Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are concise, standardized, independently verified reports on environmental performance. Despite their name, they are used not only for products, but also materials and services at either a brand-specific or generic level. There are EPDs in every sector, from automobiles to consumer electronics.
Data reported in an EPD is collected using life cycle assessment (LCA)methodology. LCAs involve compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases, and evaluating their potential impacts— which helps people make informed decisions about the products they use.
Analyzed metrics typically include (among others) global warming potential, acidification and smog potential, resource consumption and waste generation. Although LCA doesn’t address every potential issue, it has emerged as the most comprehensive and credible way to compare products and make decisions based on key environmental impacts.
Much like nutritional food labels, EPDs promote transparent communication of environmental data to enable comparison between products. In the case of wood products, sustainable forest management certification complements the information in an EPD, providing a more complete picture by encompassing parameters not covered in an LCA—such as biodiversity conservation, soil and water quality, and the protection of wildlife habitat.