Certification Standards

JC 71188 Certification Standards


A certificate is an official document used to guarantee a specific characteristic. In the case of biodegradable polymer materials, a certificate is an attestation that a product is degradable under the conditions specified in the standard. In the case of materials made from renewable resources, the certificate proves that the product contains a specific percentage of renewable content.

Issued certificates containing a label of the certification authority and stating the standards on which the certificate is based and a certification number. The validity of the certificate can be verified on the certification organization website. Only final products are allowed to use the certification label proving that a product is compostable. The certificate distinguishes the product from other products  and proves that a material conforms to standard requirements. This is a clear advantage over other products that do not have the certificate.

Products that bear certification logos give consumers a beyond-doubt proof of product/material properties. The certification logo for compostable plastics enables simpler sorting of waste and correct handling and it provides a guarantee about the product’s quality.



European and international standards

NEN does not only develop and control the national standards but offers also the gateway to the European and global standards. See below for the most common agreements:


European standard (EN)

European EN standard is valid for all European Member States.

National standardization bodies are obliged to implement nationally the European standards.(implementation duties). For the Dutch market this means that the European Standards carry the codes: NEN-EN. For Germany the code is: DIN-EN.

International standard (ISO or IEC)

An international standard has been developed internationally by ISO or IEC. 

These implementation requirements for global standards do not apply to other countries. Documents that are accepted by The Netherlands gain the coding NEN

NEN-ISO or IEC. Some international standards are accepted in Europe. These are identified by the code: NEN-EN-ISO.

Technical Specification (CEN/TS or ISO/TS)

The technical specification is composed for provisional application.
The technical situations of the consensus is still insufficient to publish a standard. Also, a technical specification can be used for a quick interim publication of the result of the standards development process.

Technical Report (CEN/TR or ISO/TR)

A Technical Report (TR) has an informative character. It is published in order to provide certain information, such as technical data or an inventory of regulations and standards are made available for each country. Workshop agreement (CWA or IWA) A CWA or an IWA is developed in a CEN or ISO workshop. These workshops are open for everybody and everyone who is interested to participate. CWA or IWA are often the forerunner of a EN or ISO Standard.



CEN/TS 16137 – Measuring the Biobased Carbon Content of Plastics

  • CEN/TS 16137 is applicable for monomers, polymers, plastic materials, and biocomposites.

  • This European technical specification is based on Carbon-14 analysis.

  • Beta Analytic provides biobased carbon content analysis under CEN/TS 16137.

  • ISO/IEC 17025:2005-accredited Beta Analytic is not affiliated with CEN or CEN/TC 249.


CEN/TS 16137 was developed by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), specifically the Technical Committee CEN/TC 249 “Plastics.” This technical specification provides reference test and calculation methods for determining the biobased carbon content of plastics and other polymers that contain organic carbon. It is based on the Carbon-14 methods described in EN 15440 and ASTM D6866.

Under CEN/TS 16137, a material’s biobased carbon content is the “amount of carbon in a sample that is of recent origin as evidenced by its Carbon-14 isotope content.” CEN/TS 16137 specifies three test methods and expresses the biobased carbon content as:

– a fraction of sample mass;
– a fraction of the total carbon content; or
– a fraction of the total organic carbon content.


CEN/TS 16137:2011 (Plastics – Determination of bio-based carbon content) was first published on
July 31, 2011.

Note: A Technical Specification (TS) is a pre-standard that contains technical requirements. Although it is produced and approved by a CEN Technical Committee, it doesn’t have the status of a European Standard (EN). A TS may be adopted as a national standard. Its maximum lifetime though is only between two to three years. A TS can be converted into an EN standard if it will go through a CEN Enquiry and a Formal Vote.


Biobased Carbon Content Testing by Beta Analytic

ISO/IEC 17025:2005-accredited Beta Analytic measures the biobased carbon content of a material through Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), which directly measures the radiocarbon content of the material. Compared to the other two methods specified in CEN/TS 16137, AMS analysis is more accurate with standard deviation as low as 0.1%.

Based in Miami, Florida, Beta Analytic accepts samples throughout Europe via its forwarding office in London, UK.

Beta Analytic supports Europe’s biobased industry by providing high-quality biobased carbon content measurements. The company is not affiliated with the CEN or the CEN Technical Committee 249.


Understanding Carbon-14 Analysis

Headquartered in Miami, Florida, Beta Analytic provides biobased content / renewable carbon measurements to top commercial organizations, government agencies, scientists and engineers. BETA has been the world leader in Carbon-14 analyses since 1979 and has unmatched expertise analyzing complex samples. Call (305) 662-7760 or fill out our sample form today if you’re ready to send samples for testing.

  • Radiocarbon, or carbon-14, is present in all living and recently expired matter

  • Anything that is more than 50,000 years old no longer has carbon-14

  • One industrial application of radiocarbon dating is ASTM D6866

This discussion is a simplified introduction to radiocarbon dating. There are exceptions to the theories and relationships introduced below that are beyond the scope of this discussion.


What is Radiocarbon?

Carbon is the basis of life and is present in all living things.

Radiocarbon, or carbon-14 (also written as 14C), is an isotope of carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon-14 is present in all living things in minute amounts. Since it is radioactive, it gradually fades away by radioactive decay until it is all gone. Radiocarbon dating uses carbon-14 to determine the last time something (or someone) was alive.

When a plant stops assimilating carbon dioxide or when an animal or human being stops eating, the ingestion of carbon-14 also stops and the equilibrium is disrupted. From that time forward, the only process at work in the body is radioactive decay. Eventually, all the carbon-14 in the remains will disappear. This principle applies equally to a person dying, a corn stalk being cut down, or to a soybean plant being pulled out of the ground. When they stop living, they stop taking in carbon-14 from the air around them, and the amount of carbon-14 in the remains gradually disappears.

Radiocarbon Dating and ASTM D6866

Radiocarbon dating is applicable to biobased content measurements in manufactured products because they contain some combination of recently living materials and fossil materials. The standard developed for this purpose is called ASTM D6866.

Example: A product that is made of 100% polyethylene that came from petroleum will have a 0% biobased content result via ASTM D6866, whereas a product made of 100% polyethylene derived from plants will have an ASTM D6866 biobased content result of 100%.



EN 15440 Testing for Solid Recovered Fuels


  • EN 15440 was developed for renewable content determination of solid recovered fuels

  • Methods based on carbon-14 analysis are part of EN 15440

  • Beta Analytic provides carbon-14 analysis according to EN 15440


The Comité Européen de Normalisation (European Committee for Standardization), or CEN, published a technical specification in 2006 that deals with the determination of biogenic carbon content in solid recovered fuels. CEN/TS 15440:2006 outlined three methods: selective dissolution method, manual sorting, and the reductionistic method.

CEN Working Group 343, responsible for creating standards for SRF, published EN 15440:2011, a revised version of the 2006 document. The EN 15440 standard no longer includes the reductionistic method and specifies 3 methods based on carbon-14 analysis for determining the biomass or biogenic carbon content of SRF. The carbon-14 content of SRF can be measured via Proportional Scintillation Method (PSM), Beta Ionisation (BI), or Accelerated Mass Spectrometry (AMS). EN 15440 also includes an example of how to convert the biogenic carbon content to biomass energy.


EN 15440:2011 Methods

EN 15440 recommends three methods to determine the biomass fraction of mixed wastes:

1. Selective Dissolution Method (SDM) – based on the reaction of biomass in a mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. The method is not appropriate if the SRF sample has biomass components that are insoluble in sulfuric acid or fossil-based components that are soluble in the acid.

According to EN 15440, SDM must not be applied if the following materials are contained at levels above 5%: solid fuels (e.g. hard coal, coke, brown coal, lignite and peat), charcoal, biodegradable plastics of fossil origin, non-biodegradable plastics of biogenic origin, oil or fat present as a constituent of biomass, natural and/or synthetic rubber residues, wool, viscose, silicon rubber, or nylon, polyurethane or other polymers containing molecular amino groups. For rubber residues, the threshold is 10%.

2. Manual Sorting – This method entails visual inspection, thus it is ineffective when the SRF components are shredded finely or compressed. It is only applicable to materials with a particle size greater than 10 mm and where optically and physically distinguishable fractions can be separated and quantified.

3. Carbon-14 Method – This method measures the radiocarbon content of the mixed wastes and is applicable to all materials.

Source: European Commission MRR Guidance Document No. 3 (October 2012)


Sampling Standard for EN 15440

The standards to be used for solid recovered fuels are:

  • EN 15442 and EN 15443 – Sampling, transport, storage of the solid recovered fuel and sample preparation in the field

  • EN 15413 – Preparation of the test sample (lab sample)



ISO/IEC 17025 -General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories

the international reference for testing and calibration laboratories wanting to demonstrate their capacity to deliver reliable results.

ISO/IEC 17025 enables laboratories to demonstrate that they operate competently and generate valid results, thereby promoting confidence in their work both nationally and around the world. It also helps facilitate cooperation between laboratories and other bodies by generating wider acceptance of results between countries. Test reports and certificates can be accepted from one country to another without the need for further testing, which, in turn, improves international trade.

ISO/IEC 17025 is useful for any organization that performs testing, sampling or calibration and wants reliable results. This includes all types of laboratories, whether they be owned and operated by government, industry or, in fact, any other organization. The standard is also useful to universities, research centres, governments, regulators, inspection bodies, product certification organizations and other conformity assessment bodies with the need to do testing, sampling or calibration.


CEN/TC 249/WG 17 for Biopolymers

The CEN Technical Committee 249 is in charge of all standards for plastics. One of its working groups, the Working Group 17, is responsible for the development of standards for biopolymers. WG17 was established in October 2008 and has been active since January 2009.

As of October 2012, CEN/TC 249 has published one technical report and three technical specifications relevant to the biobased industry.

CEN/TR 15932: 2010 Plastics – Recommendation for terminology and characterisation of biopolymers and bioplastics (published March 2010)

CEN/TS 16137:2011 Plastics – Determination of bio-based carbon content (published April 2011)

CEN/TS 16295:2012 Plastics – Declaration of the bio-based carbon content (published February 2012)

CEN/TS 16398:2012 Plastics – Template for reporting and communication of bio-based carbon content and recovery options of biopolymers and bioplastics – Data sheet (published in October 2012)


EN 13432 and EN 14995 - European norms for industrial compostability

If bioplastics have proven their compostability according to international standards, they can be treated in industrial composting plants. Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonised European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995. These two standards define the technical specification for the compostability of bioplastics products:


EN 13432:2000 Packaging:

  • Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation

  • Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging

  • This is a harmonised European standard linked to the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). It allows for the presumption of conformity with essential requirements of the Directive. It has been translated and implemented in all the European Member States.


EN 14995:2006 Plastics:

  • Evaluation of compostability

  • Test scheme and specifications

  • It broadens the scope of plastics when used in non-packaging applications. The EN 13432 applies when plastics are used for packaging.


Requirements of the EN 13432 standard

The European Directive 94/62/EC for packaging and packaging waste has a dual purpose: a) encouraging all the Member states to engage in waste prevention and promote the reuse of packaging waste and b) to coordinate and harmonise all the initiatives in this context so as to ensure the flow of trade is unimpeded in the European Union and prevent anti-competitive practices.

The key component of the EN 13432 standard is the need to recover packaging waste on the basis of industrial composting. The standard defines both the test programme and the assessment criteria compostable packaging has to meet.

As the EN 13432 standard is harmonised, all packaging that is consistent with this standard is automatically in keeping with the requirements of the packaging Directive in terms of post-use recovery.

The requirements of the EN 13432 standard are included in the OK compost verification mark certification programme without any additions or omissions. The requirements are assessed as part of the original certification but continue to be monitored on the market by a competent third party. The key requirements are:

  • Chemical composition: the standard sets limits for volatile matter, heavy metals (Cu, Zn, Ni, Cd, Pb, Hg, Cr, Mo, Se, As) and fluorine

  • Biodegradation : chemical breakdown of materials into CO2, water and minerals. Pursuant to the standard at least 90% of the materials have to be broken down by biological action within 6 months.

  • Disintegration : the physical decomposition of a product into tiny pieces. After 12 weeks at least 90% of  the product should be able to pass through a 2 x 2 mm mesh.

  • Quality of the final compost and ecotoxicity: the quality of the  compost should not decline as a result of the added packaging material. The standard specifies checking this via ecotoxicity tests: this involves making an examination to see if the germination and biomass production of plants are not adversely affected by the influence of composted packaging.

The EN 13432 standard specifies that packaging may be deemed to be compostable only if all the constituents and components of the packaging are compostable. During the certification procedure an assessment is made not only of the basic materials but also of the various additives and other product properties.

Consequently, an OK compost logo on packaging means:

  • The packaging meets all the requirements of the EN 13432 standard

  • The packaging meets all the requirements of the packaging Directive

  • A neutral competent third party has validated the conformity and guaranteed the monitoring of the product on the market.


For full details about OK compost certification, get in touch with the department in Brussels:





+32(0)2 674 57 50

+32(0)2 674 57 85



For other plastic items such as organic waste bags and agricultural mulch films the equivalent standard is BS EN14995. This standard contains exactly the same criteria as BS EN13432 but is different in scope. If a material is certified to BS EN13432 then it should also be viewed as certified to BS EN14995 and vice-versa. For a product to achieve certification to BS EN 13432 or BS EN14995 all materials have to be biodegradable. The addition of materials which are not biodegradable will deem the product unsuitable for the BS EN 13432   or BS EN14995 criteria. Home compostability is not the same as industrial compostability and should never be seen as an equivalent.

Equivalent form (product family) – A product or packaging item which has already been certified as compostable will also be considered so in another form as long as its composition and mass to surface ratio or wall thickness is the same or less as originally certified. A product family is designated in this situation whereby only the products dimensions (not exceeding max thickness) are different. The product is still comprised of the exact same materials, constituents and additives as the originally certified product.

Natural materials – A chemically unmodified material of natural origin shall not be required to undertake biodegradation testing as it is automatically considered to be organically recoverable. It is still the requirement that the material be tested by means of disintegration, chemical analysis and compost quality. Natural materials include: wood, natural wool, cotton fibre, paper pulp and jute.

Additive (significant organic compounds) – for each additive which is present in a product that does not exceed 1% by mass only a designation of suitability to a composting process by way of Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and quantitative heavy metal analysis is required. If the amount of additives exceeds 1% by mass then chemical testing, chemical composition and ultimate biodegradability results will be required. If the amount of additives or significant organic compounds exceeds 5% by mass of the final product applicability to composting has to be proven.

The framework outline in EN 13432 allows a product to be defined as compostable if it passes the 4 testing parameters set out.

Concise guide to compostable products and packaging

Test Criteria


Test Method(s)

Test Requirements


Test is a measure of the extent to which the product is converted to water, carbon dioxide and/or biomass by means of microbial action. Requires that every product component, material or item be biodegradable.

Biodegradability shall be demonstrated through laboratory testing and carried out to the correct methodology i.e. ISO:

14855 - biodegradability under controlled aerobic composting conditions

14851 – aerobic degradability in water (oxygen demand)

14852 – aerobic degradability in water

(evolved carbon dioxide)

Test is carried for a maximum of 6 months (dependant on how susceptible the product is to composting conditions) by which time the amount of carbon dioxide release must be at least 90% as much carbon dioxide given off by a reference/control sample.


Test designed to quantify the

„physical falling apart into small fragments of packaging and packaging materials‟3.

Test is carried out on the end product specification or as close to an end specification as feasible. The use of a pilot-scale test is utilised to recreate an industrial composting system. A sample of the test material is added to an organic waste fraction and is then

sustained under relevant pilot-scale testing condition at 58°C for 12 weeks.

The standard requires that at the end of the period at least 90% of material must pass through a 2mm sieve.


The residue from disintegration testing is utilised for ecotoxicity analysis the aim of which is to highlight any potential negative affects on the compost material.

Comparison of samples, one with and one without product material, which have gone through the disintegration tests are used to determine any negative toxicological affects e.g. pH, volatile solids, salinity, magnesium, N,P,Kand ammonium nitrogen. The use of two higher plants tests which conform to the requirements of the OCED 208 “Terrestrial Plants, Growth


The number of grown plants and the plant biomass within the sample and control sample are compared. Percentage is provided against the blank compost. The percent should be no less than 90% of the blank sample.

Chemical Analysis

Heavy metal concentrations are used to indicate any potential negative affects of the end compost quality. Especially important to composters going down a quality route i.e. PAS 100 / compost quality


Disclosure of all chemical element concentrations must be given to the certifying body as a way of disclosing the presence of hazardous substances. Analysis of heavy metals is normally undertaken by

manufacturer of each constituent.

The 11 chemicals must be under the stated threshold concentrations shown in the EN 13432 standard.

3 EN 13432 Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation – test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging‟ standard

Certified to EN 13432 by two European certification bodies Din Certco (Germany) and Vinçotte (Belgium). Both organisations operate two individual schemes and have adopted separate logos for recognition of compostability.

Vinçotte – OK Compost

Running for 15 years, Vinçotte‟s OK Compost has established itself in Europe as a recognised certification scheme which has now developed into a range of end of waste certification classifications: OK Compost HOME, OK Bio-based, OK biodegradable SOIL and OK biodegradable WATER.


More information on Vinçotte‟s OK Compost can be obtained from:http://www.okcompost.be/en/home/

Din Certco:

As a certification organisation it has been operating for more than 30 years. They are licensed to use and supply the ”Seedling Logo‟ from European bioplastics which is internationally recognised and denotes certification to EN 13432.


                                     Seedling logo

More information on Din Certco can be obtained from:www.dincertco.de/en/products_made_of_compostable_materials.html



ISO 14040 - Life Cycle Assessment - principles and framework of life cycle assessments

ISO 14040:2006 describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements. ISO 14040:2006 covers life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and life cycle inventory (LCI) studies. It does not describe the LCA technique in detail, nor does it specify methodologies for the individual phases of the LCA. The intended application of LCA or LCI results is considered during definition of the goal and scope, but the application itself is outside the scope of this International Standard.

ISO 14044

ISO 14044:2006 specifies requirements and provides guidelines for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements.

ISO 14044:2006 covers life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and life cycle inventory (LCI) studies.


Life cyle Assessment

LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis[1]  is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. Designers use this process to help critique their products. LCAs can help avoid a narrow outlook on environmental concerns by:

Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases;

Evaluating the potential impacts associated with identified inputs and releases;

Interpreting the results to help make a more informed decision. [2] 

Goals and purpose

The goal of LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services by quantifying all inputs and outputs of material flows and assessing how these material flows affect the environment. [3] This information is used to improve processes, support policy and provide a sound basis for informed decisions.[4]

The term life cycle refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the assessment of raw-material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product's existence.

There are two main types of LCA. Attributional LCAs seek to establish (or attribute) the burdens associated with the production and use of a product, or with a specific service or process, at a point in time (typically the recent past). Consequential LCAs seek to identify the environmental consequences of a decision or a proposed change in a system under study (oriented to the future), which means that market and economic implications of a decision may have to be taken into account. Social LCA is under development[5] as a different approach to life cycle thinking intended to assess social implications or potential impacts. Social LCA should be considered as an approach that is complementary to environmental LCA.

The procedures of life cycle assessment (LCA) are part of the ISO 14000 environmental management standards: in ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006. (ISO 14044 replaced earlier versions of ISO 14041 to ISO 14043.) GHG product life cycle assessments can also comply with specifications such as PAS 2050 and the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard. [4] [6] [7]   

Four Main Phases

According to the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards, a Life Cycle Assessment is carried out in four distinct phases as illustrated in the figure shown to the right. The phases are often interdependent in that the results of one phase will inform how other phases are completed.


Life cycle inventory


This is an example of a Life-cycle inventory (LCI) diagram

Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) analysis involves creating an inventory of flows from and to nature for a product system. Inventory flows include inputs of water, energy, and raw materials, and releases to air, land, and water. To develop the inventory, a flow model of the technical system is constructed using data on inputs and outputs. The flow model is typically illustrated with a flow chart that includes the activities that are going to be assessed in the relevant supply chain and gives a clear picture of the technical system boundaries. The input and output data needed for the construction of the model are collected for all activities within the system boundary, including from the supply chain (referred to as inputs from the technosphere).

The data must be related to the functional unit defined in the goal and scope definition. Data can be presented in tables and some interpretations can be made already at this stage. The results of the inventory is an LCI which provides information about all inputs and outputs in the form of elementary flow to and from the environment from all the unit processes involved in the study.

Inventory flows can number in the hundreds depending on the system boundary. For product LCAs at either the generic (i.e., representative industry averages) or brand-specific level, that data is typically collected through survey questionnaires. At an industry level, care has to be taken to ensure that questionnaires are completed by a representative sample of producers, leaning toward neither the best nor the worst, and fully representing any regional differences due to energy use, material sourcing or other factors. The questionnaires cover the full range of inputs and outputs, typically aiming to account for 99% of the mass of a product, 99% of the energy used in its production and any environmentally sensitive flows, even if they fall within the 1% level of inputs.

One area where data access is likely to be difficult is flows from the technosphere. The technosphere is more simply defined as the man-made world. Considered by geologists as secondary resources, these resources are in theory 100% recyclable; however, in a practical sense, the primary goal is salvage. For an LCI, these technosphere products (supply chain products) are those that have been produced by man and unfortunately those completing a questionnaire about a process which uses a man-made product as a means to an end will be unable to specify how much of a given input they use. Typically, they will not have access to data concerning inputs and outputs for previous production processes of the product. The entity undertaking the LCA must then turn to secondary sources if it does not already have that data from its own previous studies. National databases or data sets that come with LCA-practitioner tools, or that can be readily accessed, are the usual sources for that information. Care must then be taken to ensure that the secondary data source properly reflects regional or national conditions.



LCI Methods

  • Process LCA

  • Economic Input Output LCA

  • Hybrid Approach


Life cycle impact assessment

Inventory analysis is followed by impact assessment. This phase of LCA is aimed at evaluating the significance of potential environmental impacts based on the LCI flow results. Classical life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) consists of the following mandatory elements:

  • selection of impact categories, category indicators, and characterization models;

  • the classification stage, where the inventory parameters are sorted and assigned to specific impact categories; and

  • impact measurement, where the categorized LCI flows are characterized, using one of many possible LCIA methodologies, into common equivalence units that are then summed to provide an overall impact category total.

In many LCAs, characterization concludes the LCIA analysis; this is also the last compulsory stage according to ISO 14044:2006. However, in addition to the above mandatory LCIA steps, other optional LCIA elements – normalization, grouping, and weighting – may be conducted depending on the goal and scope of the LCA study. In normalization, the results of the impact categories from the study are usually compared with the total impacts in the region of interest, the U.S. for example. Grouping consists of sorting and possibly ranking the impact categories. During weighting, the different environmental impacts are weighted relative to each other so that they can then be summed to get a single number for the total environmental impact. ISO 14044:2006 generally advises against weighting, stating that “weighting, shall not be used in LCA studies intended to be used in comparative assertions intended to be disclosed to the public”. This advice is often ignored, resulting in comparisons that can reflect a high degree of subjectivity as a result of weighting.

Life cycle impacts can also be categorized under the several phases of the development, production, use, and disposal of a product. Broadly speaking, these impacts can be divided into "First Impacts," use impacts, and end of life impacts. "First Impacts" include extraction of raw materials, manufacturing (conversion of raw materials into a product), transportation of the product to a market or site, construction/installation, and the beginning of the use or occupancy. Use impacts include physical impacts of operating the product or facility (such as energy, water, etc.), maintenance, renovation and repairs (required to continue to use the product or facility). End of life impacts include demolition and processing of waste or recyclable materials.



Life Cycle Interpretation is a systematic technique to identify, quantify, check, and evaluate information from the results of the life cycle inventory and/or the life cycle impact assessment. The results from the inventory analysis and impact assessment are summarized during the interpretation phase. The outcome of the interpretation phase is a set of conclusions and recommendations for the study. According to ISO 14040:2006, the interpretation should include:

  • identification of significant issues based on the results of the LCI and LCIA phases of an LCA;

  • evaluation of the study considering completeness, sensitivity and consistency checks; and

  • conclusions, limitations and recommendations.

A key purpose of performing life cycle interpretation is to determine the level of confidence in the final results and communicate them in a fair, complete, and accurate manner. Interpreting the results of an LCA is not as simple as "3 is better than 2, therefore Alternative A is the best choice"! Interpreting the results of an LCA starts with understanding the accuracy of the results, and ensuring they meet the goal of the study. This is accomplished by identifying the data elements that contribute significantly to each impact category, evaluating the sensitivity of these significant data elements, assessing the completeness and consistency of the study, and drawing conclusions and recommendations based on a clear understanding of how the LCA was conducted and the results were developed.


Reference test

More specifically, the best alternative is the one that the LCA shows to have the least cradle-to-grave environmental negative impact on land, sea, and air resources.


LCA Uses

Based on a survey of LCA practitioners carried out in 2006 LCA is mostly used to support business strategy (18%) and R&D (18%), as input to product or process design (15%), in education (13%) and for labeling or product declarations (11%). LCA will be continuously integrated into the built environment as tools such as the European ENSLIC Building project guidelines for buildings or developed and implemented, which provide practitioners guidance on methods to implement LCI data into the planning and design process.

Major corporations all over the world are either undertaking LCA in house or commissioning studies, while governments support the development of national databases to support LCA. Of particular note is the growing use of LCA for ISO Type III labels called Environmental Product Declarations, defined as "quantified environmental data for a product with pre-set categories of parameters based on the ISO 14040 series of standards, but not excluding additional environmental information". These third-party certified LCA-based labels provide an increasingly important basis for assessing the relative environmental merits of competing products. Third-party certification plays a major role in today's industry. Independent certification can show a company's dedication to safer and environmental friendlier products to customers and NGOs.

LCA also has major roles in environmental impact assessment, integrated waste management and pollution studies. A recent study evaluated the LCA of a laboratory scale plant for oxygen enriched air production coupled with its economic evaluation in an holistic eco-design standpoint. LCA has also been used to assess the environmental impacts of pavement maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation activities.


Data analysis

A life cycle analysis is only as valid as its data; therefore, it is crucial that data used for the completion of a life cycle analysis are accurate and current. When comparing different life cycle analyses with one another, it is crucial that equivalent data are available for both products or processes in question. If one product has a much higher availability of data, it cannot be justly compared to another product which has less detailed data.

There are two basic types of LCA data – unit process data and environmental input-output data (EIO), where the latter is based on national economic input-output data.  Unit process data are derived from direct surveys of companies or plants producing the product of interest, carried out at a unit process level defined by the system boundaries for the study.

Data validity is an ongoing concern for life cycle analyses. Due to globalization and the rapid pace of research and development, new materials and manufacturing methods are continually being introduced to the market. This makes it both very important and very difficult to use up-to-date information when performing an LCA. If an LCA’s conclusions are to be valid, the data must be recent; however, the data-gathering process takes time. If a product and its related processes have not undergone significant revisions since the last LCA data was collected, data validity is not a problem. However, consumer electronics such as cell phones can be redesigned as often as every 9 to 12 months, creating a need for ongoing data collection.

The life cycle considered usually consists of a number of stages including: materials extraction, processing and manufacturing, product use, and product disposal. If the most environmentally harmful of these stages can be determined, then impact on the environment can be efficiently reduced by focusing on making changes for that particular phase. For example, the most energy-intensive life phase of an airplane or car is during use due to fuel consumption. One of the most effective ways to increase fuel efficiency is to decrease vehicle weight, and thus, car and airplane manufacturers can decrease environmental impact in a significant way by replacing heavier materials with lighter ones such as aluminium or carbon fiber-reinforced elements. The reduction during the use phase should be more than enough to balance additional raw material or manufacturing cost.

Data sources are typically large databases, it is not appropriate to compare two options if different data sources have been used to source the data. Data sources include:

  • soca

  • EuGeos' 15804-IA


  • ecoinvent


  • ESU World Food

  • GaBi

  • ELCD

  • LC-Inventories.ch

  • Social Hotspots

  • ProBas

  • bioenergiedat

  • Agribalyse

  • USDA

  • Ökobaudat

  • Agri-footprint

  • Comprehensive Environmental Data Archive (CEDA)

Calculations for impact can then be done by hand, but it is more usual to streamline the process by using software. This can range from a simple spreadsheet, where the user enters the data manually to a fully automated program, where the user is not aware of the source data.




Cradle-to-grave is the full Life Cycle Assessment from resource extraction ('cradle') to use phase and disposal phase ('grave'). For example, trees produce paper, which can be recycled into low-energy production cellulose (fiberised paper) insulation, then used as an energy-saving device in the ceiling of a home for 40 years, saving 2,000 times the fossil-fuel energy used in its production. After 40 years the cellulose fibers are replaced and the old fibers are disposed of, possibly incinerated. All inputs and outputs are considered for all the phases of the life cycle.


Cradle-to-gate is an assessment of a partial product life cycle from resource extraction (cradle) to the factory gate (i.e., before it is transported to the consumer). The use phase and disposal phase of the product are omitted in this case. Cradle-to-gate assessments are sometimes the basis for environmental product declarations (EPD) termed business-to-business EDPs.  One of the significant uses of the cradle-to-gate approach compiles the life cycle inventory (LCI) using cradle-to-gate. This allows the LCA to collect all of the impacts leading up to resources being purchased by the facility. They can then add the steps involved in their transport to plant and manufacture process to more easily produce their own cradle-to-gate values for their products.

Cradle-to-cradle or closed loop production (Cradlle to cradle design)

Cradle-to-cradle is a specific kind of cradle-to-grave assessment, where the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process. It is a method used to minimize the environmental impact of products by employing sustainable production, operation, and disposal practices and aims to incorporate social responsibility into product development. From the recycling process originate new, identical products (e.g., asphalt pavement from discarded asphalt pavement, glass bottles from collected glass bottles), or different products (e.g., glass wool insulation from collected glass bottles).

Allocation of burden for products in open loop production systems presents considerable challenges for LCA. Various methods, such as the avoided burden approach have been proposed to deal with the issues involved.


Gate-to-gate is a partial LCA looking at only one value-added process in the entire production chain. Gate-to-gate modules may also later be linked in their appropriate production chain to form a complete cradle-to-gate evaluation.


Well-to-wheel is the specific LCA used for transport fuels and vehicles. The analysis is often broken down into stages entitled "well-to-station", or "well-to-tank", and "station-to-wheel" or "tank-to-wheel", or "plug-to-wheel". The first stage, which incorporates the feedstock or fuel production and processing and fuel delivery or energy transmission, and is called the "upstream" stage, while the stage that deals with vehicle operation itself is sometimes called the "downstream" stage. The well-to-wheel analysis is commonly used to assess total energy consumption, or the energy conversion efficiency and emissionsimpact of marine vesselsaircraft and motor vehicles, including their carbon footprint, and the fuels used in each of these transport modes.[28][29][30][31] WtW analysis is useful for reflecting the different efficiencies and emissions of energy technologies and fuels at both the upstream and downstream stages, giving a more complete picture of real emissions.

The well-to-wheel variant has a significant input on a model developed by the Argonne National Laboratory. The Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model was developed to evaluate the impacts of new fuels and vehicle technologies. The model evaluates the impacts of fuel use using a well-to-wheel evaluation while a traditional cradle-to-grave approach is used to determine the impacts from the vehicle itself. The model reports energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and six additional pollutants: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter with size smaller than 10 micrometre (PM10), particulate matter with size smaller than 2.5 micrometre (PM2.5), and sulfur oxides (SOx).

Quantitative values of greenhouse gas emissions calculated with the WTW or with the LCA method can differ, since the LCA is considering more emission sources. In example, while assessing the GHG emissions of a Battery Electric Vehicle in comparison with a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle, the WTW (accounting only the GHG for manufacturing the fuels) finds out that an electric vehicle can save the 50-60% of GHG, while an hybrid LCA-WTW method, considering also the GHG due to the manufacturing and the end of life of the battery gives GHG emission savings 10-13% lower, compared to the WTW. 

Economic input–output life cycle assessment

Economic input–output LCA (EIOLCA) involves use of aggregate sector-level data on how much environmental impact can be attributed to each sector of the economy and how much each sector purchases from other sectors. Such analysis can account for long chains (for example, building an automobile requires energy, but producing energy requires vehicles, and building those vehicles requires energy, etc.), which somewhat alleviates the scoping problem of process LCA; however, EIOLCA relies on sector-level averages that may or may not be representative of the specific subset of the sector relevant to a particular product and therefore is not suitable for evaluating the environmental impacts of products. Additionally the translation of economic quantities into environmental impacts is not validated

Ecologically based LCA

While a conventional LCA uses many of the same approaches and strategies as an Eco-LCA, the latter considers a much broader range of ecological impacts. It was designed to provide a guide to wise management of human activities by understanding the direct and indirect impacts on ecological resources and surrounding ecosystems. Developed by Ohio State University Center for resilience, Eco-LCA is a methodology that quantitatively takes into account regulating and supporting services during the life cycle of economic goods and products. In this approach services are categorized in four main groups: supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural services.


Exergy based LCA

Exergy of a system is the maximum useful work possible during a process that brings the system into equilibrium with a heat reservoir.[36][37] Wall [38] clearly states the relation between exergy analysis and resource accounting. This intuition confirmed by DeWulf [40] and Sciubba [41] lead to Exergo-economic accounting and to methods specifically dedicated to LCA such as Exergetic material input per unit of service (EMIPS). The concept of material input per unit of service (MIPS) is quantified in terms of the second law of thermodynamics, allowing the calculation of both resource input and service output in exergy terms. This exergetic material input per unit of service (EMIPS) has been elaborated for transport technology. The service not only takes into account the total mass to be transported and the total distance, but also the mass per single transport and the delivery time.


Life cycle energy analysis

Life cycle energy analysis (LCEA) is an approach in which all energy inputs to a product are accounted for, not only direct energy inputs during manufacture, but also all energy inputs needed to produce components, materials and services needed for the manufacturing process. An earlier term for the approach was energy analysis.

With LCEA, the total life cycle energy input is established.


Energy production

It is recognized that much energy is lost in the production of energy commodities themselves, such as nuclear energyphotovoltaic electricity or high-quality petroleum productsNet energy content is the energy content of the product minus energy input used during extraction and conversion, directly or indirectly. A controversial early result of LCEA claimed that manufacturing solar cells requires more energy than can be recovered in using the solar cell. The result was refuted.  Another new concept that flows from life cycle assessments is Energy Cannibalism. Energy Cannibalism refers to an effect where rapid growth of an entire energy-intensive industry creates a need for energy that uses (or cannibalizes) the energy of existing power plants. Thus during rapid growth the industry as a whole produces no energy because new energy is used to fuel the embodied energy of future power plants. Work has been undertaken in the UK to determine the life cycle energy (alongside full LCA) impacts of a number of renewable technologies.


Energy recovery

If materials are incinerated during the disposal process, the energy released during burning can be harnessed and used for electricity production. This provides a low-impact energy source, especially when compared with coal and natural gas. While incineration produces more greenhouse gas emissions than landfilling, the waste plants are well-fitted with filters to minimize this negative impact. A recent study comparing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from landfilling (without energy recovery) against incineration (with energy recovery) found incineration to be superior in all cases except for when landfill gas is recovered for electricity production.



It has also been argued that energy efficiency is only one consideration in deciding which alternative process to employ, and that it should not be elevated to the only criterion for determining environmental acceptability. For example, simple energy analysis does not take into account the renewability of energy flows or the toxicity of waste products; Incorporating Dynamic LCAs of renewable energy technologies (using sensitivity analyses to project future improvements in renewable systems and their share of the power grid) may help mitigate this criticism.

In recent years, the literature on life cycle assessment of energy technology has begun to reflect the interactions between the current electrical grid and future energy technology. Some papers have focused on energy life cycle,  while others have focused on carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.[54] The essential critique given by these sources is that when considering energy technology, the growing nature of the power grid must be taken into consideration. If this is not done, a given class of energy technology may emit more CO2 over its lifetime than it mitigates.

A problem the energy analysis method cannot resolve is that different energy forms (heatelectricitychemical energy etc.) have different quality and value even in natural sciences, as a consequence of the two main laws of thermodynamics. A thermodynamic measure of the quality of energy is exergy. According to the first law of thermodynamics, all energy inputs should be accounted with equal weight, whereas by the second law diverse energy forms should be accounted by different values.

The conflict is resolved in one of these ways:

  • value difference between energy inputs is ignored,

  • a value ratio is arbitrarily assigned (e.g., a joule of electricity is 2.6 times more valuable than a joule of heat or fuel input),

  • the analysis is supplemented by economic (monetary) cost analysis,

  • exergy instead of energy can be the metric used for the life cycle analysis.

Streamline LCA

This process includes three steps. First, a proper method should be selected to combine adequate accuracy with acceptable cost burden in order to guide decision making. Actually, in LCA process, besides streamline LCA, Eco-screening and complete LCA are usually considered as well. However, the former one only could provide limited details and the latter one with more detailed information is more expensive. Second, single measure of stress should be selected. Typical LCA output includes resource consumption, energy consumption, water consumption, emission of CO2, toxic residues and so on. One of these outputs is used as the main factor to measure in streamline LCA. Energy consumption and CO2 emission are often regarded as “practical indicators”. Last, stress selected in step 2 is used as standard to assess phase of life separately and identify the most damaging phase. For instance, for a family car, energy consumption could be used as the single stress factor to assess each phase of life. The result shows that the most energy intensive phase for a family car is the usage stage.


Life Cycle Assessment of Engineered Material in Service plays a significant role in saving energy, conserving resources and saving billions by preventing premature failure of critical engineered component in a machine or equipment. LCA data of surface engineered materials are used to improve life cycle of the engineered component. Life cycle improvement of industrial machineries and equipments including, manufacturing, power generation, transportations, etc. leads to improvement in energy efficiency, sustainability and negating global temperature rise.[60][63] Estimated reduction in anthropogenic carbon emission is minimum 10% of the global emission.



ISO 14067 - Carbon Footprint of Products

In recent years, climate change has emerged as one of the most important environmental issues. The cause of the global warming is the increase of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which leads to greater interest of the consumers and other stakeholders in the environmental impact of their activities, products, and services. Although this means a challenge for organizations, it can also be seen as an opportunity. The certification of the Carbon Footprint, which belongs to the environmental series ISO 14000, enables the organization to demonstrate its environmental responsibility.

Currently, there are two types of methodology approaches for the carbon footprint calculation: one is based on the organization, and the other on the product. In this article, we will focus on the international standard for the quantification and communication of the products.

The Concept of CFP (Carbon Footprint of a Product)

The Carbon Footprint of a Product is the total of the greenhouse emissions generated during the life cycle assessment of a product—that is, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal. The GHG are considered all gaseous substances for which the IPCC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) has defined a global warming potential coefficient. They are expressed in mass-based CO2 equivalents (CO2e), which is the unit of measurement in ISO 14067.

The contribution of the standard

In May 2013, ISO TS 14067:2013 was published, which specifies principles, requirements, and guidelines for the quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of products (CFPS), including goods and services, covering GHG emissions and removals over the life cycle of a product.

The standard establishes a recognized reference frame for the Carbon Footprint of a Product, and it has been considered as “a very important tool for obtaining a good indication of areas in which greenhouse gases can be reduced” by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Klaus Radunsky.

Prior to the publication of this standard, numerous assessment models were developed; however, there were no objective analyses or tools for comparing these classifications. This was the main reason for the standard’s development, which was based on previous environmental labeling and management standards.

The application of ISO 14067:2013

ISO 14067 provides the criteria to calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product, now a competitive tool in the marketplace. This increases the consumer trust on this environmental indicator and helps to clarify the labeling of the products.

The international standard bases the footprint calculation on the life cycle analysis. That helps to discern which stage is responsible for most of the emissions, provides valuable information on how to correctly identify the opportunities for improvement, and allows for achievement of maximum efficiency.

The standard clarifies the GHG assessment, providing specific requirements in the life cycle assessment (LCA) approach, choosing system boundaries and simulating use and end-of-life phases when quantifying Carbon Footprint of a Product (CFP).

The functional unit in ISO 14067 can be either a product or a service. The results of a CFP study can be reported as a product unit or in terms of services provided.


System boundaries

Results for the carbon footprint will vary widely depending on what is included when making the calculations, and the methodology.

According to ISO 14067, the life cycle stages that need to be studied in the LCA are defined by the following system boundaries:

Cradle-to-grave: includes the emissions and removals generated during the full life of cycle of the product

Cradle-to-gate: includes the emissions and removals up to where the product leaves the organization

Gate-to-gate: includes the emissions and removals that arise in the supply chain

Partial CFP: includes the emissions and removals that come only from specific stages

Selecting system boundaries avoids data manipulation, because organizations will no longer be able to exclude life cycle stages that they claim to have limited significance.


Communication practices

Carbon footprint is becoming popular among companies to differentiate their products in a competitive market, hence the importance of the communication of this measurement.

ISO 14067 makes a valuable contribution to GHG quantification, allowing a transparent communication and comparison of CFPs made among identical quantification and communication requirements.

The standard provides a step-by-step guide and standardized template for communicating the result of the CFPs. That can be made in the form of a CFP external communication report, CFP performance tracking report, CFP declaration, or CFP label. A standardized format of each type is provided in the standard.

This is also complemented by an external communication report (ECR) and a carbon footprint performance report (CFPR). These reports depend less on quantification and provide quick and traceable information to the final consumers.



There are many benefits that arise when performing a CFP assessment:

The standard makes reliable and comparable parameters available to organizations and consumers.

Life cycle processes that significantly contribute to CFP can be identified by service providers and manufacturers; thus, improvement in the efficiency of the value creation chain by reducing emissions can be achieved when taking targeted measures. Furthermore, this LCA can help organizations to implement other standards, for instance ISO 14001:2015 (see more about the ISO 14001 approach in the article Lifecycle perspective in ISO 14001:2015 – What does it mean?).

The standard provides a transparent quantification and reporting of the GHG, including those generated from the production to the waste disposal or recycling – that is, the whole life cycle of the product or service.

ISO 14067 is also consistent with other environmental standards, for instance, ISO 14025 (environmental labels and declarations), ISO 14044 (lifecycle assessment), and BSI PAS 2050 (specification for the assessment of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services).

The calculation of CFP is the first step towards the implementation of a reduction and offsetting strategy for the emissions.


Making a difference

The publication of this standard means a step forward in GHG quantification by using a new range of system boundaries, but furthermore provides transparent communication and comparison, because ISO 14067 makes available a standardized template for reporting CFP assessments. By implementing this standard, a company demonstrates its environmental responsibility, differentiation itself from competitors and reinforcing its image.




ISO 14020 series standards

The series of ISO 14020 standard defines various communication formats dedicated to environment.
The basic standard ISO 14020 provides a general framework of communication in order to respect transparency and terminology rules. The aim is to provide consumers and buyers a clear environmental information. These rules allowslimmiting confusion and misinterpretation.

The standard has been broken down into different formats of "environmental claims" . In this way, three additional standards allow us to propose a fullcommunication approach according to graded requirements:




Environmental products statements

Environmental statement

type II

type I

type III


Auto-déclarations performance environnementale


Déclarations environnementales produits

Associated norm

ISO 14024

ISO 14021

ISO 14025


It allows you to frame a communication made by independent company.

It proposes a national or international framework in order to meet the specifications of one product categpry to introduce various quality and environmental guarantees.

They help framing communication around a product approach based on the life cycle analysis of a pecular product. For more information, see DEP and EPD paragraph DEP et EPD

- Interest

- Flexibility

- Visibility
- Transparency

- Specific


- Isolated approach
- Limited transparency or unknown methodology

- Small amount of rules by product category

- Costly approach
- Inaccessible result understanding and interpretation


ISO 14024 – Type I Environmental Labeling Programs

ISO 14024:2018 – Environmental labels and declarations – Type I environmental labelling – Principles and procedures has been released. Ecolabeling as a practice spans back decades, as environmental problems have long persisted in tandem with the processes that support civilization. However, while ecological issues have remained the same, their effects have worsened, shifting the context in which we perceive and address them. Today, due to the urgency to remedy numerous anthropogenic environmental changes, it is accepted by the general public, experts, and most governments that something needs to be done. Companies are largely responsible for the environmental degradation following the Industrial Revolution, so incorporating sustainable practices into any organization, large or small, can help limit future environmental harm. Environmental labels are a marker for a product’s sustainability, demonstrating that it is natural, recyclable, ecofriendly, low-energy, etc. This conveys a clear message to customers, who can use the ecolabels to make green decisions, ultimately putting environmental improvements into their own hands. The consumer is the one who supports the company, after all. Ecolabels come in various forms. Type I environmental labeling results from a voluntary, multiple-criteria-based third party program that awards an environmental label to products that meet a set of predetermined requirements. Therefore, the label identifies products that are determined to be environmentally preferable within a particular product category. ISO 14024:2018 establishes the principles and procedures for Type I environmental labeling programs. According to ISO 14024:2018, Type I environmental labeling programs are voluntary, and they can be operated by public or private agencies at the national, regional, or international level. 

When ISO 14024 was first published in 1999, ecolabeling was just a growing concern. Today, however, the importance of environmental labeling has heightened with the seriousness of contemporary environmental problems. Skepticism has even risen with validity of certain ecolabels. Due to the market advantage given to products with environmental labels, ISO 14024 needed an update to meet current consumer expectations and demands. ISO 14024:2018, the second edition of the standard, aims to strengthen the guidelines for facts and documentation used for ecolabeling and defining the competence of verifiers.

In doing so, ISO 14024:2018 contains the following major changes:

  • Updated reference documents

  • Added definitions for verifier and verification

  • Added subclause 5.16 and a paragraph in 6.1 for the competence of verifiers

  • Added subclauses 5.1 for data quality and 7.4.5 for verification
    referring to certification at: https://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=ISO%2014024:2018&source=blog


ISO 14021:1999 - Type II self-declared environmental claims

International Standard ISO 14021 was prepared by Technical Committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, Subcommittee SC 3, Environmental labelling.

The proliferation of environmental claims has created a need for environmental labelling standards which require that consideration be given to all relevant aspects of the life cycle of the product when such claims are developed.

Self-declared environmental claims may be made by manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers or anyone else likely to benefit from such claims. Environmental claims made in regard to products may take the form of statements, symbols or graphics on product or package labels, or in product literature, technical bulletins, advertising, publicity, telemarketing, as well as digital or electronic media, such as the Internet.

In self-declared environmental claims, the assurance of reliability is essential. It is important that verification is properly conducted to avoid negative market effects such as trade barriers or unfair competition, which can arise from unreliable and deceptive environmental claims. The evaluation methodology used by those who make environmental claims should be clear, transparent, scientifically sound and documented so that those who purchase or may potentially purchase products can be assured of the validity of the claims.

This International Standard specifies requirements for self-declared environmental claims, including statements, symbols and graphics, regarding products. It further describes selected terms commonly used in environmental claims and gives qualifications for their use. This International Standard also describes a general evaluation and verification methodology for self-declared environmental claims and specific evaluation and verification methods for the selected claims in this standard.

This International Standard does not preclude, override, or in any way change, legally required environmental information, claims or labelling, or any other applicable legal requirements.

Normative references

The following normative documents contain provisions which, through reference in this text, constitute provisions of this International Standard. For dated references, subsequent amendments to, or revisions of, any of these publications do not apply. However, parties to agreements based on this International Standard are encouraged to investigate the possibility of applying the most recent editions of the normative documents indicated below. For undated references, the latest edition of the normative document referred to applies. Members of ISO and IEC maintain registers of currently valid International Standards.

  • ISO 7000Graphical symbols for use on equipment — Index and synopsis.

  • ISO 14020:1998Environmental labels and declarations — General principles.

Terms and definitions

For the purposes of this International Standard, the following terms and definitions apply.


General terms


any two or more products from the same unit process

[SOURCE: ISO 14041:1998]

environmental aspect

element of an organization's activities or products that can interact with the environment

environmental claim

statement, symbol or graphic that indicates an environmental aspect of a product, a component or packaging

Note 1 to entry: An environmental claim may be made on product or packaging labels, through product literature, technical bulletins, advertising, publicity, telemarketing, as well as through digital or electronic media such as the Internet.

environmental claim verification

confirmation of the validity of an environmental claim using specific predetermined criteria and procedures with assurance of data reliability

environmental impact

any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization's activities or products

explanatory statement

any explanation which is needed or given so that an environmental claim can be properly understood by a purchaser, potential purchaser or user of the product

functional unit

quantified performance of a product system for use as a reference unit in a life cycle assessment study

[SOURCE: ISO 14040:1997]



life cycle

consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to final disposal

[SOURCE: ISO 14040:1997]

material identification

words, numbers or symbols used to designate composition of components of a product or packaging

Note 1 to entry: A material identification symbol is not considered to be an environmental claim.

Note 2 to entry: References [4] through [7] in the Bibliography give examples of International Standards, national standards and industry publications dealing with material identification symbols.


material that is used to protect or contain a product during transportation, storage, marketing or use

Note 1 to entry: For the purposes of this International Standard, the term "packaging" also includes any item that is physically attached to, or included with, a product or its container for the purpose of marketing the product or communicating information about the product.


any goods or service

qualified environmental claim

environmental claim which is accompanied by an explanatory statement that describes the limits of the claim

self-declared environmental claim

environmental claim that is made, without independent third-party certification, by manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers or anyone else likely to benefit from such a claim


characteristic of a product that allows its modules or parts to be separately upgraded or replaced without having to replace the entire product


anything for which the generator or holder has no further use and which is discarded or is released to the environment


Selected terms commonly used in self-declared environmental claims

Requirements for the usage of the terms listed below, in the context of making an environmental claim, are given in clause 7 (available in the full content of the standard).






Designed for disassembly


Extended life product


Recovered energy




Recycled content a)

Pre-consumer material a) 1)

Post-consumer material 2)

Recycled material b)

Recovered [reclaimed] material c)

Reduced energy consumption


Reduced resource use


Reduced water consumption




Waste reduction



ISO 14025 - Type III environmental declaration

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. As a voluntary declaration of the life-cycle environmental impact, having an EPD for a product does not imply that the declared product is environmentally superior to alternatives.

The relevant standard for Environmental Product Declarations is ISO 14025, where they are referred to as "type III environmental declarations". A type III environmental declaration is created and registered in the framework of a programme, such as the International EPD®  System.

An EPD  may be used for many different applications, including green public procurement (GPP) and building assessment schemes. The concept of  type III environmental declarations was developed to primarily be used in business-to-business communication, but their use in business-to-consumer communication is not precluded by the standards.

All EPDs registered in the International EPD®  System are publically available and free to download through the EPD Search on this website.

ZJ2yUGUvA28w-T9XQ4FKQrhJM55g77ilIRLDqw_0 The EPD logotype and the acronym EPD are registered trademarks within the European Union.


An EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) is a verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. Having an EPD for a product does not imply that the declared product is environmentally superior to alternatives — it is simply a transparent declaration of the life-cycle environmental impact. An EPD is created and registered in the framework of a programme, such as the International EPD® System.

Application Areas of EPDS

The overall goal of an EPD is to provide relevant and verified information to meet the various communication needs. An important aspect of EPD is to provide the basis of a fair comparison of products and services by its environmental performance. EPDs can reflect the continuous environmental improvement of products and services over time and are able to communicate and add up relevant environmental information along a product's supply chain.

EPDs are based on principles inherent in the ISO standard for Type III environmental declarations (ISO 14025) giving them a wide-spread international acceptance.

Examples on how to use EPDs in different applications are described in the following sections:

Other areas of application could be national or international assessment schemes for other product categories (e.g. for construction products) or as input when applying for type II ecolabels.


EPD-related issues

Useful for Companies

Using EPD for communicating the environmental impact of products is applicable for companies of any size.

Data from the International EPD System show that in 2017:

- About 44% of the companies with published EPDs are large (more than 250 employees),
- About 46% of the companies are small- and medium-sized (SME),
- About 10% of the organisations are either industry associations or micro-sized companies (up to 10 employees).

It is, however, more common for large companies to register many EPDs for a range of their products, while smaller companies normally only publish one or two EPDs focusing on their key products.

The International EPD® System is working to be relevant for companies of any size. In 2013, a new tier was added for micro companies to the annual fee. For companies up to 10 employees, the annual fee is only €500.

Public Procurement

There are three main methods on how to use EPDs in public procurement:

1. To obtain environmental information on the product
To get information on the environmental impact from the goods and serviced being procured can be seen as the first step in greening the procurement activities. Knowledge about the impact of the subject matter is vital in order to be able to put down relevant GPP criteria in the tendering documents. EPDs can therefore give very useful input to GPP, either in the market analysis or as a first step in greening the GPP.

Information obtained from the EPDs can also serve as environmental information to different stakeholders.

2. As verification on environmental requirements in the tendering documents
As the EPDs contain information on the products environmental impact in a life cycle perspective, the EPD can be used to verify compliance provided that the environmental requirements put in the tendering documents is information that can be found in an EPD. Examples on such requirements are:

- the contents of hazardous materials and substances in the product
- environmental requirements on the production of the product
- energy consumption when using the product.

3. To be reward the environmentally best product
Information in EPDs within the same product group and based on the same PCR can also be used to compare products from an environmental point of view and also to reward the environmentally best product. This must be done according what is allowed in the legislation and the reward criteria must be transparent and non-discriminatory.

Link EPD from Company Website

As EPDs are administered by the programme, ensuring that the declaration is still valid, it is recommended to link to the EPD page at www.environdec.com instead of publishing the PDF file on the company website.
Links to EPDs registered in the International EPD System may normally be reached through a link of this format:


where 000 is replaced by the three last digits of the EPD registration number (e.g. 123 if the registration number is S-P-00123).

Recognize an EPD conformant with ISO 14025 and/or EN 15804

An EPD is a type III environmental declaration according to ISO 14025 or EN 15804. However, on the market there are other documents that could be mistaken for being type III environmental declarations, but rather should be seen as self-declarations or the results from LCA studies. Such documents are lacking some important characteristics of EPDs that are conformant with the standards.

Here are three important things to look for when reading a document claiming to be an EPD, with or without a reference to ISO 14025 or EN 15804:

1. Reference to an EPD programme
According to ISO 14025 and EN 15804, the EPD shall refer to the EPD programme under which it has been registered. The EPD programme operator is responsible for making sure that its documentation fulfills the requirements in the standards. The programme operator has many duties to fulfill, and is intended to ensure transparency and credibility in the declarations. As the programme operator shall maintain a public register over all registered EPDs it is also easy to check the validity of the EPD by visiting the website of the program operator or by contacting the operator. 

2. Reference to Product Category Rules (PCR)
The EPD shall also refer the PCR-document that has been used for the EPD development. The programme operator is responsible for that the PCR is developed according to the ISO standard. The PCR document ensures that the EPDs within the same product category are developed and presented in the same way and also gives information on the methods used in the life cycle assessment. The programme operator shall maintain a record over the PCR documents developed within the programme.

3. Information on the verification
The EPD shall have information on the verification process. Most EPD programmes requires a third party verification and the EPD shall contain information on the name of the verifier, which can either be a person or organisation. The EPD shall also give information on the validity date.

Relate the International EPD® system to the EU product environmental footprint (PEF) initiative

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is a European methodology for calculating the life cycle environmental impact of products. It is inspired by, but does not aim to be fully compliant with, among others, the international standards for 
- Life Cycle Assessment (ISO 14040/14044) and 
- Type III environmental declarations (ISO 14025). 

PEF is one part of the "Single market for Green products" recommendation by the European Commission released in April 2013, which shares much of the same vision as the International EPD® System: enabling verified, transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. The intended application and communication format of PEF remains to be decided. 

The PEF was in a pilot phase between 2013-2018, where twelve so-called PEFCR documents were finalized, and other aspects of the methodology and format of communication were investigated. The Secretariat and members of the Technical Committee participated in different ways in the pilot phase to ensure that knowledge developed during the long history and extensive PCR library of the International EPD® System were taken into account in this testing and revision of the draft methodology. 

The pilot phase will be replaced by a “transition phase” from autumn 2018-2021, where the European Commission will take stakeholder feedback on what European policies may benefit from the work done until now. During this transition phase, the International EPD® System will provide input when possible to contribute to harmonization and to help broaden the use of environmental declarations on an international market. To prepare for any upcoming policies, companies could start assessing the life cycle environmental impact of their products, and EPD serve as a tool to communicate the results. 

For harmonization between PEF with existing developments for construction products there is already work ongoing to revise the EN 15804 standard, where possible. Where there are potential synergies between existing PCRs and the finalized PEFCRs, the PCR moderators and PCR committees are encouraged to contact the Secretariat to discuss the next steps. 

For further questions, please contact the Secretariat via info@environdec.com

More information about PEF is also available on the European Commission website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/smgp/index.htm

Creating an EPD

Developing and publishing an EPD in The International EPD® System consists of the following steps: - Find or create relevant PCR document for the product category - Perform LCA study based on PCR - Compiling environmental information into the EPD reporting format - Verification - Registration and publication The two most time-consuming steps are to create a PCR (if not already available) and to perform the underlying LCA study. Developing a PCR in an open and transparent process normally takes between 5-12 months. Conducting an LCA study in accordance with the PCR may take anywhere between 1-12 months depending on the availability of data and the amount of LCA work that has been done in the company to date. If a PCR is being developed, the LCA study may be carried out in parallel to drafting the document. It is recommended to make contact with a potential verifier early on in the process so that this step may start as soon as the LCA study is done and the information compiled into the EPD reporting format. After verification is completed, registration by the Secretariat upon receiving the complete documentation normally takes 1-3 working days. The Secretariat may assist with Helpdesk and pre-booking of an EPD registration number throughout the process.


For Import into software/tool/database

Incorporating data from EPDs into software platforms is currently ongoing discussion internationally. 

For EPDs compliant with EN 15804, the International EPD® system allows the publication of a machine-readable LCA dataset in parallel to the EPD. Please find more information on https://www.environdec.com/What-is-an-EPD/Different-types-of-EPD/Machine-Readable-EPD/. 

If an EPD owner wishes, the International EPD® system allow the publication of a machine-readable LCI dataset in parallel to the EPD. Such data sets are available on the individual EPD page and may be produced in multiple of the available formats currently available on the market. 
Questions or suggestions on how the International EPD® system may enable or facilitate the use of EPDs may be sent to the Secretariat.

EPD in Multiple Languages

Publishing an EPD in multiple languages is included in the registration fee for EPD registrations via the EPD International Secretariat. For EPD registrations in countries where registration is done via a fully aligned regional programme (currently: Australia, Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, New Zealand and Turkey), please check their website for up-to-date details.

Template for creating EPDS

EPD template is available on http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPDs/. The current template is only for non-construction products.

The use of the template is voluntary, as companies are free to use their own branding in the EPD.

Several similar products to include in the same EPD

The International EPD® System offers the possibility for similar products from the same company to be included in the same EPD. The following requirements must be met:

- Similar products with differences between the mandatory impact indicators lower than ±10% may be presented in the same EPD using the impacts of an environmentally representative product. The criteria for the choice of representative product shall be presented in the EPD, using, if applicable, statistical parameters;

- Similar products with differences between the mandatory impact indicators higher than ±10% may be presented in the same EPD but using separate columns or tables.

For the purpose of these requirements “similar products” means products covered by the same PCR and produced by the same company with same core process.

Dates to be displayed in an EPD

The Secretariat recommends the following three dates to be displayed in an EPD: - "Publication date" (sometimes referred to as "issue date" or "registration date"). This date is set as the date when the company submit the EPD registration. In case the documentation is incomplete or contains errors, the publication date on the EPD should be updated to correspond to the date of the final resubmission for registration. This date remains the same even with later updates of the EPD. - "Revision date". In case of a new version of an already-published EPD, this date should be set corresponding to the date when the updated EPD is submitted for publication. It should not be included in case of a first EPD edition. - "Validity date". This date is set during verification as +3 years or +5 years (depending on rules in PCR) from the finalization of verification/date of the verification report.

Most important applications of EPDS

An EPD provides relevant and verified information to meet the various communication needs. This may be relevant within the supply-chain and for end-products both in the private and public sector, as well as for more general purposes in information activities and marketing. The potential uses and application include: - Green public procurement (GPP) - Environmental management systems (EMS) - Ecodesign - Business-to-business communication - Business-to-consumer communication - Building assessment schemes

Considerations on making claims based on EPDS

Environmental claims are under hard scrutiny to ensure that consumers are not misled. The ISO standards in the 14020-series gives guidance focusing on things like the correctness of information (not being misleading), using scientific methods, using the life cycle perspective, transparency and including all relevant environmental aspects.

The contents in the EPD® must be in line with the requirements and guidelines in ISO 14020. Any environmental claims based on the EPD is recommended to meet the requirements in ISO 14021 and national legislation and best available practices in the markets in which it will be used. The international standard ISO 14021 states that only environmental claims that can be supported by up-to-date and documented facts may be used. Vague claims about a product such as "environmentally friendly" should be avoided.

Climate declarations

A Climate Declaration is single-issue declaration focused on the carbon footprint of the product. The emissions of greenhouse gases of a product are reported in kg CO2 equivalents from the different life cycle stages of the product.

Climate Declarations may be published based on a registered EPD, or if the full information about the other types of environmental impact of the product is available upon request. The Climate declaration shall give information on how to obtain information on the full environmental impact from the declared product.

Cost for developing an EPD

The International EPD® System has two types of fees: registration fee (one-time fee, which includes future updates) and an annual fee paid per organisation.

More information is available here: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPDs/Costs-and-fees/

In addition to these fees, the total cost of an EPD also includes:
- Performing the underlying Life Cycle Assessment in accordance with the PCR
- Compiling the data into the EPD® reporting format
- Verification by an accredited certification body or a recognized individual verifier

If there are no valid product category rules (PCR) for the product to be declared, these need to be developed.

Diiference between an EPD and Environmental Label

Environmental declarations and environmental labels are tools that serve similar purposes but provide complementary information, depending on the purpose and target audience of the information. Both are voluntary instruments based on international standards and independent verification. An EPD provides verified, objective and detailed information about the life cycle environmental impact of a product. Having a certified EPD does not imply any environmental advantage of the product itself, only that the presented information has been verified to comply with the rules set out in the General Programme Instructions and the relevant Product Category Rules. The reference standards are ISO 14025 for the management of a programme for type III environmental declarations and ISO 14040/14044 for the procedure to carry out a life cycle assessment (LCA). An environmental label (type I) according to ISO 14024 is a third-party verified demonstration that the product fulfils certain environmental criteria as defined by the programme owner. The design of the programme is normally such that only a certain share of the market will fulfil these requirements, and thus intend to drive the market into a direction with a lower environmental impact.

Updating an already registered EPD

There is no fee for updating already-registered EPDs for EPD registrations via the EPD International Secretariat. This is included in the annual fee. For EPD registrations in countries where registration is done via a fully aligned regional programme (currently: Australia, Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, New Zealand and Turkey), please check their website for up-to-date details.

Role of a Programme Operator

To publish a type III environmental declaration, it must be administered in the scope of a programme operator operating in accordance with ISO 14025:

[Type III environmental declarations] are subject to the administration of a programme operator, such as a company or a group of companies, industrial sector or trade association, public authorities or agencies, or an independent scientific body or other organisation.]

The tasks of a programme operator, as described in detail in ISO 14025, are many and require constant maintenance.

A programme operator may be started by any organisation, but choosing an existing programme gives the credibility of a third party and of recognition of an existing brand such as The International EPD® System.

Validity of an EPD

An EPD is valid from completion of the last step of the EPD process (Registration & publication) until a final validity date, which is declared in the EPD. The EPD validity is normally three (or five years for construction products). An expired EPD can still be published to give environmental information for products still in use, but may not been used in marketing. Regardless of the validity, a published EPD shall be updated during its validity if one of the environmental indicators has worsened for more than 10% compared with the data currently published.

EPD Registration Form

The EPD registration form may be found under "Creating EPDs" or by following this link: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPDs/

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Performing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in accordance with the relevant Product Category Rules (PCR) is one of the largest tasks in the process to create an EPD. If such expertise is not available in-house, a consultant is often employed to assist and work with the company to collect the relevant data, model the product life cycle and calculate the results.

In its role as the programme operator according to ISO 14025, the Secretariat does not recommend any specific company or person for you to perform the Life Cycle Assessment. 

As a service to companies and consultancies to more easily find each other, we have prepared a list of potential consultancies to consider here: http://environdec.com/en/Creating-EPDs/List-of-LCA-consultants/ 

In order to find the most suitable LCA practitioner for a specific project, it is recommended that companies ask for tenders from several potential candidates.



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