Our societies are in constant change, and economic and political worries often dominate the news. Nevertheless, solving the world’s main environmental challenges continues to be an essential mid-term and long-term goal towards protecting the indispensable basis for a continued – sustainable – human existence on this planet. These environmental challenges range from the prominent topic of climate change through water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, and on to particulate emissions and various others.

In view of this important goal, the European Commission developed the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) initiative under the Single Market Act, which is now continued as a key instrument under the Circular Economy Package. This initiative is based on environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) and aims to improve the coherence and reliability of environmental information and communications on products for the 500 million consumers that comprise the European market, and on the organisations that produce them. With its supply-chain based approach, the PEF/OEF is addressed to all companies globally that directly and indirectly produce for this huge market, and can be used to enable consumers to make more sustainable consumption choices. This makes much sense: since basically all human interventions with nature happen in the context of producing, using and disposing of products, so products provide THE central leverage to steer societies globally towards environmental sustainability. 

On this Sunday, 9th of April, the Initiative celebrates the 4th anniversary of the European Commission’s PEF/OEF Communication – my congratulations! Until the end of this year, the first 22 product group specific guides (PEFCRs) will be available to the market, delivering on the 2010 mandate by the European Council to “develop a common methodology on the quantitative assessment of environmental impacts of products, throughout their life-cycle, in order to support the assessment and labelling of products”. Two OEFSRs on corporate assessment complement the PEFCRs

While other public and private initiatives have been completed or are ongoing - and more are needed with different scopes and levels including for markets in other parts of the world - the PEF/OEF is a key initiative: indication of its relevance is that its 24 Technical Secretariats that are developing the first PEFCRs and OEFSRs is run by several hundred members, composed of companies and associations inside and outside Europe, public bodies, NGOs, and consultants - and has a total of about 1800 registered stakeholders.

 Together, the European Commission and industry have put considerable resources behind this initiative: we estimate this to be easily an 8-digit figure in Euros worth of staff time and contracts. While the final industry and policy applications are still to be decided on, consumer labels and business-to-business communication vehicles are already being developed and tested by the Technical Secretariats. Read more about the PEF/OEF initiative's status and expected policies and communication vehicles

thinkstep, being the globally leading provider of software tools, data and services for LCA and related domains, has closely followed and contributed to this initiative, to be able to always provide the best possible offerings to our clients. During the past four years, thinkstep (initially still under its former name PE International) has been a member and implementation consultant in four of the Technical Secretariats. Recently, thinkstep won the majority of the European Commission’s Environmental Footprint life cycle database projects, thanks to the outstanding coverage and high quality of thinkstep’s GaBi data and with official support of a wide range of international industry associations. thinkstep is now supplying the core data foundation that is to be used by companies that want to implement any PEF or OEF study under the mentioned 24 PEFCRs and OEFSRs, until the end of 2020; access to the data for this purpose is for free upon registration at thinkstep's LCDN data node. Moreover, thinkstep is a consortium partner in the “remodelling project” for the European Commission that will remodel the final representative products and organisations for all PEFCRs and OEFSRs, hence delivering the important benchmark results. Read more about thinkstep's role in the PEF/OEF and how thinkstep is partnering with industry.

I am both excited and proud that thinkstep can bring in-depth expertise and decades of experience from my numerous colleagues, with thinkstep being a trusted partner of industry at this crucial moment when LCA is becoming the mainstream method for evaluating product and corporate environmental performance. I hope that our team’s continued and passionate contribution will ultimately help this initiative to bring the necessary quality and practicability that is needed “on the ground”, so that LCA can finally leave the academic realms. We pledge to continue supporting industry in your efforts to continually develop products with better environmental performance as a key contribution for a more sustainable society. This support offer includes naturally the efficient and compliant implementation of PEF/OEF studies for better and fairer communication of the environmental performance of your products and organisations.

Please enjoy reading this special 4-year-anniversary newsletter with more details about the PEF/OEF, including how thinkstep’s offering is tailored to support companies and associations worldwide in the context of PEF and OEF implementation. Check out what some of thinkstep’s experts say about the PEF/OEF and their specific contributions to this initiativ.