Among the most important and widespread tools to quantify the environmental impact of the life cycle of a product is the EPD environmental certification. From the acronym Environmental Product Declaration, EPDs are declarations that communicate objective, comparable and credible information on the environmental performance of the entire product life cycle. One of its goals is to allow reliable comparisons between different products. To ensure the credibility and integrity of the information, the declaration should be verified and validated by accredited third parties.
Although this communication tool was born as an element of dialogue between companies, more and more organizations in the agri-food sector are using it in communication with the final consumer. The aim is to indicate environmental sustainability with maximum transparency and orient the customer towards conscious choices. The brand is often highlighted on the label to attract the customer’s attention and an invitation to read the environmental declaration to acquire information and knowledge about the actual impacts of the life cycle of that product.
One of the most internationally active, with over 20 years of experience making it a landmark, is the International EPD® System. Born in Sweden in 1999, this system was the subject of a LIFE project funded by the European Commission in 2003, which allowed it to spread worldwide. At the end of 2021, the system counts the publication of about 2,500 EPDs, over 150 related to the food industry.
The UNI EN ISO 14067 is instead a standard published in 2018. It defines the principles, requirements, and guidelines, so in practice, all the fundamental points to be developed to accurately calculate and report the carbon footprint of products (CFP). Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions, consistency with the LCA approach, and thus with international standards on life cycle assessment (ISO 14040 and ISO 14044), is essential. Therefore, emissions associated with the various phases of the life cycle of a product are evaluated. They start from the supply of raw materials and resources, continuing up to the stages of production, use, end of life and disposal of the product. Then the methodology for quantifying the carbon footprint is specified, and a report on the study is carried out. The standard only considers the climate change impact category but does not cover carbon offsetting and reporting of carbon footprint information.
The importance of such a standard lies in getting the means to calculate the carbon footprint of products and understanding how to manage and reduce it. The application of this reference standard also allows to demonstrate the product’s environmental performance and communicate its environmental sustainability objectives. Once the carbon footprint has been defined, all documentation shall be subject to verification and validation by an accredited body to assess the calculations’ reliability.
Climate change is one of the world’s biggest challenges, so such initiatives must exist at the national and international levels. They are developed and implemented by the public and private sectors to provide an urgent and effective response to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations significantly. The EPD product environmental certification and the ISO 14067 standard are valuable tools that help to tackle climate change based on the most up-to-date scientific studies. These provide benefits to organizations and clarity and awareness to support sustainable development in an increasingly low-carbon world.