The EU Wading into Footprinting

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

At the recent Carbon Challenge Event sponsored by BSI in London, Dr. Michele Galatola, Product Team Leader, DG Environment, of the European Commission presented plans to “establish a common methodological approach to enable Member States and the private sector to assess, display and benchmark the environmental performance of products, services and companies”. This tool sounds a lot like a repeat of what already exists in the form of PAS2050 and ISO 14067. It also sounds like it will be expensive for taxpayers and unwieldy for users. Despite all the research and effort put into deciding to do this, it can hardly be a good idea in a market where there is so much activity and where large organisations such as Boots and Coca Cola are already implementing PAS2050. 

Mr Galatola also spoke of the need to “build a market for green products” and this sounds like an altogether more realistic proposition. And the market would appreciate the EU investing to support markets as they move to reduce their environmental footprints. There is for instance no means of quality assurance for carbon calculators, or of verification systems for existing standards. This is a glaring gap in the market that needs filling. In addition to supporting the EU’s green market, quality assurance and verification would be a neat complement to the region’s carbon market and provide a model for other parts of the world.

Central to all of this is the need for robust Product Category Rules which define the characteristics of a product and which the EU recognises is important. Mr Galatola “instead of people developing their own because this provides no quality assurance” for customers. There is also the competitive consideration that PCRs raise. Of course most people don’t have the foggiest idea what a PCR is which is a problem for the carbon armies but it presents manufacturers and large companies in the printing industry with an opportunity. PCRs are also the basis for Type III environmental declarations, which are used to communicate the environmental impact information for a product. PCRs created by reputable organisations for the printing industry could be licensed, much as the right to use test charts or software is licensed.

PCRs are another reason why the EU’s plan will be difficult to implement. There are only a few PCRs in existence because they are difficult to create. For example, if a product is rigid, much wider than it is high, withstand cutting, hold liquid and can be held in the hand, it is probably a plate. Just this simple example is enough to demonstrate the difficulty in creating Product Category Rules for all products and services. For the print industry however PCR development could be an interesting business opportunity.

– Laurel Brunner

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