Why we work with PEF
You can control, what you can measure … and compare
There are several reasons why we have chosen to work with the PEF method and standards in stead of relying on EPD’s. On this page, we will outline these reasons and give an overview of the differences between the two LCA methods.
What is a PEF-based LCA?
Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is the European Commission’s method and set of rules to calculate a product’s environmental footprint through its entire life cycle. PEF is developed to meet the challenges of comparing different products from different industries complying to different rules, standards, and methods. PEF is a stricter method that is made to limit individual interpretations or personal evaluations of what is important to include in a life cycle assessment. All LCA’s must be calculated the same way, including the same parameters, and be based on the same rules.
Therefore, PEF has made rules on how to share emissions – that is for example directions on how to divide the benefits of recycled materials between the company that produces recycled materials and the company that uses it. Also, there are specific rules on how to share emissions on productions that produce more than one product, for example cattle production, which can produce both leather, meat, and milk.
Furthermore, PEF includes average data on the use phase and disposal phase of products. These phases must be included in an LCA since they account for some of the emissions of any product. They are, however, hard if not impossible to foresee. Hence, average data on these phases are part of the PEF rules.
One of the main purposes of the PEF method is to make it possible to compare products across industries and sectors, making benchmarking transparent and trustworthy. This also helps companies to make informed choices on product development and manufacturing processes and for consumers to make more conscious choices.
However, PEF is still being developed and is a new set of rules compared to EPD’s. Thus, it still lacks propagation and rootedness, but because of its comprehensiveness and thoroughness, and because it is created by an authoritative entity, it has the potential to become a widespread, beneficial, and effective tool to measure the environmental and climate impact of all kinds of products. Hopefully, it will create a common language on the LCA area and fulfill EU’s vision of labelling all consumer products with a PEF label.
What is an EPD-based LCA?
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), is another method to make Life Cycle Assessments. However, they are criticized for not having fair and harmonized calculation rules and the calculation methods might differ from country to country.
EPD’s were originally developed for the construction industry to obtain a specific result on a specific building project. Until now, it has not been mandatory to include all phases of a product’s lifecycle.
The method allows for a certain degree of freedom to use the categories found relevant for the specific product scenario. This also means that EDP’s often reflect a very specific and momentary scenario which is useful in many ways. But it makes it hard to compare one EPD to another and especially to compare an EPD to a PEF-based LCA.
In summary, while both EPD and PEF LCA’s aim to assess and communicate the environmental impact of products and provide detailed and verified information about specific product scenarios, then only PEF ensures to harmonize the methodology across a broader range of products to enable more consistent and comparable assessments.
We choose PEF because:
- PEF is created by the European Commission
- All data assumptions have been made
- PEF is intended for all product and material groups, making it easy to compare across different types of products
If a product consists of or contains wood or plantfiber-based materials, the result from a PEF LCA and an EPD LCA might come out with very different results on the CO2eq emissions.
The EPD standard prescribes that the amount of CO2 absorbed during plant life is subtracted from the emissions of the biogenic raw material. This biogenic CO2 is regarded as carbon neutral and therefore, it is particularly important for EPD’s to report the emissions from End-of-Life where the biogenic carbon is added as entering the atmosphere again. However, the End-of-Life phase is often not included in EPD’s and thus, a substantial part of the lifecycle emissions are missing. Especially if the End-of-Life happens in landfills where the biogenic carbon is emitted as methane gas. The landfill of biogenic materials can be the most emitting phase of the product.
In some EPD’s, the product is estimated to have a very long lifetime, resulting in the biogenic carbon being subtracted twice. The lifetime is calculated as a credit for keeping the biogenic carbon out of the atmosphere for more than 100 years. Some of these cases lead to the extreme result that the climate emission become negative. In other words, the EPD claims that it is good for the climate to produce as many of the products as possible.
The PEF method avoids the risk of the emissions from biogenic carbon being underestimated by not subtracting the CO2 uptake and not counting the biogenic carbon when it enters the atmosphere at End-of-Life. Furthermore, the PEF method doesn’t allow credit for CO2 storage in wood, due to the unknown life span of wooden products and the fact that products in general have still shorter lives.
Another way the two methods differ is when calculating on recycled materials. Here, the PEF method uses rules that ensure a fair share of the advantages of producing and using recycled materials. Both parties should be able to enjoy the benefits, and PEF takes this into consideration by making specific allocation rules for it. This ensures incentive for both producing recycled materials and using them.
In EPD’s, this is typically not considered. The whole benefit of recycled materials will most often be given to the company using recycled materials.
This results in an unfair lower impact on recycled materials when measured in EDP’s than when measured according to the PEF standard.