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Green Business
News article24 June 2024Directorate-General for Environment2 min read

How to calculate the full environmental impact of products and organisations

Understanding the environmental impact of a product or organisation can be challenging. This month, we explore the European Commission's Environmental Footprint methods, which help businesses accurately measure and improve their sustainability.

Image of a person taking an order on a computer machine.
Photo by Simon Kadula

Many of us aim to make responsible choices during our weekly supermarket trips, whether it's opting for free-range eggs or supporting local and fair-trade products. But sometimes, navigating the world of product choices can be overwhelming. We're left wondering: what matters most? Nutritional value? Affordability? Or the product's environmental impact?

In this article, we’ll focus on the environmental impact of both products and organisations. The European Commission has been working hard to refine the 'Environmental Footprint methods', which provide scientific and mathematical-based rules and tools that shed light on the real environmental impact of services and products we purchase.

The Environmental Footprint (EF) methods are designed to help both consumers and businesses make informed decisions. For consumers, these methods provide clear and reliable information about the comprehensive environmental impact of the products they purchase. No more guessing or relying on potentially misleading labels – if a company uses the Environmental Footprint methods, we can be confident that the claims made about a product's sustainability are backed by rigorous scientific data. This transparency empowers consumers to choose products that align with their environmental values, contributing to a more sustainable future.

For businesses, the Environmental Footprint methods offer a robust framework to accurately assess the environmental impact of their products at every life cycle stage. By using these methods, companies can identify areas where they can reduce their environmental footprint, starting from sourcing raw materials to production and distribution processes. This not only helps the environment but can also lead to cost savings through more efficient resource use. Moreover, businesses can leverage these insights to market their products more effectively. Transparent and verifiable sustainability claims can enhance a company's reputation and appeal to the growing number of eco-conscious consumers.

The European Commission's commitment to these methods underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in environmental claims. The Environmental Footprint methods are part of broader efforts to combat greenwashing, where companies exaggerate or fabricate their environmental claims by, for example, communicating on marginal improvements, on performance that is insignificant from product’s life cycle or by ignoring the trade-offs between environmental impacts. By adhering to these scientifically grounded methods, businesses can avoid such pitfalls, and contribute to a marketplace where green claims are credible and trustworthy.

The Environmental Footprint methods are regularly updated with the latest data and scientific advancements. The European Commission is committed to progressively integrating these methods into other EU sustainability policies, such as eco-design or carbon footprint requirements on products or materials. These methods ensure that the European Union can design more effective policies to address our sustainability challenges.

In the recently launched section of our website dedicated to the Environmental Footprint methods, you can find detailed information on how the Environment Footprint methods work, the methodology behind them, and how they can benefit both consumers and businesses. Whether you're looking to make more informed purchasing decisions or to improve the sustainability of your products, our website offers valuable resources to guide you.



Publication date
24 June 2024
Directorate-General for Environment