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What is an EPD
Tunley Environmental25 Jun 20246 min read

What Is An EPD?

EPDs Explained | Tunley Environmental

Environmental Product Declarations or EPDs enable manufacturers, architects, engineers, and designers to make informed procurement decisions. EPDs provide the environmental impacts of products, services, and processes across a wide range of different impact categories. They have processes and verification systems in place to ensure a standardised life cycle analysis approach is taken. This ensures that similar type of product can be compared directly against each other in terms of their environmental impact over the given lifecycle stages. Environmental impact is a growing concern globally. Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of transparent and accountable reporting on the sustainability of their products.

Understanding Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

What are EPDs?

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardised, third-party verified document that transparently communicates the environmental performance or impact of a product or material over a specified lifecycle boundary which is appropriate to the product. EPD’s adhere to ISO 14025 for environmental labels and declarations. , Additionally, they provide a comprehensive and impartial assessment of a product's environmental credentials, enabling meaningful comparisons and informed decision-making.

The Importance of EPDs

EPDs have become increasingly crucial in the construction industry. This is because they enable facile comparison between the environmental impacts of similar materials and components used. Therefore, enabling sustainable building practices whilst also reducing barriers around verification and sourcing. This empowers architects, engineers, and designers to select the most sustainable options for their projects, while also enabling manufacturers to optimise the environmental impacts of their products and effectively communicate their commitment to environmental transparency.

Key drivers include the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) in Europe and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States, both of which aim to reduce the environmental impact of construction works by mandating the integration of environmental declarations, including EPDs, into the Declaration of Performance (DoP) for construction products.

The Role of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

At the heart of an EPD lies the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – a systematic and comprehensive methodology used to evaluate and quantify the environmental impacts of a product within the appropriate life cycle stages, including raw material extraction to end‑of-life disposal or recycling, and manufacture. The LCA forms the foundation of the EPD, providing the detailed data, system boundaries, and analysis that is then distilled into the standardised EPD format.

The Evolution of EPDs: Regulations and Standards

Ensuring Comparability: Product Category Rules (PCRs)

To ensure the comparability of EPDs between similar products the process is governed by specific Product Category Rules (PCRs). These PCRs, established by independent EPD Program Operators (EPD POs), provide the calculation rules and guidelines that must be followed. Consequently, ensuring that EPDs report on the same environmental indicators, within the same operational boundaries and use consistent quantification methodologies. This means you are truly comparing apples to apples and not apples to motorcycles. Ultimately, this eliminates the previously present time consuming, challenging, and confusing task of delving into the specific methodologies, boundaries, and methodologies of bespoke life cycle assessments.

The Role of EPD Program Operators (EPD POs)

EPD Program Operators (EPD POs) play a crucial role in the EPD ecosystem, as they are responsible for identifying and creating PCRs, as well as administering and supervising the EPD verification process. These independent agencies ensure that EPDs adhere to the relevant standards and regulations, enabling the creation of reliable and comparable environmental impact data.

The EPD Creation Process

Step 1: Selecting the EPD Program Operator (EPD PO)

The first step in creating an EPD is to identify the appropriate EPD Program Operator (EPD PO) based on factors such as geographical relevance, cost considerations, and mutual recognition agreements between EPD POs. This decision is crucial, as the selected EPD PO will determine the specific requirements and guidelines that must be followed.

Step 2: Identifying the Relevant Product Category Rule (PCR)

Once the EPD PO has been selected, the next step is to identify the appropriate Product Category Rule (PCR) that aligns with the characteristics of the product. The EPD PO can often provide guidance and support in this process, ensuring that the selected PCR meets the requirements.

Step 3: Conducting the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

With the PCR in place, the manufacturer can proceed to conduct a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the product, adhering to the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards. This LCA forms the foundation of the EPD, providing the detailed environmental impact data that will be presented in the final document. LCAs are one of the core services that Tunley Environmental, assisting companies such as Balfour Beatty, Terrafend and Optima with understanding the life cycle of their respective products.

Step 4: Engaging a Third-Party Verifier & Drafting EPD Document

A crucial step in the EPD creation process is the involvement of an independent, third-party verifier. This verifier, recognised by the selected EPD PO, reviews the LCA report and the EPD document to ensure compliance with the relevant standards, PCR, and verification protocols.

Following the third-party verification, the manufacturer can then proceed to draft the EPD document, following the format and requirements prescribed by the chosen EPD PO. This includes incorporating the LCA results, a brief product description, the assumptions made throughout the LCA, and the calculation rules employed (i.e., the PCR).

Step 5: Submitting the Verified EPD

The final step in the process is to submit the verified EPD to the EPD Program Operator for publication on platforms connected to the ECO Platform, a prominent EPD umbrella organisation. This completes the EPD creation journey, ensuring that the product's environmental impact information is made publicly available and accessible to stakeholders.

The Business Benefits of EPDs
  • Meeting Regulatory and Market Demands

EPDs have become increasingly important in meeting regulatory requirements and aligning with market demands for sustainable and transparent products.

  • Enhancing Market Positioning and Competitive Edge

In a market where the number of published EPDs is growing rapidly, the content and quality of these declarations have become a significant factor in product differentiation and gaining a competitive edge.

  • Facilitating Green Procurement and Certifications

EPDs play a pivotal role in green public procurement processes and are often a prerequisite for prestigious sustainability certifications, such as LEED and BREEAM. By aiding organisations in obtaining these certifications, EPDs serve as tangible proof of a product's sustainability, improving its credibility and marketability.

  • Informing Strategic Decision-Making

Access to EPDs and the underlying LCA data can provide valuable insights that inform strategic decision-making within businesses. This includes product development (ecodesign), material sourcing, and marketing strategies, all of which can be aligned with sustainability goals and objectives.

  • Representative EPDs and Product-Specific EPDs

Businesses can choose to create either representative EPDs, which cover an entire product category or similar products, or product-specific EPDs, which focus on the environmental impact of a single product. This flexibility allows businesses to balance the costs of EPD creation with the need for accurate, product-specific environmental data.

The Bottom Line

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) enable businesses, architects, engineers, and designers to make well-informed decisions and minimise their carbon footprint by offering clear and standardised information on the environmental impact of varying products.

Businesses can navigate the EPD landscape with confidence, leveraging the expertise of Tunley Environmental to streamline the creation process and extract valuable insights that inform strategic sustainability initiatives. Businesses can differentiate themselves in the market, improve the perception of their brand, and help the collective push towards a more sustainable future by adopting EPDs in addition to meeting legislative requirements.


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