)

One year ago, the European Commission launched the pilot phase for the Environmental Footprint methodology. Many things have happened in this first year since the start of the pilots, and in this article, we’d like to give you an update.

The three-year pilot phase aims to test the applicability of the methodology for developing Product EF category rules (PEFCRs) and Organisation EF sector rules (OEFSRs), new product- and sector-based sustainability metrics.

PRé is involved in this pilot phase as part of the Technical Helpdesk, together with environmental consultancy firms Ecofys and RDC Environment. PRé’s task is to provide online and face-to-face training to the companies participating in the pilots. PRé also provides online workspaces for the pilots and external stakeholders, and offers technical guidance to several of the pilots.

Many things have happened in the first year since the start of the pilots, and in this article we’d like to give you an update.

First Wave of Pilots

In November 2013, fourteen Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and three Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) pilots started. Each pilot covers a different product category, ranging from batteries to paints, and from photovoltaic energy generation to household detergents. Unfortunately, the OEF pilot on household sanitary goods and toiletries had to be stopped due to lack of support by the major producers. All the other pilots, however, are making good progress and are currently working on the PEF/OEF screening study that will be used as a basis for the PEF category rules and OEF sector rules.

Second Wave of Pilots

June 2014 saw the start of eleven PEF pilots, all covering a product category related to food and beverage: beer, coffee, packed water, olive oil, meat, pasta, and others. These pilots are currently defining their units of analysis and representative products, which provide a basis for all next steps.

Learning From Both Waves

The experiences from the first wave show how important these pilot projects are when it comes to creating new sustainability metrics – they provide valuable feedback on the environmental footprinting methodology and other rules proposed for the PEFs and OEFs, and pose valuable questions. What is a representative product? How broadly should the product category be defined? Does the proposed end of life formula work? And perhaps most importantly, is there enough data that fulfils the PEF/OEF requirements? Fortunately, the EU explicitly asks contributors to the pilots to propose alternative approaches, and this leads to a rich source of ideas to help draw the final conclusions.

In the second wave of pilots, an interesting development arose that can potentially influence the LCA community. Since there are five pilots that are connected to cows (bovine meat, dairy, leather, animal food and feed), the EU has initiated a working group that will be focusing on cows and other animals.-. The working group is developing a consensus allocation model. Who knows, they might just be able to solve the 20-year-old debate on how to allocate all products from a cow…

Forward into the second year

We look forward to the second year of the pilot phase, which will include the first drafts of PEF category rules and OEF sector rules and testing the application of these sustainability metrics. If you want to stay up to date about the progress and join in the discussion, please register as an external stakeholder on the online wiki system.

Marisa Vieira

Principal Consultant

The time of the industrial revolution is over. Now it is time for the green revolution to go full steam ahead! Everybody needs to be involved in this process, therefore I aim to guide individuals and businesses in understanding the trade-offs between impacts. This will help them make informed decisions, which will truly help sustainable living thrive."

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