Structure Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) sensibly and consistently!

The environmental impact of products and services is increasingly attracting the interest of consumers and both national and European legislators. This refers to the entire lifecycle of a product – from the use of raw materials through the production stages and on to the phase of use, waste management and re-use.

A wealth of instruments is available to companies for giving their customers environment-related product information. An overview can be found in the completely reworked brochure “Environmental information for products and services” dated 14 May 2014 which BDI jointly with the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) presented to the public on 17 June 2014 in Berlin.

The European Commission is currently concentrating its efforts on the development of Product Environmental Footprints (PEFs). The aim is to achieve a uniform method for environment-related evaluation of products based on a lifecycle approach. However, it has become clear from experience to date with product-specific pilot projects that the PEF concept has serious deficiencies.

In this context, BDI has drawn up a position paper “Structure Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) sensibly and consistently!” (available in German and English) which was presented at a workshop on 17 June 2015 in Berlin.  

At this workshop (see programme), Mr Hugo-Maria Schally from the European Commission explained that it has not yet been decided what purposes PEF should ultimately be applied for. Also open is whether it will continue to be a voluntary instrument and what the implications will be for existing legislative provisions such as the eco-design directive or the eco-labelling directive. In his address, Dr Ulf Jaeckel explained how PEF can be incorporated in the existing toolbox for environment-related product information. Professor Matthias Finkbeiner from TU Berlin used a slide show to highlight persistent serious deficiencies in the PEF methodology. Dr Constantin Herrmann from thinkstep AG reported on experience with work to date on the pilot projects for “metal sheets” and “batteries and accumulators”.