Promoting environmental footprinting in the Southern Mediterranean region

For countries outside the EU, EU policies may become market barriers or market opportunities. UNIDO supported Southern Mediterranean countries by building capacity in Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) studies, which can help them establish a stronger position on the European markets.


When the development of the PEF – a standard method for performing life cycle assessments – began in Europe, governments outside of the EU kept a close eye on the initiative. It could become an implicit or explicit market barrier, but also an opportunity. Now, the European Commission is thinking about policy options for the PEF method and is aiming for a broad support, also outside Europe. 


With funding from the European Union, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) started the SwitchMed initiative to reinforce the development of a greener industry and sustainable consumption and production in the Southern Mediterranean region. One of the objectives of this initiative, carried out in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, is to help companies improve their position on the European market by being able to present PEF-compliant reports about their products. PRé was contracted as the PEF expert.


The project was composed of three consecutive phases: awareness raising, local pilots and dissemination events.

Schematic overview of the phased approach of this project

The awareness-raising and technical workshop activities were meant to expose national stakeholders to the potential impact and opportunities of the PEF system for the national economies, specifically for industrial branches exporting to the EU market. The programme was tailored per country and composed of different modules, allowing partial participation depending on the level of technical interest. During the local awareness-raising activities, LCA experts and export-oriented companies could also indicate their interest in performing a pilot study.

Nine environmental footprint studies for selected product categories, the PEF pilot studies, were performed to create local capacity and expertise. The categories were leather and intermediate paper product for Egypt, two studies on wine and one on intermediate paper products in Lebanon, olive oil for Morocco and pasta, olive oil and dairy for Tunisia. 

Country details on the number of local experts, the number of PEF pilot studies performed, and the product categories addressed.

The support provided to local experts was tailored to their needs. PRé provided training materials (guidance documents and webinars) on specific topics, and clarified the methodological approach and requirements of the relevant PEF category rules. Moreover, we provided several rounds of feedback on all of their deliverables, and were continuously available for ad hoc questions.

Lastly, the learnings from the pilot studies were shared in national dissemination events, together with an update on the status and next steps of the European PEF initiative.


Benefits for the target countries:

  • The national awareness and dissemination events were attended very well in each of the four target countries, making the local stakeholders much more aware of the potential impact of the EF system for the national economies. At some of these sessions, representatives of the ministries of environment and economy were present.
  • Through the pilot studies in this project, we managed to create local PEF capacity in the Southern Mediterranean region, making these national industries better prepared for potential policies involving PEF.
  • The local experts learned from their pilot studies and made concrete suggestions for shifting towards more sustainable consumption and production. One of the biggest successes of this project is that some of these recommendations have already been taken into account by the companies. One of the wine producers in Lebanon is reducing the weight of the glass bottles. And the Tunisian pasta producer is focusing on the use of locally produced, eco-friendly wheat and switching to biodegradable packaging for its pasta.

Benefits for UNIDO and the European Commission:

  • For the European Commission, the local awareness and capacity will contribute to a broader support of their potential policies.
  • This project also provided insights into improvement opportunities for the current PEF and OEF (organization environmental footprint) methods, which currently have serious drawbacks for regions other than Europe, for instance, related to data quality requirements. The learnings from this project were used to formulate recommendations for enabling PEF-compliant studies in regions outside of Europe.

In PRé Sustainability, UNIDO found a competent, trustworthy partner with a proactive approach which delivered beyond the scope of the project and enabled easier implementation of future activities for UNIDO.

Vladimir Anastasov, Headquaters Project Coordinator, Department of Environment, UNIDO

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