Product Environmental Footprint to provide critical mass for footprinting

The critical mass has been reached to provide unified product environmental footprinting. The plan to move forward with this initiative was discussed at the recent PCF World Forum in Berlin.

The critical mass has been reached to provide unified product environmental footprinting. The plan to move forward with this initiative was discussed at the recent PCF World Forum in Berlin. The presentation focused on the release of the EU-DG environment initiative. This plan will launch rules aimed at providing a transparent and unified way to communicate environmental information for organizations and products, the so-called PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) and the OEF (Organizational  Environmental Footprint).


Michele Galatola from DG Environment and Rana Pant from the Joint Research Centre presented the policy background, and explained how the method is meant to be used. Unlike many other footprint initiatives, the EU has come a long way in interacting with all kinds of stakeholders in the footprinting world and beyond. For instance, at a large international meeting in April (under UNEP LC-0initiative guidance) the focus was on improving international collaboration with countries outside the EU.


The method itself is inspired by the ILCB data manuals and the impact assessment guidance, but it also takes many concepts from the PCR guidance activities in the U.S. . This initiative, led by Wes Ingwersen from the U.S. EPA along with PRé Senior Consultant Vee Subramanian from Arizona State University, has created a guidance document, which presented by Mark Goedkoop at the PCR World Forum. The initiative is run without any formal sponsoring, though PRé sponsored a part of the man-hours Vee used in this project.

The next step in the EU project is to start a three-year pilot phase. The project will be supported by a consultant who will act as helpdesk. In the previous smaller pilot, PRé was selected for this role. The commission is very optimistic that many organizations and companies will volunteer to participate, and some organizations have made public statements. For instance, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is eager to join. The EU may have to refuse participation as it only has the budget to work with six product groups, with three case studies in each product group.

Here at PRé we think this is a very important development. So far the footprinting world has been very fragmented and uncoordinated. This lack of unity prompted PRé and the organizers of the PCF World Forum Rasmuss Pries to start a global roundtable in 2009 to create better harmonization, but that initiative was not entirely successful. The PEF standard will have the critical mass needed to get things going and to  create uniformity, first in Europe but hopefully also beyond. Without alignment, we fear footprinting will go nowhere. Perhaps we are witnessing the last chance for professional, transparent, and internationally coordinated credible footprinting.


Mark Goedkoop, Founder of PRé


An overview of relevant sources, involved on the Product Enviromental Footprint intiative:


If you are interested in more information about this topic and project, please e-mail Mark or contact our expert team:


Mark Goedkoop


When I established PRé in 1990 I ran a design consultancy, then I decided to do ecodesign. But, how do I tell the good from the bad? And how can I measure ‘eco’? So I started on a journey together with a few pioneers in the emerging LCA scene and gave up designing. I realized then that these same questions need to be answered by any company embarking on the route to more sustainable products and services, preferably in a scientific, honest, and businesslike way. Providing good transparent tools, data, and methodologies to empower organizations to make the transition to sustainability, that is my drive.

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