PEF: the environmental footprint of products and services

With Recommendation 2013/179/EC , the Product Environmental Footprint was officially introduced in the European Union , a methodology that regulates the calculation, evaluation, third-party validation and communication to all stakeholders of the environmental footprint of products and services.

The approach followed by the European Commission provides companies with a method that allows them to develop a range of environmental indicators relating to the main categories of environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions, efficiency in the use of resources, water footprint, etc.) which the producer, subject to validation carried out by a third party, is entitled to use freely for competitive purposes, especially in marketing communication and vis-à-vis the market.

The possible enhancement of environmental footprints is broad spectrum: from the indication on the product packaging, up to the use in official documentation aimed at proving compliance with the criteria included in public tenders (so-called Green Public Procurement ).

The Commission's methodology aims, as a main objective , to provide interested parties with technical guidelines that are as detailed as possible   for carrying out the study , in such a way as to increase the comparability of studies and results made by different analysts on products of the same type.

Recommendation 2013/179/EU provides both general guidance for calculating PEF and product category specific methodological requirements for use in Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) .

PEFCRs are a necessary extension and integration of the more general guidelines for PEF studies and aim to provide detailed technical guidelines on how to conduct a product environmental impact assessment study.

In our country there are many who are demonstrating that they believe in this perspective.

First of all, the " users " side, i.e. companies , with an ever-increasing number of large and small players in intermediate and mass-consumption markets who have developed and subjected their environmental footprint to third-party certification (just think of Luxottica for Rayban eyewear, Carlsberg for many of its beers, etc.).

Secondly, the " intermediaries " between the competitiveness of companies and the defense of consumers, i.e. the institutions, with the Ministry of the Environment at the forefront in supporting more than two hundred development projects by the business world, through its own environmental footprint assessment program , in the context of which 4 million euros of funding was recently disbursed to companies engaged in this front.

The Italian Regions also strongly support the diffusion of the environmental footprint, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises and industrial districts, by promoting a network (CARTESIO – Clusters, Territorial Areas and Homogeneous Business Systems) which is experimenting the community environmental footprint in the field with the European project PREFER ( Product Environmental Footprint Enhanced by Regions ).

The main unknown remains linked to the reaction of the "recipients" of the environmental footprint .

Will ordinary citizens , who are not experts in the field, be willing to accept a complete and rigorous instrument such as the PEF as a guide for their consumption choices?

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