Environmental labeling
Environmental Product Declaration, EPD
Sustainability Performance Indicators, SPI

Environmental Performance Indicators, EPI

Examples
Safety Data Sheet, SDS
Material declaration
Recycling description

Environmental Performance Indicators, EPI

Environmental performance indicators (EPI) concern an organization’s impacts on living and non-living natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water. EPIs can show clearly how the organization is performing, and provide a firm basis for future targets and improvements.

The main criteria used in selecting the appropriate indicators are environmental relevance, international comparability, and applicability of the information provided by the indicator. The environmental indicators should:

  • provide a representative picture of environmental conditions and pressures on the environment

  • be simple and easy to interpret

  • based on international standards and provide a basis for international comparison

  • adequately documented and of known quality

  • updated at regular intervals in accordance to reliable procedures.

The readers of the environmental report should get a clear and meaningful picture of the organization's environmental performance. To do this will involve a range of data types, including: 

  • Absolute data - information on performance is usually collected in terms of absolute units of measurement (e.g. tonnes, cubic metres, gigajoules, etc) over a given period of time, usually per annum. 

  • Trend data - data per annum presented over a number of years (e.g. total waste to landfill for each year from 1997-2000) helps show performance trends. 

  • Normalized data - makes relationships between figures visible, by relating two absolute figures to each other. Examples would include cubic meters of water used per employee, kilometres traveled per liter of fuel, the proportion of recycled waste to total waste, and total CO2 emissions per unit of output.

A number of current initiatives recommend sets of broadly similar but not identical environmental indicators. This includes guidance from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), CSR Europe, etc. Some may be more appropriate for relatively experienced reporters – others are more basic. However, all guidelines may be used for environmental reporting.

The European commission have published a guidance for the implementation, selection and use of environmental performance indicators with eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) See link.  

Indicators can be divided into two broad types: indicators relevant to all organizations and indicators that apply to certain organizations.

Indicators relevant to all organizations

 
Environmental impact Absolute data Normalized data Trend data

Greenhouse gas emissions

Total annual carbon dioxide emissions Carbon dioxide emissions per employee, per unit of output, etc. Total emissions of carbon dioxide or emissions per employee compared with previous years

Water consumption

Total annual water consumption Water consumption per employee, per unit of output, etc. Total consumption or consumption per employee compared with previous years

Waste output

Total annual waste output in tonnes Waste output per employee, or per unit of output, etc. Total waste or waste per employee compared with previous years

Indicators relevant to certain organizations

 
Environmental impact Indicator Comment

Airborne Emissions (other than greenhouse gases)

1. Total tonnes of ozone depleting gases, SO2, NO2, particulates These indicators are only relevant when such gases are being emitted.

Resource use and raw materials

1. Total tonnes of raw materials used Normalized data that relate tonnes of raw materials input to tonnes or units of output are normally used.

Transport

1. Total fuel consumed

2. CO2 emissions per 1000 km traveled

3. Vehicle fill per cent, and empty running per cent

4. Employee kilometers covered on business travel (road/air/rail)

5. Proportion of employees traveling alone by car when commuting

For some companies, employee commuting may be a cause of significant environmental impact.

Energy

1. CO2 emissions by energy type or major use

2. Consumption by type

You may also want to supplement the information on total CO2 emissions from energy use by breaking it down by types or uses.

Water Pollutants

1. Total discharge of effluent m3

2. m3 effluent per tonne of product

This may include chemical oxygen demanding emissions (COD), biochemical oxygen demanding emissions (BOD), particulates or other materials.

Hazardous Waste

1. Total tonnes of hazardous waste generated by type

If your organization produces specific waste substances you may want to quantify these separately.

 

Example

RAVEL - RAil VEhicLe eco-efficient design 
In the near future the total environmental impact of all transport systems will grow in line with the increase of the overall transport volume. Nowadays, railways are generally considered to be the most environmentally friendly transport system. Therefore, the transfer of transport capacity to the railways can reduce the overall environmental impact.

The objective of the RAVEL project was to develop a workbench consisting of a set of tools that enables the designer to improve the eco efficiency of railway vehicles during their entire life cycle by at least 25% (compared to older comparable products). For more information about the project see http://repid.imi.chalmers.se/ravel/.