Guidance for product category rule development: process, outcome, and next steps

  • Wesley W. Ingwersen
  • Vairavan Subramanian



The development of product category rules (PCRs) is inconsistent among the program operators using ISO 14025 as the basis. Furthermore, the existence of several other product claim standards and specifications that require analogous rules for making product claims has the potential to reduce any consistency in PCRs present in the ISO 14025 domain and result in unnecessary duplication of PCRs. These inconsistencies and duplications can be attributed to (a) insufficient specificity in related standards, (b) the presence of several standards and specifications, (c) lack of/limited coordination among program operators, and (d) lack of a single global database for PCRs. As a result, current PCR development threatens the legitimacy of life cycle assessment-based product claims.


Through discussions over the past few years, in multistakeholder organizations, it has become clear that more guidance on the development of PCRs is necessary. In response to this need, the Product Category Rule Guidance Development Initiative ( was launched as an independent multistakeholder effort in early 2012. The premise for the Initiative was that the Guidance would be created by a voluntary group of international stakeholders that would share ownership of the outputs.


The Guidance is now published, along with supplementary materials, on the Initiative website. The guidance document specifies requirements, recommendations, and options on (1) steps to be taken before PCR creation; (2) elements of a PCR; (3) review, publication, and use of PCRs; and (4) best practices for PCR development and management. Supplementary materials include a PCR template, a conformity assessment form, and a list of program operators from around the world.


The Guidance will help reduce cost and time to develop a PCR by supporting the adaptation of an existing PCR or by building on elements from existing PCRs. It will help reduce confusion and frustration when creating PCRs that are based on one or more standards and programs. Overall, the Guidance is a robust handbook for consistency and clarity in the development of PCRs.


Alignment Environmental product declarations Product category rules Product claims Product footprints 



In addition to the authors, the following persons participated in the Initiative. Drafters (organization/country): Carolina Scarinci (Chilean Network of LCA/CL), Alexander Mlsna (Kimball International/USA), Christoph Koffler (PE International/USA), Getachew Assefa Wondimagegnehu (University of Calgary/Canada), Hugues Imbeault-tetreault (CIRAIG/Canada), Lal Mahalle (FP Innovations/Canada), Maureen Sertich (NSF International/USA), Mindy Costello (NSF International/USA), Paul Firth (UL Environment/USA), Sophie Fallaha (CIRAIG/Canada), Thaddeus Owen (Hermann Miller/USA). Steering Committee: Angie Leith (US Environmental Protection Agency), Brad Miller (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association International/USA), Claudia Peña (Chilean Network of LCA, Ibero-American Network of LCA/Chile), Connie Hensler (Interface/USA), Cynthia Cummis (World Resources Institute/USA), Greg Norris (Harvard University, New Earth/USA), Joakim Thornéus (The International EPD System/Sweden), Michele Galatola (EC Directorate General for Environment), Rita Schenck (American Center for Life Cycle Assessment/USA), Steve Baer (PE International/USA), Sven-Olof Ryding (Swedish Environmental Management Council/Sweden), Sylvain Chevassus (French Ministry of Sustainable Development/France). Reviewers/Commenters (ordered by organization): Ana Quiros (Association of LCA in Latin America, EcoGlobal/Costa Rica), Lindita Bushi (Athena Sustainable Materials Institute/Canada), Vanessa Mitchell & Dwayne Torry (Canadian Standards Association), Kirsten Richardson and John Kazer (The Carbon Trust/UK), Valerie Baecart (CIRAIG/Canada), Alejandro Pablo Arena (CLIOPE/Argentina), Rich Helling (Dow Chemical Company/USA), Peter Czaga & Imola Bedo (European Commission Directorate General for Environment/Europe), Erwin Schau, Karen Josee Allacker, Simone Manfredi & Rana Pant (European Commission Joint Research Centre/Europe), Eva Schmincke (Five Winds International, PE International/USA and Germany), Sergio Galleano (Georgia-Pacific/USA), Andreas Ciroth (GreenDelta/Germany), Gabe Wing (Herman Miller/USA), Tom Gloria (Industrial Ecology Consultants/USA), Kristian Jelse (International EPD System/Sweden), Hanako Negishi, Katsuyuki Nakano & Masayuki Kanzaki (Japanese Environmental Management Association for Industry/Japan), Jon Dettling (Quantis/USA), Mark Goedkoop (Pré Sustainability/Netherlands), James Mellentine (Sustainable Solutions Corporation/USA), Amélie Dupraz-Ardiot (Swiss Federal Office for the Environment/FOEN), Sonia Valdivia (UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative), Nicole Unger (Unilever/UK), Alison Kinn Bennett, Sheryl Mebane, Manisha Patel, and Daniel L. Young (US Environmental Protection Agency), Kathrina Simonen (University of Washington/USA), Laura Draucker (World Resources Institute/USA), Martha Stevenson (World Wildlife Fund/USA), and Abbey Burns (Xerox/USA). The Canadian Standards Association hosted the public consultation. PRé Sustainability and The American Center for Life Cycle Assessment provided regular conferencing services. THEMA1 organized the PCR Roundtable where these discussions were initiated. The US EPA provided quality control. We thank Carolina Scarinci and an anonymous reviewer for valuable edits to this manuscript.


This article does not reflect the official opinion or policy of the US Environmental Protection Agency or any of the other organizations represented by participants in the Guidance for Product Category Rule Initiative.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Risk Management Research Laboratory, U.S. EPA Office of Research and DevelopmentCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.PRé North AmericaWashingtonUSA

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