What to expect of a proper EPD
All suppliers produce Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). But they aren’t all equal. Many are produced for product families, instead of individual products. It might be a cost-cutting measure. In our experience, it’s also a way to avoid exposing poor sustainability results for particular products – averaging across the family can help obscure results that would be hard to explain or call “sustainable.”
That’s why we are advocating for an industry-wide move to standardized EPDs for every product. And until we can achieve that standard, have committed to encouraging customers to understand the importance of EPDs. And to empowering you with ways to separate good sources of information from ones that aren’t – protecting your investment, customers and reputation.
Here are a few of our recommendations for what to expect of a good EPD:
- It’s for one product only. A product EPD provides lifecycle assessments (LCA) specific to that product only. If an LCA is produced for a group of products, it averages the results of all products in the same family – making some look better than they should.
- It includes the full lifecycle. Pay extra attention If some part of the product’s lifecycle isn’t measured. The EPD should include environmental impacts from extraction of raw material, manufacturing, transport, installation and end-of-life – anything less could be a sign that performance across any of these metrics is problematic.
- It uses data from credible sources. Look for a declaration of specific data. That’s your assurance that the lifecycle assessment results are based on actual supplier data, rather than less accurate and accountable industry or global averages.
- It doesn’t compromise technical performance. The EPD should use a so-called “functional unit” as its reference point, matching environmental results to a certain technical property. This ensures you can compare like products and functions for their environmental impact.
- Expert tip... If you’re comfortable assessing EPDs, you can also take a closer look at data quality and result variation – two even more specific flags that the lifecycle assessment is flawed or misrepresentative.
At the end of the day, your EPD is confirmation of the sustainability performance you and your clients expect and have paid for. It’s worth taking a little extra time to understand their purpose and assess their quality. Your supplier should always be able to provide a proper, fully-reported EPD for each individual product: If not, why not?