State of the debate and outlook for the PEF initiative

At PRé, we’ve been very involved in the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF) and the Organizational Environmental Footprinting (OEF) initiative, as covered in our series of articles. A big part of the PEF initiative is its pilot phase, planned to last for 3 years and initially scheduled to end soon. However, the pilot phase has recently been extended. In this news article, you will read why and what the status is.

Status so far

The PEF pilot phase was primarily focused on developing guidelines for creating PEF Category Rules (PEFCRs) and Organisation Environmental Footprint Sector Rules (OEFSRs), including verification and communication. 26 pilots were started, with the aim of developing specific environmental footprint rules for their product category or sector. Of these 26, the pilots on stationery and coffee stopped completely, and the marine fish pilot is delayed and won’t be able to finish on time.

PEF pilots
An overview of the 26 pilot projects in the first wave (left column) and second wave (right column), including the ones that were discontinued (stationery and coffee).

The pilot phase includes testing of the developed rules with at least 3 supporting studies per PEFCR/OEFSR. The testing is now finished, so 21 PEFCRs and 2 OEFSRs are currently being finalized and will be sent to the Commission before the end of this year. Just like in a marathon, all runners involved can now see the finish line and are being applauded by the audience in the stadium, but they still need to run those last few meters…

Developing guidance for implementation

In addition to developing PEFCRs and OEFSRs, the European Commission has been using the pilot phase to develop the guidance for the implementation of the EU Environmental Footprint for both products and organizations. This includes specific guidance for the development of PEFCRs and OEFSRs. The guidance documents complement the PEF and OEF methods with various issue papers on specific topics, e.g. carbon modeling, use stage, hotspots analysis, and data quality, that in the meantime should have been tested by the pilots.

PEF process development - 1st and 2nd wave
An overview of the PEFCR development process, similar to OEFSR development.  

Coming soon in the pilot phase…

The EF pilot phase is now scheduled to end in November 2017 with the approval of the final documents. Except for the guidance documents, there will be PEFCRs and OEFSRs for measuring and communicating the environmental performance throughout the life cycle of 22 product groups and 2 sectors, most of which were developed by pilots representing more than 50% of the EU market for each product group/sector. This is exciting news for companies in those product groups and sectors. They will have very clear rules on how to calculate environmental footprints and will also be able to compare their products to the European benchmark.

Below is a list of what is yet to come during the pilot phase:

  • Testing a variety of communication vehicles to convey environmental footprint information, e.g. the European Commission app made available for this purpose
  • Testing multiple verification schemes; verification requirements will be set per pilot
  • Finalising the guidance documents for PEFCR and OEFSR development
  • Making available life cycle inventory databases for free until the end of 2020, for PEF and OEF studies approved during the pilot phase; the first batch of energy and transport EF-compliant datasets is already available
  • Remodelling of all representative products and organisations and recalculation of the benchmarks, integrating the LCI data mentioned above and implementing the final rules in the guidance documents; these models will also become freely available
  • Making available e-learning materials for 3 pilots
  • Developing open-source software tools for SMEs in 4 pilots, to provide information on their environmental performance
  • Submitting the PEFCRs and OEFSRs developed during the pilot phase for final approval by the Steering Committee by the end of 2017
  • Evaluating the pilot phase, both in content and process
  • Evaluating potential policies involving PEF and OEF

PRé will continue to be involved as the Technical Helpdesk until the end of the pilot phase. And after that, who knows? One thing is certain: we would like to stay involved in this exciting initiative!

21 PEFCRs and 2 OEFSRs are currently being finalized and will be sent to the Commission before the end of this year. Just like in a marathon, all runners involved can now see the finish line and are being applauded by the audience in the stadium, but they still need to run those last few meters…

And after the pilot phase?

In 2018 and 2019, there will be a transition period with similar activities as in the pilot phase. In that period, approved PEFCRs and OEFSRs can be applied in practice and the development of additional PEFCRs/OEFSRs can start. The European Commission will continue to coordinate and monitor this transition phase.

No policy integrating the environmental footprinting is expected from the Commission before 2020. However, that doesn’t mean that no one will use the PEFCR and OEFSR before that time. In my opinion, the development of a PEFCR/OEFSR is the most time-consuming activity. Once they’re available, particularly if people have access to the models, it will be quite straightforward and quick to calculate the EF performance of specific products.

Italy recently released a national voluntary scheme for consultation, entitled “Made Green in Italy.” This scheme adopts the PEF methodology for determining the environmental footprint of products. Will the Commission follow in Italy’s footsteps or will it take even more bold action? And how about you: do you intend to wait until you know more or will you do your own ‘shadow’ PEF/OEF studies to get ahead of the curve? There are plenty of ways to get on board even in the transition phase.

Learn more about PEF

The EF initiative is a great endeavor towards the standardization of LCA, and it’s a work in progress. If you want to learn more about our role in the PEF initiative, please contact us. See other episodes of this series:

Marisa Vieira

Director of Solutions

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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