The event entitled “EPD: The industrial choice for products sustainability. Eco Platform meets the Italian stakeholders”, promoted by EPDItaly, the Italian Program Operator within which companies can publish their Environmental Product Declarations, was held on 27 September in Milan. The aim of the meeting was to highlight the importance of sustainability within the more general European framework and take stock of the Italian situation. The workshop saw the presence of some of the main Italian stakeholders, such as the Ministry of the Environment, Accredia, Green Building Council Italia and Confindustria. “Today – Lorenzo Orsenigo, Head of the EPDItaly Program, began at the opening of the proceedings – initiatives from participants, in line with the European framework, were presented and the progress of the individual projects was defined. An important opportunity given to various European experts on EPDs and green products to talk, exchange ideas and opinions and identify a common strategy in order to be able to grasp the new opportunities offered by the growing circular economy.”
The EPD is a tool that has been used for more than a decade to guarantee product sustainability. In the construction sector, many investments have been made by entrepreneurs to provide the market with products with a low environmental impact in the face of growing demand in both the public and private sectors. In 2013, the ECO Platform was founded, its main objective being to support the harmonisation of European EPDs, so that EPDs relating to the same product, validated under different Program Operators, can be compared to each other. .
EPDItaly is the Italian Program Operator within which companies can publish their EPDs, obtaining visibility at national and international level and informing the market of the environmental impacts of a product or service in a clear, transparent way. EPDItaly has also been recognised by Accredia, the only Italian accreditation body, whose director of the Certifications and Inspections Division, Emanuele Riva, intervened during the meeting to reiterate the importance of there being an independent accredited body in Italy that certifies the correctness of the methods used and the veracity of the data and that conducts the verification process. “Accreditation provides reliability to the market of competence, independence and impartiality. Furthermore, accreditation strengthens the reputation and competitiveness of the subjects holding the certification, with tangible benefits for public bodies, businesses and consumers who rely on this type of services.”
Even the Ministry of the Environment appeared enthusiastic about the initiative and the introduction of a program dedicated to Italian companies. Having a database with EPD-certified products is also important for public works, stated Riccardo Rifici, head of GPP at the Ministry: “accreditation is functional to the needs of the contracting authorities, to offer a guarantee as regards the competence, independence and impartiality of the conformity assessment bodies and, consequently, the reliability of the certificates issued by said bodies, regarding both the product (including services) and organisations and specific competence of professional figures.
His words were echoed by Giuliano Dall’O, president of GBC Italia, who talked about building certification schemes and how they are linked to product ones, highlighting the importance of product certification in order to obtain “green” building certification. “Companies that manufacture green products see the green building market as an opportunity for sales because this market segment is not only destined to grow in the coming decades, but was also the only market segment to continue to grow in the construction sector even during the recession.”
At the moment, ECO Platform is the reference circuit for all European programs, including 16 Program Operators from 14 different European countries, 6 trade associations, 4 Building Councils and 10 LCA experts. The fundamental purpose of ECO Platform is also to promote the use of EPDs throughout Europe. This is emphasised by Christian Donath, Managing Director of ECO Platform AISBL. “Whoever believes in the life cycle approach to assess environmental performance of buildings, knows that EPDs are needed to provide the required data from the construction products to make an assessment on building level possible and realistic. Transparency is the key word. Unfortunately, EPDs were born years before a common standard was published, leading to a variety of different EPD programs with different content and quality requirements. As a result, product manufacturers now find themselves having to manage different solutions for an EPD and this also becomes expensive for manufacturers. Our objective is therefore to widen this mutual recognition as much as possible so as to facilitate manufacturing companies.”
The EPD was established as a sign of common quality, recognised by all EPD program operators within the ECO-Platform and in many other applications, such as the LEED Green Building Rating Scheme or BREEAM.
During the meeting, Andrea Bianchi also pointed out that Italian industry is very sensitive to the topic of environmental sustainability and can already boast consolidated experience, having for some time seen the issue as an opportunity rather than a constraint on growth. “Environmental sustainability – he emphasised – plays a strategic role not only in improving the living conditions of the community but also in making businesses more competitive, for example through lower use of raw materials, greater efficiency in the production process, lower waste generation and a positive perception from the market and consumers. Nevertheless, in order to have positive effects on environmental sustainability, the behaviour of companies alone is not sufficient, and systemic action is required. And this is where environmental certification represents an effective industrial policy tool capable of orienting models of production and, therefore, of consumption towards sustainability. At corporate level, on the other hand, the possession of product sustainability certification is certainly an added value when it comes to consumer approval.”
Lorenzo Orsenigo is also of the same opinion, intervening at the end of the event to reiterate the concept according to which the environmental and sustainability choice pays off: Green Public Procurement (GPP) at European level and its implementation in Italy through the Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC) are one example. “The existence of the EPDItaly Program Operator is a further service offered to the whole Italian industrial system to obtain the environmental product declaration without the need to contact foreign bodies and, at the same time, promoting its own sustainable products in an international circuit. It is an extraordinary opportunity for companies that choose paths of a certain type, ones that are certified and validated. Through the certification of the EPDs, EPDItaly supports these virtuous processes and provides an incentive to promote sustainable products through all the available channels. Meetings such as today’s are needed in order to ensure an international network that works in synergy to give visibility to operators who decide to focus on systems and processes with a view to sustainability and respect for the environment to improve the quality of an increasingly attentive and correct industrial system.”
During the day, the new web platform dedicated to EPDItaly was also presented. A open source space within which companies can publish their EPDs, obtaining visibility at national and international level. It is first and foremost an information portal on the advantages resulting from EPD certification, what it is, how it works and what needs to be done to obtain it. “The various sections go into greater detail about the different steps in the validation process and help readers understand which documents are needed for validation.” Ugo Pannuti, Technical Manager of EPDItaly, explained. “A database is also available to users featuring all the certified products and related PCRs, and there is a section dedicated to the network of the main international Program Operators with which EPDItaly has signed agreements for the mutual recognition of EPDs, to allow them to be considered valid in other countries without further verification.”
The objective is to build a virtual space available to anyone wanting to understand how the certification works and which products are already available in possession of validated EPD, as well as having the opportunity to obtain the documentation in Italian that can be downloaded and consulted, such as the regulations and the price list.