EPD - ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCT DECLARATION
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardized document informing about a product’s potential environmental and human health impact.
The EPD is produced on the basis of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculations, and provides a quantitative basis for comparison of products and services. It is normally provided by the product manufacturer and must be verified by an independent expert. An EPD normally has a validity of 5 years.
The basis of an EPD is the norm ISO14025. In that document, EPDs are called Type III environmental declarations (never mind about Type I and II, which are not based on LCA and in the case of Type II not even externally verified).
In addition, the EPD must be produced according to a specific set of Product Category Rules (PCR) which provides calculation rules and guidelines to ensure that all Environmental Product Declarations under the same category report the same type of information. The range of existing PCRs is wide, from clothing to food and chemicals.
An EPD can be created for a company-specific product or for the average product of members of a branch organization.
Difference between LCA and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
An Environmental Product Declaration is a short version of an LCA report. It is simpler to read, and therefore easier to use in communication than an LCA report.
Where an LCA report often contains sensitive company details which you don’t want the whole world to know. An EPD contains not much more than the LCA results and a proper description of the product. It can be shared without worry.
However, a proper LCA study including a full LCA report must be performed before an EPD can be created!
What are Environmental Product Declarations used for?
The general goal of EPDs is to use verifiable and accurate information to encourage the demand for, and supply of products that have a lower negative impact on the environment.
EPDs are often required in green public procurement (GPP), tenders by private companies, and in building assessment schemes such as LEED, BREEAM, and GreenStar.
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in construction
Although Environmental Product Declarations could be made for any type of product, the construction sector has the most advanced EPD system. An extensive PCR (EN15804) provides detailed instructions for the performance of the LCA calculations (and the Dutch PCR called ‘Bepalingsmethode’ follows the EN15804 closely).
In an international collaboration called Ecoplatform, EPD program operators from many countries join forces to ensure that construction EPDs are comparable between countries. The Dutch program operator is Stichting MRPI. Ecochain is one of the recognized LCA/EPD reviewers for MRPI.
Business benefits of EPDs
EPDs in construction projects and manufacturing are voluntary. However, their use is rapidly growing in line with awareness about environmental impacts. Both public and private stakeholders are increasingly demanding EPDs. There are a number of benefits to creating or using EPDs
Market differentiation: using or creating EPDs will help you to differentiate your product or your project.
Regulation and legal requirements: all public procurement bodies in the EU and EEA are required to use EPDs to assess the environmental footprint of products and Belgium requires the use of EPDs if a company is performing any environmental-related marketing.
Credits and certification: LCA credits are very cost-efficient and easy compared to other credits’ requirements for your building’s certifications and EPDs are also recognized by LEED and BREEAM, among other market-based systems.
How to get an EPD
In short, this is how it works:
Step 1 – Collect data: including raw material, resource consumption and waste data for your product. Your choice of program operator and PCR will determine the specific data you will need to collect, based on which stages of your product life-cycle and which impact categories your LCA will need to assess.
Step 2 – Conduct a life-cycle assessment: the LCA will need to conform to the PCR.
Step 3 – Prepare background report for EPD: the background report (known as an LCA report in the US) is a vital accompaniment to your public EPD. It provides further details about the LCA methodology, assumptions and approach employed to support third party verification, as well as the standards that you have adhered to.
Step 4 – 3rd party verification: every EPD needs to be verified by an independent third party verifier before it can be published. This ensures accuracy, reliability and ensures that the EPD conforms to the requirements of the relevant PCR.
Step 5 – Publication: Once your EPD has been verified by an independent third party, it is ready to be put into the public domain via publication. To do this, you need to submit the EPD document for publication to the program operator, who will process, register and publish your EPD.