Environmental Footprint (EF)

Environmental Footprint (EF)

What is the Environmental Footprint (EF)?

The Environmental Footprint (EF) is an initiative of the European Commission, establishing a common methodological approach for quantifying the environmental performance of products and organizations.

The EC launched the Environmental Footprint (EF) Initiative under the Single Market Act, focusing on green products. The Environmental Footprint is designed to harmonize the many different methodologies that are available to calculate and communicate environmental information on products and organizations, covering the entire life cycle from cradle to grave (or back to cradle) and a wide range of environmental issues, including climate change, land use, ecotoxicity, particulate matter and others. The starting point of the initiative was to establish a harmonized methodology to enable companies and organizations to present and improve their environmental performance in a comparable manner.

The EC finally defined, with input from industry stakeholders as well as from academia and consultancy, the technical format, the environmental aspects to be considered and sector-specific guides on how to calculate the life cycle in the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) for products and in the OEF (Organization Environmental Footprint) for organizations as methods for measuring environmental impacts.

Environmental Footprint Pilot Phase
During the EF Pilot Phase, between 2013 and 2018, organizations from different industries tested the EC's environmental footprint approach and assisted in further developing the methods which are now documented in the appropriate guidelines for Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organization Environmental Footprint (OEF).


For specific product categories and industry sectors so-called Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) and Organization Environmental Footprint Sector Rules (OEFSR) have been developed. These PEFCRs and OEFSRs specify how to implement PEF and OEF studies on the covered product categories and sectors. They also ensure reproducibility and comparability of PEF and OEF results. This is a key step to using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in public policy. These PEFCRs and OEFSRs provide the methodological framework for modelling the mass and energy flows with their associated environmental impacts throughout their life cycles. Currently they cover the product groups beer, dairy, decorative paints, hot and cold-water supply pipe systems, intermediate paper products, feed for food producing animals, IT equipment, leather, packaged water, pasta, pet food, photovoltaic electricity production, rechargeable batteries, t-shirts, uninterruptable power supply and wine, with metal sheets and insulation still under review for finalization.

Two OEFSRs have also been completed: copper and retail. All of the official and final PEFCRs and OEFSRs, as well as supporting materials, can be found here.

Environmental Footprint Transition Phase
In the current Transition Phase, the implementation of the existing Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) and Organization Environmental Footprint Sector Rules (OEFSRs is being monitored and adapted, if required. New PEFCRs/ OEFSRs are being developed, conforming data bases are being provided and some finishing touches to the methodology being implemented. The transition phase will be completed by 2022. The last phase of the EF Initiative will then be an adoption of relevant policies.

Environmental Footprint Roll Out Phase (Outlook)
So far, the EC has not yet decided how PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) and OEF (Organization Environmental Footprint) will be embedded in policy guidelines and / or legal frameworks. During or after the transition phase the Commission will decide on timing and type of policies in relation to this initiative.

More about the history of PEF

Environmental Footprint - Benefits and Challenges

The Environmental Footprint Initiative is providing a single set of rules valid for the European market. Existing knowledge from LCA studies and corporate sustainability reporting schemes has formed a solid foundation for the methodology. Benchmarks are increasingly put in place, and a materiality approach ensures that the focus is where it counts. In summary, this means that consumers will be able to choose products based on objective environmental credentials, and environmentally responsible producers will be ensured fair competition against false green claims ("greenwashing"). Organizations with an interest in promoting their environmental performance or their products’ environmental performance are encouraged to participate in the initiative. By getting involved companies can contribute to and influence the development of the standard and associated policies thereby maintaining sectoral leadership. Regardless of which way companies become involved or apply the new standards, it is an opportunity to gain competitive advantages through securing and increasing market share and brand value.

Challenges for Companies and Organizations

Companies intending to participate in the transition phase will need to allocate some resources to contributing information, attending meetings in various stakeholder groups and review documents that may impact on the way rules for their product categories or sectors are being determined.

Companies merely applying the methodologies (and PEFCRs / OEFSRs if available) to develop a PEF or OEF may need to collect their own foreground data under the respective EF guidance.  Review, data quality requirements and environmental modeling of the respective life cycles may be a challenge for staff who are not experts in these fields.

Environmental Footprint Support - On Your Needs

With over 20 years of experience in environmental footprinting and life cycle assessment (consulting, data, software) thinkstep offers EF support packages that suit your individual needs.

Environmental Footprint Services

Are you solely interested in more information about EF or about PEF shadow studies performed in a private setting? Do you want to receive training or a workshop on EF related aspects and methodology? Or would you like to get service support for your PEF or OEF studies from our sector experts?

EF Services

Environmental Footprint Data

Check out the EF data packages thinkstep created that can be used in our GaBi software and in other life cycle softwares. We can also help you with the required EF data in official EF studies or develop any new data or data package for any EF application.

EF data packages

Environmental Footprint Software

Our GaBi ts sustainability and life cycle assessment software is the perfect solution to manage EF data and to calculate your Product or Organization Environmental Footprint.


GaBi ts Software

How our Environmental Footprint Expertise Benefits your Business

Decrease Risk

Understand PEF and OEF demands and be prepared for upcoming regulatory EF requirements.

Build your Brand Reputation

Communicate the environmental footprint performance of your company and / or product!

Gain Competitive Advantage

Get a head start on competitors by preparing EF compliant information for your products and services. Use the information to demonstrate your environmental performance, thereby securing market share.

Extend your Sustainability Knowledge

Use your product’s sustainability assessment to drive innovation.

Develop Strategies

Develop strategies to improve the environmental performance of your products and services and use the information to gain a competitive edge.

Understand Environmental Labelling Schemes

Learn to use and understand environmental labelling schemes.

Environmental Contribution

Contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment.

Environmental Footprint Related Topics

thinkstep AG Wins Bid to Support Companies During PEF Transition Phase

thinkstep has won the bid to guide companies through the Product Environmental Footprin...

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Initiative of the European Commission

How it will impact your products on the European markets

What Experts at thinkstep Say on the EU Environmental Footprint

Experts of thinkstep talking about the EU Environmental Footprint

Enabling Sustainable Success

In the era of climate change, population growth, resource scarcity and increased...

Translated Page: