PEF masterclass: Sharing the environmental footprinting initiative with a broader audience

In 2013, the European Commission started the process for development and testing the product and organisation environmental footprinting rules, known as the PEF pilot phase. Since then, a large number of organisations have been actively involved in one of the 24 pilots. Many more, however, have not been involved but are paying attention. After all, it is an initiative started by the European Commission, and it could be game-changing at an industry level. To answer questions from the market, PRé organised a masterclass to share our experience and the value of environmental footprinting.

Addressing questions from the market about PEF

Participants of the masterclass covered a wide range of industries, such as chemical, consumer electronics, food, and children’s mobility, and various roles, including LCA specialists, account managers, regulatory compliance and CEOs.

At the masterclass, three presentations summarised three perspectives on and experiences with participating in the Environmental Footprint initiative: from the LCA community, the industry associations and the companies.

The goal? To answer questions such as:

  • How can environmental footprinting be used for communicating sustainability?
  • How can environmental footprinting be useful to identify business opportunities for your company?
  • What are the consequences of this sustainability initiative for the industry?
  • What is the link between environmental footprinting and other standardisation initiatives such as EPDs or annual reporting?
  • What are the differences between ‘traditional LCA’ and environmental footprinting?

1. Introduction of the EF initiative and technical developments

Marisa Vieira from PRé briefly presented the EF pilot phase, describing the process, the pilots involved, the technical novelties compared to traditional LCA and an outlook to future activities. The main technical novelties include the concept of a representative product and benchmark, hotspot analysis, data and quality requirements and the introduction of a single end-of-life formula (circular footprint formula) and a single impact assessment method.

2. Benchmarking and alignment rules at industry level

Next, Olympia Dolla from CEPE (The European Council of the Paint, Printing Ink and Artists’ Colours Industry) presented the branch association’s perspective. CEPE coordinates the pilot on decorative paints. Olympia shared their experience of developing product environmental footprint category rules (PEFCR) for decorative paints with some of CEPE’s member companies. Developing these PEFCRs is of great value for the sector, since they provide alignment and a playing field for credible benchmarking for products. She also shared the outcome of testing various communication vehicles and informed participants about CEPE’s future plans to embrace environmental footprinting.

3. A leading company about rules at product category level and communication

Thirdly, Paul Bruijn from Heineken shared the company’s perspective on the PEF beer pilot. He recounted their motivation to join the pilot phase, shared some reflections on the process, the results of the supporting studies (to test the robustness and potential for implementation of the draft PEFCR of beer) and the outcomes of the communication test and concluded with some reflections on the value of participating in the pilot phase. The value that Paul highlighted was the uniting of brewers (the collaboration between brewers in the beverage sector), more transparency and that the product environmental footprinting pilot confirmed the environmental hotspots for the beer value chain.

After the three presentations, there was a joint discussion to exchange views and learnings. Interestingly, the discussion was never black or white.

Better understanding of implications and opportunities

Before the participants of the masterclass left, we asked them to share their personal highlights of the masterclass. For most participants, learning more about product environmental footprinting had already been on their to-do list for some time. They appreciated the programme and line up of presentations, starting with an introduction of the PEF pilot phase, followed by the role that a branch association can have in such a process and ending with what it means for a companie. These are some of the highlights they mentioned:

  • Novelties and best practices to conduct LCA, e.g. the specific rules for hotspot analysis 
  • How a harmonised approach can arise within an industry through the use of PEFCRs and OEFSRs
  • Understanding the implications and opportunities for both the industry and the companies

Furthermore, the participants recognise that it’s good to have a harmonised approach within the industry but that the initiative of making this happen really lies with the sector and its companies. They also indicated that they are curious about future policy decisions related to environmental footprinting, especially in relation to existing policies such as circular economy, ecolabels and EPDs, etc. They are taking a waiting approach until those become clear.

It was, of course, a pleasure to be able to pass on some of knowledge we have been building through our experience with the product environmental footprinting initiative. It was a breath of fresh air to zoom out from all the detailed discussions we had during the pilot phase and have a more holistic discussion with people who were not yet involved.

Sharing in the learnings from the PEF pilot phase?

Feel free to reach out to Marisa Vieira if you would like to know more about environmental footprinting for your specific situation or to participate in a more in-depth training.

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."

Stay up to date with our newsletter

Newsletter Registration



Newsletters *
Conditions *