What is an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and why do I need one?

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document containing the environmental impact of a product, according to ISO standards (ISO 14025). This document informs the reader about the results of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study.  Of this LCA, a report is made describing 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. An EPD excludes company sensitive information.

2. 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 used internally, an EPD is used to communicate the environmental impact of a product externally.

In addition, an EPD is drawn up in such a way that it is easy to compare different products. For example, EPDs can be used to assess products, to support fair choices and to encourage the market to continuously improve their environmental impact.

In order to ensure the validity of the EPD, it must always be verified. This is done by a recognized and independent LCA expert. After verification, EPDs are valid for a period of five years.

3. How do you develop an EPD?

The ISO14025 standard serves as the base for developing EPDs. This standard ensures that an EPD is set up in such a way that allows for comparison of different products. When available, Product Category Rules (PCR) serve as the rules, requirements and guidelines for developing EPDs for specific product categories. In the European construction sector for example, the EN 15804 serves as a PCR for conducting an LCA/EPD. 

Some countries even have additional requirements for developing EPDs. For example in the Dutch construction sector, companies need to follow the ‘Bepalingsmethode when developing an EPD.

4. Example

In order to give you a glimpse of what an EPD looks like, you can check out the case study.

This EPD presents the environmental impact of the life cycle of an aluminium and a biodegradable coffee capsule. For demonstration purposes, this EPD follows the EN15804 standard and Bepalingsmethode, as no PCRs are available for this product group. 

When compared with an LCA report [link naar e-reader case], 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 as well.