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Environmental Product Declarations (EDPs)

Environmental Product Declarations further help to facilitate environmentally conscious decision-making by providing credible and standardised information about a product's environmental performance. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) play a crucial role in carbon accounting, providing businesses with a comprehensive framework to measure, report, and mitigate the carbon footprint of their products throughout the entire life cycle.

Learn more about what EPDs are, how to create one and the benefits below.

What are Environmental Product Declarations (EDPs)?

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are voluntary documents that communicate transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. 

Based on life cycle assessment (LCA) data, EPDs can provide crucial information about the environmental performance of a product, typically including details about:

  • Raw material acquisition
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Use phase
  • Final disposal

EPDs are developed according to specific industrial and governmental standards, such as ISO 14025, and offer quantified data on various environmental indicators for a huge range of products - from building materials and construction products to consumer goods and industrial equipment.

Types of EDPs

There are a wide range of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) which vary depending on the goals of the assessment, the industry standards or regulations, and the intended audience or users of the EPD information.

Some of the most common EPDS apply to very specific products or product components, aggregating a broad reaching data set to analyse a products overall environmental impact across its entire life cycle. 

Average product Or manufacturer-specific product

Average product EPDs aggregate data from multiple manufacturers or sources within an industry to develop a generalised environmental profile for a particular type of product. This type of EPD provides a broad reaching perspective and is exceptionally useful for drawing comparisons between different products within the same category -  without singling out any particular manufacturer.

Manufacturer-specific product EPDs however are tailored to a particular product manufactured by a specific company and provide detailed information about the environmental performance of that product. 

By analysing its life cycle and taking into consideration the company's unique production processes and the raw materials and supply chain involved, manufacturer-specific EPDs offer in-depth insights into a product's environmental impact, allowing consumers or businesses to evaluate the sustainability of that specific product.

Product range Or product-specific

When it comes to Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), the distinction between product range and product-specific EPDs lies in the breadth of coverage and the level of detail provided in the environmental assessment. The choice between them mainly depends on the intended use, the level of detail needed and the specific information required for decision-making or analysis within a given context:

Product range EPDs

Designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the environmental performance of a group of related products, often with similarities in materials, manufacturing processes, or intended use.

Product-specific EPDs

Focus exclusively on single products and provide detailed and specific information about the environmental impact of that particular product throughout its life cycle.

Product-range EPDs are useful for making comparisons within a range of similar products and can assist in broader industry evaluations or policy-making, whereas product Specific EPDs offer in-depth insights into the environmental impacts associated with a specific product. It takes into consideration each product’s unique features, components, and manufacturing processes. 

Business to business Or Business to consumer

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) can be created for both Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) purposes, depending on the target audience and intended use of the environmental information. 

Business to Business (B2B) EPDs

B2B EPDs are often created to provide detailed and specific environmental information about products or materials used in industrial processes, construction, manufacturing or other sectors. B2B EPDs aim to assist businesses in making informed procurement decisions, selecting suppliers based on environmental performance and meeting sustainability criteria within supply chains.

Business to Consumer (B2C) EPDs

B2C EPDs are developed with individual consumers in mind. They provide clear and understandable environmental information about products that are directly marketed and sold to end-users. These EPDs aim to empower consumers to make environmentally conscious purchasing decisions by offering transparent data on the ecological footprint or impact of products they might buy, such as household appliances, electronics, clothing, food items and other consumer goods.

The core content and focus of an EPD might not significantly differ between B2B and B2C scenarios, as both aim to provide standardised information about the environmental performance of a product based on life cycle assessment (LCA) data.

Distinguishing declared units from functional unit

The relationship between declared unit and functional unit EPDs is crucial in ensuring that EPDs provide accurate and comparable information about the environmental performance of products. In summary, the difference between the two are: 

Declared unit

The Declared Unit in an EPD refers to the specific quantity or function which defines the basis of the assessment. The declared unit will vary depending on the type of product being assessed and the goal of the analysis. 

For instance in the case of building material, the declared unit could be 1 square metre of material or 1 kilogram or 1 cubic metre etc. The declared unit must be clearly stated in the EPD to ensure that the environmental impacts are properly evaluated and compared.

Functional unit

The Functional Unit in an EPD represents the quantified performance of a product by measuring the function or service provided. The functional unit is essential for comparing different products that provide the same function or service by allowing for a standardised comparison of environmental impacts despite variations in product characteristics or quantities. 

For example, for a washing machine, the functional unit could be defined as the washing of a specific number of loads or a certain amount of laundry, e.g., washing 1,000 loads of laundry.

What are the benefits of EPDs?

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) empower businesses and consumers by fostering transparency and informed decision-making across industries and consumer sectors. 

By providing standardised and credible data derived from life cycle assessments, EPDs offer important insights into the environmental impacts of products which allows for comparability between different products within the same category. But that’s not the only benefit to implementing EPDs: 

  • Driving sustainability - EDPs encourage manufacturers to identify areas for carbon reduction and further environmental improvements, optimising processes and developing more eco-friendly products. 
  • Relationships with consumers - EPDs also play a pivotal role in consumer awareness and education, enabling individuals to make environmentally conscious purchasing decisions. 
  • Alignment with GHG protocol - EPDs typically provide data on various environmental indicators, and greenhouse gas emissions are a critical aspect of this information - which is important for businesses using the GHG protocol framework. 

Ultimately, EPDs serve as catalysts for sustainable practices, fostering transparency, raising awareness, and driving positive environmental change across the lifecycle of products.

Learn more about product carbon footprinting.

Creating EDPs

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) has become a pivotal practice for organizations aiming to transparently communicate the environmental impact of their products. 

As sustainability increasingly influences consumer choices and regulatory requirements, businesses are prompted to embark on the journey of developing EPDs to demonstrate their commitment to responsible environmental practices. If your organisation is looking into creating EDPs for it’s products, the general steps you might take are:

Understand EPD requirements - Familiarise yourself with the EPD requirements in your industry or region. EPDs are often developed following specific standards like ISO 14025, which outline the methodology and criteria for creating EPDs.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) - Conduct a thorough Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the product. This involves evaluating the environmental impacts across the entire life cycle, including raw material extraction, production, use, and disposal.

EPD development - Use the data from the LCA to develop the EPD. This may involve calculations, data processing, and compiling the information according to the EPD format and guidelines specified by the relevant standards.

Verification and certification - Depending on the standard or program you are adhering to, consider having the EPD verified or certified by an independent third party. This step ensures the credibility and reliability of the EPD.

Publication and registration -Once the EPD is finalised and verified, it can be published and registered in a recognized EPD database or registry. This step increases the accessibility of the EPD to stakeholders who may be interested in the product's environmental performance.

To obtain an EPD, organisations often collaborate with experts in environmental assessments. Alternatively, some industries or sectors have associations or programs that facilitate the process of obtaining EPDs by providing guidance, resources and certification processes adhering to specific standards.

How Minimum can help

Minimum can help organisations to understand their existing carbon output, and create plans to mitigate climate related risks in the future.  Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organisation and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. 

Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.