Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)


In 2008, the European Commission (EU COM) published its Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/SIP), including various proposals for a number of tools such as: Ecolabel, Energy Label, Ecodesign, Retail Forum, and others. This was followed in September 2011, by the launch by the EU COM of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap  and on 9 April 2013, by the communication on "Building the Single Market for Green Products (SMGP)  - Facilitating better information on the environmental performance of products and organisations”. 

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) 

The idea of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative is to develop a harmonised methodology for the calculation of the environmental footprint of products, based on transparent methodology.

A reliable, credible and consistent measure of this environment footprint is a fundamental step in raising awareness, amongst businesses and consumers, and hence reducing that footprint.

Calculating environmental footprint

The European Commission, working closely wiht the Joint Research Centre, has developed a proposed methodology for the calculation of the environmental footprint of products.

The methodology is based on the life-cycle assessment technique and the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) handbook as well as other existing standards and guidance documents, including ISO 14040-44, PAS 2050, BP X30, WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol. In total, 14 different impact categories are assessed. In addition, rules have been developed for individual product categories to enable specific details at the product level to be taken into account.

A.I.S.E.: pilot PEF project

In the spring of 2013, the Commission launched a call for pilots to test this methodology (over the period 2013-2016) with specific product sectors, in order to:

  • develop workable product category rules (PEFCRs)
  • test the verification objectives
  • test different communication options
A.I.S.E. offered - and was selected in October 2013 - to lead one of the pilot studies, focusing on household liquid laundry detergents, based on its experience with the Charter for Sustainable Cleaning.

Partners participating in the project include the companies Dalli, Ecover, Henkel, McBride, P&G, Unilever, Vandeputte, the national industry associations Afise (France) and Detic (Belgium), and the external organisations CESIO, Global Standards 1, SGS, the Sustainability Consortium, the Swiss Government Federal Department of the Environment and the Technical University in Berlin).

Stakeholders’ involvement is a key element of the PEF pilot work. Those are invited to express their interest to A.I.S.E.’s pilot by either:

Registering via the EU COM  Wiki web platform: click here 
Contacting A.I.S.E. directly: or

The Wiki web platform will be progressively completed with content and developed further as the PEFCR work progresses, e.g. containing drafts to which comments will be collected via the Wiki webpage, information about meetings and a discussion platform. 
In this last year of the European Commission 3-years-pilot on Environmental Footprinting (2013 – 2016), the work of the A.I.S.E. PEF Technical Secretariat is entering now a very important stage, with transferring the results of the technical work (see below) into a communications test phase.
So far, following milestones could be reached:
  • Autumn 2013 till autumn 2014: the so called ‘PEF Screening’ on a representative project of the European market was prepared and carried out, i.e. an assessment of the impact according to 15 different environmental impact categories; key findings of this assessment are in line with results coming from life-cycle assessment (LCA) that were used when Charter ASPs for laundry detergents were drafted, i.e. the most relevant life-cycle phase is the use phase (due to the energy needed to heat the water); ecotoxicity and water depletion have been identified as environmental hot spots.
  • Autumn 2014 till summer 2015: 1st draft of the PEF category rules (PEFCR), which were approved by the project steering committee in July 2015
  • Autumn 2015 till spring 2016: Test and use of draft PEFCR as guidance for the so called ‘PEF Supporting Studies’, carried out by 6 companies on real products that are sold in Europe. The outcome of these supporting studies is relevant for the communications test phase programme.
Following tasks will have to be fulfilled by end 2016:
  • Verification of the PEF Supporting studies
  • Finalisation of the PEFCR, incl. stakeholder verification, review and approval by the central project steering committee
  • Communications test phase on instruments to convey relevant information to the consumer, aiming to reduce the products’ environmental footprint.