Environmental product declaration

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The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an environmental certification classified as Type III that quantifies and verifies the life cycle of products and goods as cited in the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14025.[1] The EPD methodology is based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)[2] tool which follows the ISO series 14040.[3][4][5] EPDs help customers that are environmentally driven for the performance of a product to make the best decisions when choosing goods or services among different providers.[3][4][5][6] For instance, companies such as ABB have implemented EPDs to all of their main products in an attempt to improve their sustainability goals, furthermore, to demonstrate their commitment to the environment to the customers that have shown concerns for the environmental faith of their products.[6]

Framework for Creating an EPD[edit]

Framework for creating an EPD

One of the first steps for creating an EPD is that the product is defined and that it must follow the Product Category Rules (PCR) which are specific rules and requirements verified by a PCR review third-party panel (independent party). The collection of the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) for the LCA study must be verified and from reliable sources (e.g., from manufacturing facility). The Life Cycle Environmental Impact Analysis (LCIA) results are performed by an LCA expert using software and different assessment tools.[7] The EPD can be delivered as a document or report that follows a series of verification until it is ready for registration and to make it public.[8][3][4][5][6]

EPD to Advance the LCA[edit]

EPD now is a standardized tool to declare credible data and information of the environmental impacts of a product based on LCA studies.[9] Introducing EPD to the LCA field can enrich the data sources with higher quality level data.[10] Using the data from EPD can be a reasonable option for the life cycle inventory analysis even though collecting EPD data is a secondary data collection method. If more and more stakeholders can publish the EPD reports, the LCA studies have the potential to be more accurate and to have a higher resolution.[11] In other words, encouraging EPD equals to enlarging the quantity and diversity of the database for LCA studies. The problem emerges from the emergence of EPD is the harmonization issue or say the issue related to the universality, which has been common for some LCA databases.[12] The harmonization refers to the process of transforming the results into a common scheme of representation before releasing so that the results can be easily compared and verified in the future.[13] The issue may be solved by defining minimum requirements for the current EPD schemes, like making widely accepted standards.[11][14] For example, Manzini et al.[15] explored some practical requirements for developing EPD reports and the parameters affecting the attractiveness, potential costs, and benefits of EPA reports and proposed a framework for the EPD developers. Then this issue was solved by this framework? Without this discussion, this example is useless in demonstrating your previous statement.

Examples of Developing EPD and Using EPD for Decision-making[edit]

Back to 2001, Allander[16] published an article of EPD for an ABB Group product. The article stated the reasons for generating the EPD report and the key focusing aspects in the process of developing the EPD report. The processes' steps and product requirements were described in the article related to the production. If compared to this LCA study by Allander, the EPD report emphasized more about the life cycle impact assessment phase in the author’s report. One interesting point related to this report was that the author clearly stated that “customers are increasingly asking for information concerning the environmental performance of products”.[16] In 2007, Del Borghi et al.[17] conducted four case studies of waste disposal in a sanitary landfill to declare the potential environmental impacts. The four case studies compared different technologies for waste treatment and leachate or biogas management in the EPD framework adopted by the authors. The results of analyzing four case studies showed that using the EPD tool enabled the comparisons among different declarations only with some modifications to the existing method, PSR 2003:3, which was a method of preparing EPD reports and published by the Swedish Environmental Management Council.[18] More EPD reports are available from the online databases (e.g. The International EPD System[19]).

Challenges in Creating EPD's[edit]

  • Diverse range of PCR’s: Due to presence and adaptation of non-uniform PCR’s for the same product leads to fluctuating and varying EPD’s, which leads to fallacious comparison between the products. PCR’s vary according to the geographical scope of the product, lack of specific standards of data and lack of co-ordination between program operators.[20]
  • Complex and inconsistent database: Due to complex and time-consuming nature of data collection procedure, Life Cycle Assessment requirement for the EPD becomes prolonged.[21] Due to lack of precise site-specific data and use of generic data over specific data leads to false and incorrect declarations. As per the report CEN 15941 it states, “generic data should never replace specific data when specific data are available”.[22][23]
  • Lack of satisfactory and acceptable third-party critical review: Inconsistency in sharing a common view on specific aspects and reviewing of only general aspects, leaving out more specific aspects leads to varying interpretation of EPD for similar products.[24]
  • Financial Constraint: Due to financial constraints in small scale companies and industries, publishing an EPD after performing a LCA becomes very cost intensive.[25][26]
  • Complete formation and interpretation of results: Due to unavailability of EPD’s and PCR’s for many products, it becomes very difficult to publish a complete and elaborate EPD for a product which involves the previous products in their life cycle. Lack of transparency in declaration procedure and uniform interpretation leads to inconsistent comparison between products.[27]

Effect of Variability of PCR on EPD[edit]

Constant evolution in LCA and presence of multiple PCR’s leads to a wide range of differences in the EPD’s for the same product. Difference in PCR is caused due to difference in purpose of rule formation, target audience, lack of proper and sufficient inventory, general standards, hierarchical structure of product categories and general methodology.[28] For the purpose of harmonizing varying PCR, formation of an international EPD committee or EPD organization to guide for EPD process, standardize and harmonize the methodology, increase transparency between different PCR programs and schemes and publicize the importance of EPD to industries worldwide.[29]

EPD in Europe[edit]

In Europe, the European Committee for Standardization has published EN 15804, a common Product Category Rules (PCR) for EPD development in the construction sector. Other complementary standards, for example for environmental building assessment (EN 15978) were also published by this Technical Committee.

In order to enhance harmonization, the main Programme Operators for EPD verification in the construction sector has created the Association ECO Platform, with members from different European countries.

The Programme Operators approved to issue EPD with the ECO Platform verified logo[30] are:

  • 2014:
    • Asociación Española de Normalización y Certificación (AENOR) - GlobalEPD Program (Spain)
    • Bau EPD GmbH (Austria)
    • EPD International AB - International EPD System (Sweden)
    • Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V. (IBU) (Germany)
  • 2015:
    • Building Research Establishment Limited (BRE) (United Kingdom)
    • EPD Danmark (Danmark)
    • Instytut Techniki Budowlanej (Poland)
  • 2016:
    • Association HQE tio - FDES INIES (France)
    • ICMQ S.p.a. - EPDItaly (Italy)
    • DAPHabitat - DAPHabitat System (Portugal)

ECO Platform also include Associations, for example:

  • Construction Products Europe
  • Ceramie Unie ASBL
  • Eurima AiSBL

Some of these Programme Operators are under bilateral mutual recognition agreements[31] like IBU (Germany), EPD International (Sweden) and AENOR GlobalEPD (Spain).

EPD in North America and Asia[edit]

Even the European-based EPD programs constitute a large portion of EPD programs all over the world, the followed North America and Asia EPD schemes are also non-negligible.[5] Some main programme operators in North America and Asia are also summarized below:[3][32]

  • North America
    • FP Innovations - EPD Program on Wood Products (Canada)[33]
    • NSF International (U.S.) [34]
    • The Institute for Environmental Research & Education - Earthsure EPD (U.S.) [35]
    • The Sustainability Consortium (U.S.) [36]
    • UL Environment (U.S.) [37]
    • ASTM International (U.S.) [38]
    • Carbon Leadership Forum (U.S.) [39]
    • ICC Evaluation Services (U.S.) [40]
    • National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (U.S.) [41]
    • SGS Global Services (U.S.) [42]
  • Asia
    • Japan Environmental Management Association for Industry (Japan) [43]
    • Korean Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (Korea) [44]
    • Environment and Development Foundation (Taiwan) [45]

Product Category Rules[edit]

As previously mentioned; EPDs follow the LCA methodology; however, LCA studies can vary in terms of assumptions and information included, and therefore in some cases, the results of products that fulfill the same function are not consistent with one another.[46][47] Product Category Rules (PCRs) provide the alignments and requirements to develop LCA project reports and the guidance for producing and publishing EPD [48] enabling fair comparison among products of the same category. PCRs include the description of the product category, the goal of the LCA, functional unit, system boundaries, cut-off criteria, allocation rules, impact categories, information on the use phase, units, calculation procedures, requirements for data quality, among other information.[49] The goal of PCRs is to guide the development of declarations for products that are comparable to others within a product category, avoiding possible permutations in the quantification of impacts, in this way the environmental information is comparable.[50]

The ISO 14025 establish the procedure for developing PCRs and the required content of a PCR, as well as requirements for comparability [51].As examples of PCR, there is the Product Category Rule Module for Roundwood [52], this PCR include as rules for the LCA:

  1. Goal and Scope Definition for the LCA,
  2. Product Category Definition,
  3. System Boundary,
  4. Data quality requirements,
  5. Rules and Guidance for Life Cycle Assessment:
    • Functional Unit and Declared Unit
    • Criteria for the exclusion of inputs and outputs
    • Data Requirements
    • Streamlining Data Collection
    • Allowed allocation procedures
    • Impact Assessment

Duplicity in PCRs for the same product arises from the different purposes of the PCRs, the different standards they were based on, or the use of different product categorization systems[53]; therefore, a challenge for PCRs is global harmonization.[53]

Limitations and Challenges[edit]

Without standardized scopes, methods, and reporting, EPD’s cannot be compared between products.[54][55][56] Each of these factors and how they should be reported are defined in the applicable product category rules (PCR).[57] Studies reported that different interpretations of PCR’s can cause variances in data reporting within a product category.[54][56][58] For example, if a PCR asks for the amount of carbon emitted from the production of a product, one EPD could report a total carbon footprint while another EPD reports only onsite carbon dioxide emissions.[55] Another study found that about 75% of the EPD’s and PCR’s they reviewed met ISO 14025 standards while the remainder either didn’t meet the standards (didn’t fit the scope, functional unit, etc) or lacked the required transparency to investigate.[56] Transparency is needed to ensure comparable product EPD’s are reporting and using the same methods and scope.[59] Many reports emphasize the need for EPD’s and PCR’s to be “harmonized”, potentially globally, to avoid these major differences.[54][55][56][58][59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]