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Applicability of the European Environmental Footprint (EF) methodology in Southern Mediterranean countries—learnings and recommendations for enabling EF-compliant studies in regions outside of Europe



The European Commission is thinking about policy options for the European Environmental Footprint (EF) method and aims for a broad support. The SwitchMed initiative is a programme with the overall objective to facilitate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production in the Southern Mediterranean region. One of the objectives of this initiative, carried out in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, is to facilitate access of companies from this region to the outcomes of the EF Rules pilot phase.


The project was composed of three consecutive phases: (I) awareness raising; (II) local pilots; and (III) dissemination events. The awareness raising and technical workshop activities were meant to expose national stakeholders to the potential impact of the EF system for the national economies. Next, nine environmental footprint studies for selected product categories (so-called PEF pilot studies) were performed to create local capacity and expertise. These were leather and intermediate paper product for Egypt; two studies on wine and one on intermediate paper product in Lebanon; olive oil for Morocco; and pasta, olive oil, and dairy for Tunisia. The learnings from the pilot studies were shared in national dissemination events and used to formulate recommendations for enabling EF-compliant studies in regions outside of Europe.

Results and discussion

There was high attendance to the awareness events in each country. The pilot studies showed many similarities with the European screening studies, but also important differences in the identification of most relevant impact categories, life cycle stages, and processes (‘hotspots analyses’), e.g. related to the local scarcity of water. Based on their pilot study, the local experts made concrete suggestions for shifting towards more sustainable consumption and production. One of the biggest successes of this project is that a couple of these recommendations have already been taken into account by the companies.

Conclusions and recommendations

In Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia, a few local experts with a significant level of LCA expertise could be identified and through this project we managed to create local PEF capacity too. In Morocco, more assistance was needed to finish the pilot study. This project made clear that the current ‘PEF and OEF methods’ have serious drawbacks for regions other than Europe. The rules of the EF method need to be reconsidered in order to enable EF-compliant studies in regions outside of Europe. In short, we recommend:

  1. 1.

    Developing databases with local inventory data for regions outside of Europe;

  2. 2.

    Enlarging access to EF-compliant data by extension of the free access and by facilitation of the availability of conversion tools;

  3. 3.

    Taking the local availability of data into account when setting data quality requirements;

  4. 4.

    Adapting the rules for data collection and quality to allow for more precise adaptations;

  5. 5.

    Including in the PEFCR development, supporting studies for products manufactured outside the EU and/or in a geography with unusual conditions; and

  6. 6.

    Updating existing rules specific for certain product categories regularly.

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We would also like to express our special thanks to Mark Goedkoop for his valuable contributions to the awareness raising activities and dissemination events, and for his feedback to earlier versions of this manuscript. To all UNIDO staff members involved in this project, particularly Vladimir Anastasov and Roberta De Palma, Mohammed Elewa, Nada Sabra, Alaedine Tidjani, and Rachid Nafti. Furthermore, we wish to acknowledge the companies participating in the pilot studies: Piel Color Group (leather in Egypt), El Bardi Group (intermediate paper product in Egypt), Mimosa (intermediate paper product in Lebanon), HF S.A.L. and Ksara (Lebanese wine), Les Domaines Agricoles (Moroccan olive oil), Huilerie Loued (Tunisian olive oil), Warda (Tunisian pasta), and Soril (Tunisian dairy). Next, we wish to thank the local LCA experts performing the pilot studies: Dalia Nakhla, Mary Mahrous, Naji Tannous, Walid Harb, Makram Bachawati, Youssef Chaoui, Noureddine Hajjaji, and Ahmed Herzi. And at last, we would like to thank Daniël Kan for his important contribution to finishing the pilot study in Morocco. This article benefited from the constructive remarks of three critical reviewers.


Financial contributions from the SwitchMed Program are gratefully acknowledged. Funded by the European Union, the SwitchMed Programme is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), in partnership with the UN Environment’s Economy Division, the UN Environment Mediterranean Action Plan and its Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC). The initiative is carried out in close coordination with the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement (DG NEAR).

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Correspondence to Laura Golsteijn.

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Golsteijn, L., Vieira, M. Applicability of the European Environmental Footprint (EF) methodology in Southern Mediterranean countries—learnings and recommendations for enabling EF-compliant studies in regions outside of Europe. Int J Life Cycle Assess 25, 2407–2416 (2020).

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