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Stepwise environmental product declaration

Final Report Summary - STEPWISE EPD (Stepwise environmental product declaration)

The overall objective of the STEPWISE EPD project was to develop a method for STEPWISE environmental product declarations suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), so that also smaller companies can join emerging markets for 'environmentally superior' products and services. The STEPWISE environmental product declarations method should be a way to make a first low-cost step into any national or international environmental product declaration programme. Pre-registration of STEPWISE EPDs was possible in the EPD-system, which has an international applicability (see online).

Scientific, technical and environmental objectives of the project were to investigate how the EPD work furthers environmental improvements of the declared product and how the companies can use the EPD in their PR and to measure the effects of such EPD-based PR. Associated economic and environmental targets were:
1. to attract, during the two-year project, at least one new customer per SME thanks to the EPD, with total order prospects exceeding EUR 600 000;
2. to identify at least 10 different ways of using the EPD in PR of product and/or company;
3. to identify at least two significant environmental improvements options with each declared product, i.e. at least 20 significant environmental improvements options in total;
4. to start at least 5 product environmental improvement efforts based on above identified options.

Target 1 has not been reached within the time frame of the project. In terms of new orders, customers' responses on the STEPWISE EPDs were disappointing. Only Etac AB claims that they got an order thanks to the STEPWISE EPD, but cannot quantify it. Quite a few companies Mercatus, Melitek, Etac, Konto, Polisport, Cruzinox mention general strengthening of the image and likely long-term effects on sales thanks to the STEPWISE EPD. The main motivation for the SMEs to participate in the project was an anticipation of a demand from some key client or client group. In only one case, Melitek, this anticipated demand was confirmed.

Target 2 has been exceeded. In terms of identifying different ways of using the EPD in marketing of product and/or company, project targets were exceeded in quantitative terms. In more qualitative terms, market communications ways that met with a particularly positive customer response were: meetings or work sessions with clients focusing on some particularly interesting aspect of the EPD/LCA rather than a general presentation of the STEPWISE EPD; sending the STEPWISE EPD with bid; and presenting the EPD at sales meetings.

Target 3 and target 4 have been exceeded. On average, 2.3 environmentally significant ideas were identified per investigated product (i.e. in total 2.3*10 = 23 significant ideas) and on average 1.5 ideas per product were also implemented (i.e. in total 15 ideas implemented).

The overall objective to develop a method for STEPWISE environmental product declarations suitable for SMEs was achieved through six development work packages, each with their own objectives. Results towards these objectives are presented below.

Overall the project has achieved what is set out to achieve, although some diversions from the original plans have been necessary.

A major problem was that although the official starting date of the project was 2004-10-01, we did not receive confirmation on that date until March 2005 so many partners did not start working full speed until then since we could not distribute the pre-payments. Therefore the project was extended an additional 3 months. This was sufficient time to conclude all planned activities.

Another major complication for the project was that a lot changed, or begun to change, in the EPD field during the project period: the Danes were setting up a national EPD-system, the EPD-system is still rewriting their rules; and ISO 14025 Environmental labels and declarations - Type III environmental declarations - Principles and procedures was finalised. This was of course very positive, but the task of writing common guidelines for STEPWISE EPD that could provide a first, preliminary, step into any of these systems seemed initially more difficult then envisaged. However, this was solved by including much less of LCA methodology in the STEPWISE guideline than first planned. Instead users must look at the LCA rules of the system they intend to take the next step into.

The main findings can be summarised as follows:
- EPDs are more suited for communicating about products' environmental profiles than for normal marketing of products' environmental performance;
- an EPD based on life cycle assessment is an excellent basis for eco-design; it shows the environmental hot-spots and provides a communication format.

A financial statement for each partner has been prepared by IVF based on data from each partner. They have been signed by respective partner and used in the issuance of the audit certificates. The audit certificates are the sole reason for why this final report was delayed several months. Almost all external auditors have raised various objections against the proposed audit work and many of them have not been capable of following the guidelines for the audits without making mistakes. A typical mistake has been to not include the cost of the audit in the certificate, thus preventing the company from claiming the audit cost.

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