How Great are the Impacts of a Product on the Environment?

Environmental product declarations are meant to support consumers in their purchasing decisions and promote a more environmentally friendly production process. Uniform methods are essential for creating environmental declarations. Agroscope tests these methods and makes recommendations.

With various programmes and initiatives, the EU is seeking to define a methodology for product LCA in order to ensure environmental product declarations that are as objective as possible. This EU methodology must also be analysed in the Swiss context, since the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is taking part in the EU pilot phase as part of the ‘Green Economy' action plan. In this context, the FOEN has commissioned a study at Agroscope with the aim of examining the EU methodology as to its suitability for environmental product declarations of foods. Agroscope has also tested the extent to which intensive and extensive production systems can be distinguished from one another with the EU methodology. A further aim was to derive recommendations for the creation of new so-called ‘product-category rules' for foods on the basis of which comparable environmental product declarations can be created.

In a literature analysis , we compared the EU methodology with other important methodological guidelines for product LCA. In so doing, we were able to create an overview of the important differences between the documents and highlight methodological inconsistencies with their effects on the calculation and results.

The existing documents on the EU methodology make a valuable contribution to the harmonisation of environmental product declarations. In our opinion, however, it is not yet a given that comparable results are achieved when different users apply the methodological guidelines. We have identified the themes of allocation, data quality, multifunctionality, weighting of impacts, governance, and terminologies as being of especial relevance for the environmental product declarations of agricultural products and foods. In addition to this, we have issued recommendations on what to take into account when drawing up environmental product declarations for agricultural products.