What are Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and how are they changing B2B sales conversations? Jonas Bengtsson, CEO and co-founder of Edge Environment, provides his opinions. First published on Sustainability Matters.
A recent market study conducted by Accenture and the UN revealed that 85% of consumers expect companies to improve their quality of life, which goes in hand with addressing environmental and societal impact of their business. In fact, they put as much pressure on business as on government.
Blame it on generational turnover, regulatory pressure, The Great Sinister Hippy Lobby or common sense — it doesn’ t matter — the market is growing eco-savvier and the trend isn’t slowing down. A business unwilling to pick up its slack, or hoping to hide within complex supply chains, is more and more likely to face scrutiny or be selected out.
Ask VW, BP, BHP and Bhopal how the environment factors into their share value and business success. Ask the merchants for palm oil, rainforest timber furniture and tiger prawns if they have to spend much of their time on the defensive before they get even close to pitching their product.
You have two options:
- Hope that a competitive price and track record will keep you sweet.
- Adapt and excel in the new information- and transparency-hungry world.
Get your credentials right
As a supplier (we all supply someone), you don’t want to carry around a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle of documents and reports to demonstrate your credentials in the technical, environment and social spheres. You’ll want a one-stop-shop, straight-to-the-point, comprehensive, credible and transparent document.
As a customer, wouldn’t it be great if you could have complete transparency and trust in the products and services you buy? And wouldn’t it be great if you could find that information in one place? Not someone telling you the product is good “because I told you so”, but lay the information out for you to make up your own mind.
Enter the one-stop shop for product information — Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs.
An Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is a standardised and verified way of quantifying the environmental impacts of a product based on a consistent set of rules known as PCRs (Product Category Rules). Industry experts can develop EPD reporting rules for any product or service and the ISO 14025 standard sets the reporting scope. Every EPD is independently verified to ensure the information data is correct and balanced.
Green buildings and infrastructure rating tools and government design and procurement guidelines are singling out EPDs as the go-to credentials and building block for optimised designs and solutions.
According to Jorge Chapa, the Green Building Council of Australia’s director of market transformation, both manufacturers and buyers benefit from EPDs.
“EPDs give manufacturers a tool that can help them identify opportunities for improvement along their supply chain and also a strong selling point that increasingly resonates with environmentally aware consumers. For buyers, an EPD provides a framework for making informed product comparisons.”
Quick guide on how to use an EPD
Decide what you want and need from your suppliers of products and materials. If you rather someone else makes your decisions for you, fine. If you’d like to decide your strategy and approach yourself, here are a few examples:
- Fit for purpose, durable and low maintenance — an EPD provides a comprehensive overview, saving you time.
- Complete transparency on what went into the product — no surprises or nasty chemicals.
- Manufactured in accordance with a sound environmental management system, preferably ISO 14001 certified.
- Low carbon footprint — we know the urgency and challenge to build low-carbon products, services and assets.
- Low energy use, or at least low in fossil fuels — the world is de-fossilising.
- Low water use — water is perhaps the main limit to growth, so let’s be mindful about water use.
- Guidance for appropriate installation, use and disposal/re-use/recycling of the product — especially for buildings and infrastructure, turn today’s assets into future material resources.
- It’s a bonus if the product or company supplying the product carries any additional third-party certifications, such as FSC, GECA, NCOS and other sustainable certifications.
Chances are you can’t have it all. Low carbon, fossil fuel free, water balanced, toxicity free, recyclable, spotless OH&S record, gender balanced, fair wages, etc… You need to set priorities in terms of what you value the most, what constitutes a show stopper and what’s nice to have. This is actually a useful exercise, to think through what you value the most.
In summary, what do you expect from your suppliers?
Get your key suppliers engaged. Let them know you’re stepping it up to compete in the top-end sustainability, low-risk and information-transparency space. Let them know that EPDs are on your wish list. This is not a solo act — you and your supply chain are one to your clients. You aim to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But you cannot do that without standing shoulder by shoulder with your suppliers.
Don’t wait for the client to ask you; go to them and tell them you’re down with life cycle thinking, you have your third-party-verified credentials in order and how you deliver triple-bottom-line-optimised solutions with low-risk, best-value, outstanding trust.
With your next client, you’re ready, you have your ISO-certified approach set. If there are questions about how you operate in a responsible manner, look after the environment, employees, investors, the local community, the global community, future generations and even past generations and cultural heritage — it’s all in your EPD.
“EPDs provide transparent and clear information to help us identify products that will reduce the environmental impact of our developments across their entire life cycle,”
said Paolo Bevilacqua, general manager, sustainability – Frasers Property Australia.
EPDs are ideal for organisations looking to source goods and services in a way that achieves value for money and generates benefits — not only to the organisation but also to society and the economy — while minimising damage to the environment. The new sustainable procurement standard ISO 20400 (currently BS8903) coming out next year provides the framework for how EPDs and life cycle thinking fits together.
Life cycle management is added to the new ISO 14001:2015 for environmental management. EPDs offer the standardised information exchange format from your suppliers to you, and from you to your clients and stakeholders.
What does an EPD look like? Click on the images below and have a look! Steel, pasta, trains panels…