Product environmental footprint category rules (PEFCR)

Written by

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is increasingly becoming a measure of environmental performance of products or services. Companies and suppliers that want to label their products as green or sustainable must be PEF compliant. Read more about it here. 


What is a Product Environmental Footprint Category Rule (PEFCR) ?


A Product Environmental Footprint Category Rule (PEFCR) is a technical guide for conducting a comprehensive Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) study for a given product, taking into account its supply chains. It is composed of consistent and specific rules for measuring the environmental impact of a product or service through the life cycle assessment method (LCA). It is part of the “Single Market for Green Products Initiative” that is being initiated by the European Commission. 

These guidelines allow your company to compare products and make comparative statements by quantifying the relevant environmental metrics of your products in a given product category. 

In addition, the PEFCR helps narrow the focus of your PEF study to the most relevant aspects and parameters. This increases the relevance, reproducibility, and consistency of your results at a lower cost than a study that follows the exhaustive requirements of the PEF guide. 


How does a PEF compare to an LCA?


Similar to LCA, the PEF identifies all relevant environmental and health impacts for each stage of the life cycle of a given product. The difference is that the PEF is more stringent in terms of product group-specific rules than LCA. While the PEF is guided by the environmental impact categories of LCA such as acidification, eutrophication, smog formation, particulate matter, ozone depletion, and others, the PEF selects only a set of impact categories directly related to the product or service.

Currently, the PEF method has a central database to minimize differences that may arise from modeling decisions. The PEF method aims to define the absolute minimum necessary to create a meaningful and comparable product footprint to ensure scalability. The PEF method is also structured differently than a traditional life cycle assessment (LCA). As a result, a PEF assessment is likely to be less costly than an LCA.


How to develop a PEFCR?


Below are the general steps for developing a PEFCR based on the European Union (EU) Commission PEFCR guidance. Note that each step must be accompanied by at least one consultation with relevant stakeholders and that the Technical Secretariat is responsible for the technical aspects of the process. 

  1. Define the scope of the PEF product category and the scope of the PEFCR – This should include a description of the product(s), the function of the product(s) and its technical performance. Similar products should be grouped into a single product category. When assigning a product category to a group of products, it is important that they all have the same functional unit. The product category should be as specific as possible to ensure that the results are comparable.
  2. Define the product “model” using representative product(s) – “representative product”  is defined as “may or may not” be a real product that one can buy on the EU market. When defining the “representative product” model, the Technical Secretariat should include a bill of materials, flow diagram, transportation systems, use scenario, etc.
  3. PEF Screening – this stage should identify the following information: 
    • PEFCR feasibility
    • Most relevant environmental impacts
    • Most relevant life cycle stages 
    • Most relevant processes 
    • Data requirements 
    • Preliminary definition of the benchmark
  4. Draft PEFCR – The Technical Secretariat prepares a draft PEFCR based on the results of the PEF screening and consultation. The draft PEFCR shall serve as a guide for conducting the supporting studies of the PEFCR. It shall be written in accordance with the requirements of the PEF Guidance Document and the template provided for this purpose.
  5. PEFCR supporting studies – provides information on: 
    • Most relevant environmental impacts
    • Most relevant life cycle stages 
    • Most relevant processes 
    • Data requirements 
    • Verification requirements
  6. Confirmation of benchmark(s) and performance classes – This stage establishes the final benchmark(s) for the product category and performance classes (if relevant and appropriate).
  7. Preparation of the Final PEFCR


What is the difference between OEFSR and PEFCR?


The Organisation Environmental Footprint Sector Rule (OEFSR) is similar to the PEFCR. It establishes a uniform and specific set of rules for calculating the relevant environmental information of an organisation that belongs to a particular sector. It also aims to make comparisons and comparative statements about the environmental impacts between organisations or of an individual organisation over time.

While the PEFCR uses the PEF methodology, the OEFSR uses the Organisation’s Environmental Footprint (OEF) by examining the upstream and downstream activities of the organisation or a representative organisation. The functional unit in the OEF is your organisation’s reporting unit or product portfolio within a given fiscal year.

The existing OEFSR covers only two industries to date: copper production and retail. On the other hand, there are 19 products with specific product environmental footprint category rules, and they are as follows:

  • beer, 
  • dairy, 
  • decorative paints,
  • household liquid laundry detergents, 
  • hot and cold water supply pipe systems,
  • intermediate paper product,
  • thermal insulation, 
  • metal sheets 
  • feed for food producing animals, 
  • IT equipment, 
  • leather, 
  • packed water
  • pasta. 
  • pet food,
  • photovoltaic electricity production,
  • rechargeable batteries,
  • T-shirt,
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), and
  •  wine

Discover the top ESG and sustainability software providers