Environmental Footprint Certificate

The LCA certification


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Additional Information

In the sections below you can finds term definitions and more details will be explained.


For the Environmental Footprint, a numbers of terms are used, for which it is customary to abbreviate them as follows:

Term & Description

  • EF = Environmental Footprint
  • LCA = Life Cycle Assessment.
    Compilation and evaluation of all inputs, outputs and potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
  • PEF = Product Environmental Footprint.
  • EU = standards for formulating LCAs
  • PCR = Product Category Rule.
    Specific LCA rules for product sectors, such as textiles or construction work.
  • PEFCR = Product Category Rule in accordance with the European PEF system.
    In addition to the rules, a dataset with LCA data is also made available.
  • EPD = Environmental Product Declaration.
  • LCA = report in accordance with a PCR verified by a recognized LCA expert.
  • LCI = Life Cycle Inventory.
    The first phase in formulating an LCA.
    In this phase, all data are collected.
  • LCIA = Life Cycle Impact Analysis.
    The second phase in the formulation of an LCA, in which the environmental interventions are
    distinguished and assigned to environmental impact categories.
  • SBK = Stichting Bouw Kwaliteit, organization that manages the Dutch
  • PCR = for building materials.
  • MKI = Milieu Kosten Indicator.
    A method of weighing environmental impacts and assigning them to an indicator.
EF Certificate is based on the following Standards & Frameworks

The following standards are related to the Environmental Footprint:
Standard Description

  • ISO 14040 = Environmental management
    Life cycle assessment
    Principles and framework
  • ISO 14044 = Environmental management
    Life cycle assessment
    Requirements and guidelines
  • ISO 14025 = Environmental labels and declarations
    Type III environmental declarations
    Principles and procedures
  • EN 15804 = Sustainability of construction works
    Environmental product declarations
    Core rules for the product category of construction products
  • PEF = Product Environmental Footprint, the European framework for uniform formulations of LCAs
  • SBK Assessment method = Assessment method Environmental performance Buildings and GWW-works Dutch PCR
    based on EN 15804
Requirements LCA

7.1 Setting the objective

In setting the objective, the author defines what the LCA is used for, for whom it is intended and what the scope of the study is.

Some examples of LCA objectives are:

Preparation of an LCA for the EF;
Preparation of an LCA for an EPD;
Preparation of an LCA to be included in an Environmental Database;
Project-specific LCA for a tender;
LCA for internal use, e.g. for sustainable product innovation.

There may be specific standards prescribed for each purpose. These standards are not necessarily the same.

EF does not prescribe a specific objective as in the above examples. The preparation of an EF can serve all these objectives.

7.2 Selecting a PCR

In this phase, the author decides which standards will be used. The Product Category Rules (PCR) must be selected on the basis of the described objectives. If no PCR document has been prescribed, the following order must be used to select one:

1. PCR from the European PEFCR, if available.
2. PCR for the product that is applicable in your country.
3. PCR from a European EPD operator (e.g. Environdec, IBU, EPD system, Norge-EPD).
4. If no PCR is available, the generic document of the latest version of PEF should be used.

Example: if an LCA is intended to be included in the Dutch National Environmental Database, the PCR is prescribed by the Stichting Bouwkwaliteit (SBK). This would be option number 2 and the standard would be the Environmental Performance Assessment Method for Buildings and GWW Works.

7.3 Determining system boundaries (scope)

The system boundary (scope) determines which data should be inventoried and which should not. In LCA terms: which inputs and outputs are part of the assessment. The system boundary and specific subdivision are determined by the selected PCR. The following rules apply to the system boundary at all times, regardless of the regulations in the PCR:

The LCA for a product for EF must always be a Cradle to Grave LCA.
For non-products a Cradle to Gate LCA is allowed.

All “upstream", “usage" and “downstream" phases should be included, even if there are some optional elements in the PCR.

The benefits and costs of recycled material outside the system boundary must be assessed and reported. If this is not described in the PCR, then the EN 15804 standard must be respected.

7.4 Determining declared and functional unit

The functional unit is determined by the PCR and is by definition linked to the application of a product in practice. The declared unit is the unit on which the LCA is calculated. This may differ from the functional unit for practical reasons.

7.5 Lifespan

The lifespan is important for the usage phase. In the Cradle to Grave LCA, the maintenance processes for the entire life cycle must be determined. If one decides to deviate from the sector average lifespan, this must be substantiated.

7.6 Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)

In the EF, there is no deviation from the standards of the PCR or higher-level standards ISO 14040/44 and ISO 14025 for the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) phase.

7.7 Life Cycle Impact phase

The calculation rules (also called assessment method) are determined by the selected PEFCR or PCR.
If no calculation rules are provided, then the rules that are currently in force in the PEF apply.

In the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) phase, the inventory is processed in specific LCA
software and all consumption and emissions are assigned to environmental categories.

The following software can be used:
SimaPro by Pré Consultants
OpenLCA by OpenLCA.org
GaBi by ThinkStep
EcoChain by EcoChain Technologies

7.8 Allocation of input and output

For the allocation rules, the selected PEFCR or PCR is leading;
For the calculation of the benefits and costs of recycled material outside the system boundary, the module-D approach of the most recent version of EN15804 should be used.

7.9 Reference database

The reference database that is used is initially based on the selected PEFCR or PCR. If no reference database has been defined, the most recent version of ELCD, EcoInvent or Gabi can be used.

7.10 Impact assessment => EF index

The impact assessment for the EF is derived from the PEF. This method is mandatory, regardless of any other impact assessment methods described in the selected PCR. By prescribing the PEF method, the EF certification creates a level playing field and comparability for both the characteristics and weighting factors.

The midpoints and the associated characterization method are described in the document “Supporting information to the characterization factors of recommended EF Life Cycle Impact Assessment methods" (European Commission, 2018). Read more.

7.11 Life Cycle interpretation

The Life Cycle Interpretation must meet the requirements of the selected PEFCR or PCR. If no PCR is selected, it must comply with the rules of PEF.

7.12 Reporting

The report must meet the requirements from the selected PCR. If no PCR is selected, it must comply with ISO 14025 and ISO 14040. The corresponding LCA background report (with potentially business-sensitive data) does not have to be made public.

7.14 Environmental Footprint: classification

After the Environmental Footprint has been prepared and tested, the classification can be determined. The classification is determined according to the following categorization:

Manufacturer has established its own LCA (or commissioned an LCA expert to do so), this LCA has
been evaluated externally and performs better than the market average —> EF class 1

Manufacturer has established an LCA himself (or commissioned an LCA expert to do so) and this LCA
has been externally tested —> EF class 2

Manufacturer has established an LCA (or commissioned an LCA expert to do so), but this LCA is not
externally tested —> EF class 3

The EF index for class 1 has to be renewed every two years

7.13 Environmental Footprint, LCA review

An external critical LCA review is mandatory for Environmental Footprint classification 1. For more information, please visit: www.gses-system.com

Environmental Footprint Certificate – the LCA certification