Imagine a world where you have full visibility over the environmental footprint of products you can buy. It would provide you with the freedom to buy ‘green’ products. But this would only work if you can rely on the quality of the information: you need to know that such information can be trusted.

This is why the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) methodology is underway. The PEF method provides a new and improved method for measuring the environmental performance of any good or service throughout its life cycle. The aim being to make it easier for consumers to recognize how environmentally friendly a product, a service or a company is: PEF thereby improves the validity and comparability of the environmental performance evaluation compared to existing methods. Ultimately such a robust instrument will drive the EU’s environmental policies to strengthen the market for green alternatives.

The PEF methodology, similar to an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), is robust and science-based: it quantifies all environmental impacts over the life cycle of your product, including emissions to water, air and soil, resource use and depletion, and impacts from land and water use. However, PEF has more stringent rules than a regular LCA and may have product category-specific rules, all determined by the European Commission. Therefore, PEF assessments are more robust, and have improved comparability. This makes PEF more suitable, for instance, for benchmarking of products or services.

The PEF method is currently in ‘transition phase’ before its finalization. In this phase, the main objective is to develop further detail for the PEF ‘Product Category Rules’ (PEF-PCR’s) and to finalize methodology developments. The transition phase will pave the way for policy development and wider industry rollout.

Over the past years, PEF has already been tested with various business and for various product categories such as textiles, food and construction products. These pilots have already delivered and extensive set of PEF-CR’s and have established confidence that the methodology is robust.

In 2021, PEF is likely to enter the ‘implementation & communications’ phase. Although policy development is underway and not yet completely defined, PEF is certainly on its way to make an impact on businesses. In various markets we are already seeing an increased demand for environmental transparency and hence several businesses already made their move. Given the amount of work to capture and structure data, it is expected that first movers will have an advantage as they have built capacity, knowledge and captured their data to enable PEF. Therefore, we believe Laggards will eventually have a hard time to catchup.

Is your business already prepared for PEF?

Roel Drost PhD CMA, Chief Value Officer at Ecochain Technologies