An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document containing the environmental impact of a product. The set-up and creation of an EPD is standardised in the ISO 14025. The declaration informs the reader about the results of a life cycle assessment (LCA) study.
Following an LCA-study, an extensive report is obligatory (by ISO 14040 en ISO 14044). This report describes all aspects of the product under study. These include the bill of materials, energy use during production and supplier information. This is information most companies do not want to disclose to the outside world. Hence, an EPD is a communicative version of the life cycle impact assessment report, and excludes company sensitive information.
What is the purpose of an EPD?
Companies use EPDs to provide specific, accurate, and non-misleading information about the environmental impact of products. It thus forms a document that communicates the footprint of a product. This document communicates the result both internally – with colleagues – and externally with customers. Where an LCA report is often for internal use, an EPD is used to communicate the environmental impact of a product externally.
In addition, it is drawn up in such a way that it is easy to compare different products within the same category. For example, these are used to assess products, support fair choices, and encourage the market to continuously improve their environmental impact.
In order to ensure validity, EPDs can be verified. Depending on the purpose and region, verified versions are applied for so-called EPD databases. Examples are Environdec, or the Dutch ‘Nationale Milieu Database’. LCA experts that are allowed for verification are listed on these database websites. After verification, the documents are valid for an average period of five years.
How do we develop an EPD?
The ISO14025 standard serves as the base for developing EPDs. This standard ensures a streamlined process that allows for comparing different products. When available, product category rules (PCR) serve as the rules, requirements, and guidelines supporting the standard for specific product categories. For example, in the European construction sector, the EN 15804 serves as a PCR for conducting the analysis.
Some countries even have additional requirements. For example, companies need to follow the ‘NMD-bepalingsmethode’ when developing in the Dutch construction sector.
Example of an EPD
To give you a glimpse of what an EPD looks like, you can check out our example EPD.
It presents the comparison of environmental impact between the life cycles of an aluminium and a biodegradable coffee capsule. For demonstration purposes, it follows the EN15804 standard and Dutch calculation methodology ‘Bepalingsmethode’. No PCRs are currently available for this product group.
Compared with an LCA report, the EPD is a more concise report that presents the environmental impact without providing sensitive product specific information. It is much shorter and easier to read, which makes it a great communication resource.