The end of the PEF pilot phase and the start of a beautiful friendship

The European Commission’s Environmental Footprinting (EF) pilot phase has successfully ended. Of the 27 pilot projects, 14 have defined their product environmental footprint category rules (PEFCRs) or organisation environmental footprint sector rules (OEFSRs) for the European market and another 9 aim to do so by October. Now, the PEF method is available for use by anyone who is interested. Read on for a brief review and to see what’s next!

Why the European Environmental Footprinting initiative is such a great development

Let’s remind ourselves why the PEF pilot phase started: a strong call for harmonised rules. Because consumers have difficulty choosing the right product and understanding the large number of labels available in the market. And manufacturers want fair competition against false ‘green’ claims.

There is also a fundamental need to focus on the most relevant issues, because that will promote innovation and competitiveness, better supply chain management, simplification of LCA work and cost reduction.

The pilot phase was designed to test the development process of sector and category rules, different approaches to verification and communication vehicles for the results. After more than 4 years of intensive work and collaborative effort, I am pleased to tell you IT WORKS! Within each product group, comparability of environmental performance can be guaranteed for products following the PEFCR.

In addition, the pilot phase has resulted in:

  • Clear guidelines for developing PEFCRs and OEFSRs
  • Secondary EF-compliant data and about 70 models used to define the representative products available for free
  • An open-source IT tool to perform PEF/OEF calculations for four PEFCRs (development ongoing)
  • Clear rules for PEF/OEF verification
  • Information on the effectiveness of the various communication vehicles

All of these were tested by more than 20 pilot projects.

List of finalised PEF pilots

List of PEF pilots


  • September 2018: Footwear pilot decided to stop and is now one of the pilots that did not make it.
  • December 2018: The following pilots were approved: hot and cold water piping systems, intermediate paper products, liquid laundry detergents, metal sheets, photovoltaic electricity generation, t-shirts, uninterrupted power supplies. Olive oil pilot was postponed to the transition phase. 

PEF put into practice

We are now entering a transition phase before the possible adoption of policies for implementing the PEF and OEF methods. During this phase, businesses and other interested parties can:

  • implement existing PEFCRs and OEFSRs
  • develop new PEFCRs and OEFSRs based on the developed guidelines
  • do new methodological developments

A call for volunteers for the development of new PEFCRs and OEFSRs will soon go out. If you are interested, watch for it on the PRé website!

At the end of April, the European Commission held a workshop on implementing policies around the Environmental Footprint methods, gathering feedback from stakeholders. Potential policy options run the gamut from ‘business as usual’ – no policy steps and limited support from the EC – to continued support and regular updates of the guidelines but no policies, integration in existing policies such as the EU Ecolabel, Green Public Procurement, EMAS, Sustainable Finance, etc., and even creating entirely new instruments to substantiate specific claims.

Regardless of future policies, several pilots and companies have already expressed their commitment to PEF and OEF. For instance, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) plans to evaluate the learnings from the beer, wine and packed water pilots and, possibly, to update the Beverage Industry Sector Guidance protocol to align with the PEF rules.

What’s in it for you?

Now the PEF pilot phase is done, companies and LCA professionals can start applying the PEFCRs and the OEFSRs. We are doing the same for our clients. We are also involved with the development of new product category and sector rules. For instance, we are one of the partners in a project that just started to develop a PEFCR for all horticulture products, which was commissioned by Royal FloraHolland, GroentenFruit Huis and LTO Glaskracht.

Everything you need to apply the PEF is available: a process, a guidance document, data and models, etc. Whether you are looking for a new way to do reporting, monitoring, labelling, innovation, and so on, the PEF way will save you a lot of time and resources and is much less fraught with choices than traditional LCA.

The main differences between PEF and traditional LCA:

  • PEF offers benchmarking for the European market for a product group or economic sector by defining a representative product/organisation
  • PEF helps you focus, using a materiality approach and hotspots analysis to determine what matters
  • The new data needs matrix helps you determine data requirements
  • PEF prescribes a single impact assessment method, in contrast to the variety available in traditional LCA
  • PEF mandates the use of the circular footprint formula (CFF), a single way to model material and energy recovery from waste

Learn more

  • Would you like to know more about the outcome of the PEF pilot phase and what’s next? Join our free webinar on 28th of June.
  • Do you already know you want to get started with PEF? Take a look at our PEF training.
  • Would you like to know how else we can support your PEF-related activities? Please contact Marisa Vieira.

PRé believes in PEF

We had the pleasure of actively contributing to this very exciting journey. We were the Technical helpdesk of the pilot phase, assisting both the pilots and the Commission. We also reviewed 40 PEFCR supporting studies and contributed to the EF-compliant secondary data.

At the moment, we are working on the so-called remodelling project, coordinating the development of models for the representative products and organisations. We are also supporting UNIDO with PEF capability development in four Mediterranean countries and supporting local companies and experts with their PEF studies.

And we are not alone in our support of the PEF initiative. When Hélène Simonin, Director Food, Environment & Health at the European Dairy Association and coordinator of the Dairy pilot, was asked why they engaged in the development of a PEFCR during the PEF pilot phase, she answered: “Why do you bet on a horse? Because you believe in it?”

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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