Discover the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)

As a follower of Source of Change, you will have heard us talk about the environmental footprint of our activities and products.  But what exactly is a product environmental footprint, or PEF, where did it come from and what does it do?

An environmental, or ecological footprint, describes the effect of a product or company on the environment. Typically we tend to focus on one particular effect: the greenhouse gas emissions (like carbon) that contribute to global warming. This is the carbon footprint. But a product or company can have multiple impacts on the environment through its physical production site, how it treats its raw materials, even on human health. Allow us to explain.

What is the environmental footprint of a product?

Let’s say you love riding your bike: you use it to get to work, to do your shopping and to collect the kids from school.  Wonderful.  You’re not creating any carbon emissions during your travels and you are as green as you can be.  But this does not mean to say your bike has not created an environmental footprint.  On the contrary: manufacturing the bike required extracting raw materials which may impact land use, it uses energy, there may be harmful emissions to the air when spray painting your bike, and so on.  When we look at this greater picture, we see the overall environmental footprint of your bicycle.  The same holds true for any other product or service you use: there is always an environmental cost involved.

How does PEF help organisations reduce their footprint?

To help organisations – and consumers – understand the entire environmental cost of the products and services we all rely on, the European Commission developed the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF).  Taking a holistic approach, PEF delivers scores on environmental indicators that are relevant for any particular product group. For bottled water there are 16 environmental indicators, for other products (such as your bike) this might be a different number. Carbon is one of them, and this is the one that tends to receive the biggest focus. Which makes sense, as global warming is possibly the greatest challenge of our times.

But we must also look at the other factors that impact our environment: how we use our land, how we treat our resources, and so on.  When we add up all these different impacts on our environment, the result is one PEF score for your product. It takes that ‘bigger picture’ view to help consumers compare the environmental impact of different products and make informed choices. That same PEF score also helps other companies choose suppliers with the best possible PEF score.  This in turn helps reduce their overall score, because it’s all interconnected.

Spadel and PEF

Spadel is the first in Europe to apply this new approach and have an environmental score for each of our 192 products.  It has allowed us to compare the environmental performance of our products and their packaging, and we are delighted to report we perform 30% better for our PET products compared to the European representative product. We’re also the first to be able to commit to a reduction of our environmental footprint by over 60% based on a concrete and realistic action plan by 2030. It is at the heart of the ten commitments that underpin the four pillars of Source of Change: reinvent, reduce, recycle, restore. We share a responsibility for the health of our planet and our future.  So please, join us as we ‘recycle together’.