Patrick Ford

Sponsored article: USGBC Platinum member Legrand North America uses product environmental profiles to increase transparency.

Platinum member Legrand North America has set multi-year goals for the completion of environmental product declarations, known as Product Environmental Profiles (PEPs), to increase product transparency and better serve its customers.

We’ve committed to increasing the number of products covered by PEPs because

  1. Market demand for products that have known material compositions and environmental impacts is increasing.
  2. The information gathered through the life cycle assessment (LCA) process can be used as an input in the new product design process, both to identify potential opportunities to reduce the impact of products at the point of design and to facilitate innovations that increase the performance of the product.

PEPs also serve several other purposes for Legrand’s customers. For example, in LEED® v4, building owners are awarded one point for product transparency if they source at least 20 different permanently installed products with PEPs/Environmental Product Declarations from at least five different manufacturers.

PEPs explained

A PEP is a Type III Environmental Product Declaration as defined by ISO 14025 and in alignment with EN 15804. It is registered with the PEP ecopassport® program, which acts as the program operator. The environmental data that it contains is based on a life cycle assessment that is completed in accordance with the product category rules developed for electrical, electronic and HVAC-R products and is verified.

It is important to note that a PEP does not seek to specify whether or not a given product is environmentally friendly, but rather, presents the environmental impact data from the LCA. Also, a PEP can cover a single product or a product family, as long as the other products are similar enough in form and function to the original reference product.

The typical PEP within Legrand includes the following:

  • A company overview
  • The product’s function
  • The material composition (including recycled content)
  • The product’s status with respect to applicable regulations
  • The scope of the LCA
  • The assumptions made in the LCA
  • The environmental impacts of the product broken down by life cycle stage

The scope of the LCA includes raw materials and manufacturing, distribution, installation, use and end of life. The environmental impacts that are considered at each stage include global warming potential, ozone depletion, acidification of soil and water, total use of primary energy, water pollution and air pollution, among others. To facilitate the completion of PEPs, Legrand works with its suppliers to collect the data required for the LCA.

Lessons learned

As we’ve stepped up efforts around our PEPs, we’ve had to open up clear lines of communication with suppliers. To address this need and facilitate data collection related to product compliance, Legrand is in the process of implementing the Actio information management software platform, which will allow suppliers to directly input data about the life cycles of the materials and finished goods that they supply to Legrand.

We also realized there was a greater opportunity to incorporate the data gathered in the LCA into the new product development (NPD) process. If designers and engineers can use preliminary LCA data upstream in the NPD process, environmental impacts can be mitigated before the product ever reaches the manufacturing floor.

Looking ahead

Critical to success is supplier and employee understanding of and ability to execute the work required to complete PEPs, and to assess ways to incorporate the data and analysis into core business practices. If stakeholders are unable to identify the value of PEPs in their work, then the usefulness of the LCA may be significantly hindered.

At Legrand, we’ve started working with suppliers and procurement teams to provide training modules and other tools, such as Environmental Material Requirements, that clearly communicate the responsibilities of all stakeholders. Although this process is still in its early stages, this approach to PEPs as a collaborative and iterative process promises to deliver positive results for customers.

Overall, PEPs provide a framework for analyzing and communicating transparent product environmental data to customers, and strengthen Legrand’s commitment to better operations, better performance and better communities.