In recent years, the increasing demand for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based product declarations, such as Environmental Product Declarations and Product Carbon Footprints, have generated a corresponding need for rules for making comparable declarations of products within the same category. These rules are defined as Product Category Rules (PCRs) in ISO 14025, Product Rules in the GHG Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard, Supplementary Requirements in PAS 2050, and Product Footprint Category Rules in the DRAFT European Commission Product Carbon Footprint Standard. Other standards such as BP X30 (France), SMRS (Sustainability Consortium), TS 0100 (Japan), and the forthcoming ISO 14067 also require the use of PCRs for making comparative product declarations. Thus far, the development of PCRs has taken place independently by various programs using one of the above-mentioned standards. As a result, there is no strong consensus on how to develop sound and consistent PCRs, nor is there a productive cross-recognition of PCRs between various programs. People working in the arena of LCA-based product comparisons have long realized the need to advance these standards to maintain a certain level of consistency.

Through discussions over the past few years in multi-stakeholder organizations such as the PCF World Forum’s PCR Roundtable and Taskforce, the American Center for LCA PCR Committee, and workshops such as the PCR Alignment Special Session in the LCA XI conference, it has become clear that more guidance on the development of PCRs could benefit all parties involved and help improve the legitimacy of the product declarations. In response to this need, in December 2011 the American Center for LCA PCR Committee created a subcommittee to initiate a collaborative effort to develop a PCR guidance document. The Product Category Rule Guidance Development Initiative was launched in early 2012 under the premise that the Guidance would be the shared product of all organizations wishing to take part in its development, and that it would be international and voluntary. This Guidance is the product of the aforementioned Initiative.  List of participating organizations

By providing additional instructions, the Guidance

  • Purports that a single PCR can be used by various ISO 14044-compliant standards for product claims
  • Establishes a consistent document structure for PCRs that are required by various product claim standards
  • Provides consistency in the content that is included in PCRs
  • Fills gaps in guidance on PCRs by conforming with ISO 14040/44 and is based on other standards, peer-reviewed journal articles, guides, or program rules
  • Provides clarity in the level of detail of the content included in PCRs
  • Reduces cost and time required to develop a PCR, often by supporting the adaption of an existing PCR
  • Reduces confusion and frustration when creating PCRs that are based on standards and/or programs that are lacking in sufficient guidance
  • Improves the chances of comparability of claims across programs using the same product claim standard
  • Introduces visionary thinking by pushing the boundaries for improving PCR creation and use
  • Suggests means of improving visibility of PCRs and program operators which will help reduce PCR duplicity

In seeking to fulfill its purpose, the Guidance

  • Uses ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 as the basis for alignment
  • Treats all product claim standards equally, while adopting the terminology and principles of ISO 14025 – the first and most thorough product claim standard that defines PCRs
  • Does not intend to supersede the instructions provided in any product claim standard or program instructions
  • Is setting the stage for the use of LCA-based product claims in decision making
  • Directly uses, paraphrases, or modifies some content from some standards for the sake of addressing insufficiency in other product claim standards

The Guidance IS NOT INTENDED TO do the following:

  • Pre-empt the development of ISO 14025 or other LCA-based product claim standards
  • Act as a standard by itself
  • Preclude application to any LCA-based standards and programs
  • Promote or advantage any particular program or program operator

 

For more information, see the following publications:

Ingwersen W, Subramanian V (2013) Guidance for product category rule development: process, outcome, and next steps. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. [LINK]

Subramanian, V., Ingwersen, W., Collie, H., Hensler, C. (2012) Comparison of Product Category Rules: Learned Outcomes Towards Global Alignment. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 17: 892-903 [LINK].

Ingwersen, W., Subramanian, V., Schenck, R., Costello, A., Thoma, G., Lahd, H., Bushi, L., Ryding, S-O., Tam, L., East, C. (2011) Product category rules alignment workshop, October 4, 2011 in Chicago, IL, USA. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 17 (2):258-263. [LINK]

Ingwersen, W. W., and Stevenson, M. (2012) Can we compare the environmental performance of this product to that one? An update on the development of product category rules and future challenges toward alignment, Journal of Cleaner Production, 24: 102-108. [LINK]