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The EPD process: A Guide for Manufacturers

Estimated time to read: 5 minutes

07.03.2024

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) function as a powerful tool in the construction industry, similar to nutrition labels for food. They offer comprehensive insights into the environmental footprint of building materials and aid professionals in making sustainable choices for their projects. In this guide, we provide you with an overview of the EPD process in detail to help you navigate the landscape.

What is an EPD, and why do you need it?

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) serves as a comprehensive and standardised document offering transparent and verified insights into a product’s environmental impact throughout its life cycle. It is an impactful tool for consumers, businesses, and policymakers, enabling informed decisions based on environmental performance

As a manufacturer, you can benefit from EPDs, as they provide clear and credible information about your product’s eco-friendliness, appealing to an increasingly environmentally conscious market. Additionally, EPDs help you meet regulatory standards, ensuring compliance and mitigating the risk of penalties or restricted market access. By leveraging EPDs, you can differentiate yourself and attract eco-conscious consumers, ultimately enhancing your competitiveness.

What standards exist today (2024) for EPDs?

Currently, the market predominantly adheres to ISO 14025 and EN 15804 standards, indicating a trend towards greater alignment in EPD requirements. The most important standards and regulations are as follows:

International standards

  • Standard and principles: ISO 14025: This standard provides principles and requirements for Type III environmental declarations, including EPDs. It outlines the methodology for preparing and presenting EPDs consistently and transparently.
  • Life-cycle assessment: ISO 14040 and ISO 14044: These standards provide guidelines for conducting life cycle assessments (LCAs), which are often used as the basis for EPDs. They establish principles and frameworks for assessing environmental impacts across a product’s entire life cycle.

European Standards and Regulations

European Standards:

  • EN 15804 Standard: Specifically pertains to EPDs for construction products. It ensures transparency and comparability, providing guidelines for the preparation and presentation of EPDs within the European market.
  • EU Green Public Procurement (GPP) Criteria: EPDs may form part of the criteria for green public procurement in the EU. This encourages the procurement of products with lower environmental impacts, thereby promoting sustainability in public-sector purchasing.

European Union Regulations

The EU implements various regulations and directives that influence EPD requirements, including:

  • Construction Products Regulation: Sets standards and requirements for manufacturers to provide information on the environmental performance of their products, including EPDs. It aims to ensure transparency and consistency in environmental information provided by companies operating within the EU.
  • Ecodesign Directive: Sets requirements for improving the environmental performance of energy-related products, impacting the information required in EPDs.
  • Energy Labelling Directive: Establishes labelling requirements for energy-related products, which may intersect with EPD standards.
  • Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD): Mandates reporting on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, which may include disclosures related to product environmental performance, aligning with EPD requirements.

What does the EPD process look like?

The current process includes several stages and involves multiple actors.

  1. Data collection: Data collection begins at the manufacturer level, where relevant information about the product’s life cycle is gathered. This data encompasses all stages of the product’s life cycle, from raw material extraction to manufacturing, distribution, use, and end-of-life disposal. Manufacturers may collect data internally from their operations or externally from suppliers and subcontractors. Data collected includes recipe data (raw material usage), supplier data (supplier name, distance, material categories, etc), energy consumption, water, and waste data (plant-level inputs and outputs). The goal is to gather comprehensive and accurate data to assess the environmental impacts associated with the product.
  2. Life-cycle assessment With the collected data, a life-cycle assessment (LCA) is conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts of the product. The LCA assesses environmental impacts across all life cycle stages, utilising data collected during the data collection phase. It considers impacts such as carbon emissions, energy consumption, water usage, land use, and up to 30 toxicity indicators. The LCA results provide insights into the environmental hotspots of the product and identify areas for improvement in its life cycle.
  3. Background report and EPD draft: The background report is prepared alongside the LCA and serves as documentation of the methodology and data sources used. It provides transparency by detailing the data collection process, assumptions made, and methodologies employed in the LCA. The background report ensures that stakeholders understand how the EPD data was generated and can assess its reliability. Simultaneously, based on the LCA findings, an initial draft of the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is created.
  4. 3rd Party Verification: External verifiers, often independent third-party organisations or auditors, are engaged to review the background report and EPD draft. Verifiers assess the accuracy, completeness, and credibility of the data and methodologies used in the LCA and EPD. They ensure that the EPD complies with relevant standards and guidelines, and meets the requirements of the program operator. The verification process adds credibility to the EPD by providing an impartial evaluation of its accuracy and reliability. Any necessary revisions are made to the background report and EPD based on the verifier’s feedback before final publication.
  5. Program Operator: After successful verification, the finalised EPD is submitted to a Program Operator for publication. Program Operators are responsible for managing the publication and registration of EPDs, ensuring they meet the required standards and guidelines. EPDs are published on online platforms managed by an NGO that coordinates Program Operators, ecoplatform. This provides access to EPDs for stakeholders, allowing for comparisons between products and supporting sustainable purchasing decisions.

Can I make the process easier?

At Emidat, we offer a comprehensive software solution that seamlessly integrates the various stages to provide you with an automated LCA and/or a fully verified EPD. By consolidating these processes into a single platform, we simplify compliance requirements adhering to EN 15804 standards.

Moreover, we offer flexibility by allowing you to select from a range of program operators so that you can choose the most suitable option for you and your customers’ needs.

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