Environmental reports are a great way of showing your business' commitment to improving its environmental performance. Another way of demonstrating your 'green' credentials to key customers and stakeholders is to use environmental product declarations (EPDs). EPDs provide information about the environmental aspects of particular goods or services.
For some businesses, such as white goods manufacturers, EPDs are mandatory. For others, such as vehicle manufacturers, there are voluntary industry-wide schemes.
Some public procurement specifications include criteria for the environmental performance of products that are similar to those used in standard labelling schemes. All government procurement has minimum environmental standards for certain types of product.
When making voluntary EPDs, you can choose between self-declared EPDs and standardised labelling schemes.
Self-declared environmental product declarations
Self-declared EPDs are claims that you make yourself. Any self-declared EPD should be truthful, accurate and able to be substantiated. A claim should be relevant, clear as to what it refers to and in plain language. For example, 'this brochure was made with 50 per cent recycled paper'.
When making your own declarations, consider the environmental impact of your product in the following four phases:
Manufacturing - what raw materials, other resources and energy are used, and what emissions are generated?
Distribution - is a significant amount of energy used getting the product to market?
Use - does the product consume energy and water when operated, or does it generate emissions?
End-of-life - can the product be reused, recovered or recycled? If it goes to landfill, what is its environmental impact?
To make your environmental claims more credible, you could follow the guidance in the international standard ISO 14021. You can find out about buying a copy of ISO 14021 on the British Standards Institution website.
Standardised labelling schemes
There are many standardised labelling schemes administered by public and private sector bodies, and by non-governmental organisations. These include:
- single-issue labels which relate to a particular environmental issue or category, such as water use or forestry conservancy, and are awarded if a product meets a certain minimum standard
- multiple-issue labels which look at the overall impacts of a product across its whole life-cycle and are awarded when products meet the required standards
- eco-rating schemes which apply a rating code such as a scale of A to G based on one or more aspects of the product's environmental performance, such as electricity use
- eco-profiling schemes which provide factual information in a standardised format, such as the rating information on emissions and fuel consumption provided with vehicles in the UK
- social or ethical rating schemes in which a number of social or ethical standards are met in order to satisfy an external assessment, such as fair trade labels