An institutional analysis of EPD programs and a global PCR registry

  • Einar Aalen Hunsager
  • Martin Bach
  • Lutz Breuer



A Product Category Rules (PCR) document specifies the quantification method and communication format of environmental impacts of a product category. To ensure neutrality and credibility of quantitative environmental information, the development of PCR documents is defined in ISO 14025. Hence, the rules are preconditions for comparative considerations and modular application of information entities and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). However, with the growing number of EPD programs, the producers, purchasers, and consumers feel increasingly alienated in relation to the validity and legitimacy of the environmental information presented by EPDs. This results in a need for enhanced transparency of PCR development and EPD program compatibility. This article offers navigational assistance in this respect.


To identify harmonization potential, we compare PCR development regarding two aspects: quantitatively by mapping existing PCR and EPD documents, and qualitatively by comparing existing institutional structures with normative guidance. Information was gathered through an internet search and through direct correspondence with program operators.

Results and discussion

We identified 27 programs, 556 PCR documents, and 3614 EPD declarations (May 2013). There were significant differences in activity level between programs and sectors. Furthermore, the institutional structures differ widely from each other and from normative guidance on PCR development.


This first global PCR register guides practitioners in the search for PCR documents. The analysis of program institutional structures for PCR development and EPD verification indicates the involvement of different stakeholders on Type III environmental declarations. Regarding PCR compatibility and newly released guidance documents from the European Commission and the PCR Guidance Development Initiative, we recommend that operators (1) settle on a common (sector) categorization system, (2) implement a Stakeholder Identification Worksheet, (3) consider the mandatory involvement of consumer and environmental interests in the PCR review panel, (4) require PCR reviewers to declare potential conflicts of interest, and (5) consider installing mandatory third party verification of declarations for any external use.


EPD EPD program ISO 14025 PCR development Product Category Rules Product environmental footprint 



This work was funded by the Society for Soil and Water Protection (Gesellschaft für Boden- und Gewässerschutz e.V., Wettenberg, Germany) and the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut e.V., Freiburg, Germany). The views expressed in this article are not necessarily endorsed by these institutions. We especially thank Carl-Otto Gensch at the Institute for Applied Ecology for cooperation and support and the reviewers for their critical comments and proposals for improvement.

Supplementary material

11367_2014_711_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (119 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 119 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Einar Aalen Hunsager
    • 1
  • Martin Bach
    • 1
  • Lutz Breuer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources ManagementUniversity of GiessenGiessenGermany

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