What is an EPD?

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is exactly what it sounds like. It is the environmental impact that a product can have on the environment throughout or in specifically designed parts of its life cycle. It is a transparency tool that is defined as a Type III label within the ISO 14020 standard. The EPD is third-party verified and utilized around the world for many different types of products, including building products.

EPDs are a tool that help manufacturers, purchasers, suppliers, and distributors from government to institutional facilities evaluate a product’s characteristics. They enhance awareness of the overall impact of a product or a group of products. EPDs can represent one product, a group of similar products from one (product- and facility-specific EPD) or more manufacturer’s site (product-specific EPD), or multiple manufacturers (industry average EPD).

The data that makes up the core of an EPD is derived from a life cycle assessment (LCA). An LCA is a systematic analysis of the potential environmental impacts of products or services during their life cycle. This is done by gathering impact data from the extraction of raw materials in the supply chain, supply chain activities, transportation, manufacturing, use, and end of life phases of a product’s life cycle. LCAs tend to be very long and detailed documents that contain complex sections which explain the assumptions and calculation rules made during the actual assessment. They also contain sensitive data points which may be considered proprietary information for a manufacturer. Therefore, LCAs are typically kept internal, as the data represents the “secret sauce” of a product and manufacturer. To externally communicate the results of the LCAs while protecting sensitive data, EPDs are the go-to tool.

The navigation from the LCA to the EPD is guided by Product Category Rules (PCR). A PCR contains product category-specific requirements for conducting life cycle assessments for that product category and how to eventually communicate these findings thru environmental product declarations. PCRs are essentially the ‘standards’ that allow everyone to understand how all products in a product category, typically within a specific region, are communicating different concepts around environmental impact. PCRs promote uniformity and increase comparability across EPDs within a product category.

PCRs are developed by EPD Program Operators (PO). POs are an independent organization that conducts, administers, and supervises environmental product declaration development, verification, and publication along with the development and management of PCRs. POs are located all around the world, producing PCRs that are either area specific or compatible globally. All program operators, manufacturers, or life cycle assessment practitioners can utilize any PCR that feel meets the requirements of the product. However, work is underway to streamline PCR criteria and development to be much more consistent, namely through ISO 14027, ISO 14025 and ACLCA PCR.


  1. Determine the appropriate Product Category Rule (PO & LCA Practitioner)
  2. Conduct the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA Practitioner/Manufacturer)
  3. Verify the LCA study (PO or External Org)
  4. Create the EPD document (Manufacturer/LCA Practitioner)
  5. Verify EPD summary (PO)
  6. EPD registration and publication (PO)

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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