Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Cascale

Explore the significance of the PEF and how Cascale plays a pivotal role in its development. Learn more about our collaborative efforts and industry alignment towards sustainable practices.

Footprint surrounded by flowers

About PEF

In support of future circular policies initiated by the European Commission, Cascale has been engaged by the Commission to convene a collaborative, multi-stakeholder Technical Secretariat (TS), whose task is to develop the PEF Category Rules (PEFCR), setting a policy standard for apparel and footwear products in the EU.

We are coordinating the Technical Secretariat but are not the sole contributor to the PEFCR. Rather, we act as the facilitators of a collaborative conversation that is actively working to develop a Global Apparel and Footwear PEFCR. We also sit on the TS as technical experts and have an equal voice to all other members in this regard.

By collaborating with policymakers, stakeholders, and partners such as Policy Hub – Circularity for Apparel & Footwear, Cascale’s past and future policy work acts as an important lever to facilitate industry change.

multi-colored clothes on hangers in store

What is PEF?

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based method to quantify the relevant environmental impacts of products (goods or services). It builds on existing approaches and international standards and is part of the “Single Market for Green Products Initiative” that is initiated by the European Commission.

The aim of the PEF is to create a common language and method for calculating a product’s environmental footprint, which is the foundation for a set of specific rules. These rules are called the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR), and are a common approach across the EU, normally created at an industry level.

This sets the basis for verified and trustworthy sustainability claims, in order to prevent greenwashing from companies. It allows for better reproduction and comparability of results, as comparability is only possible if the results are based on the same rules, which is why the PEFCR exists.

How Does a PEF Compare to an LCA?

In short, the PEF methodology has additional structure and requirements compared to a classic LCA.

One of the key differences is that the PEF method specifies requirements on what background data can be used and currently has a central database to minimize differences that may occur due to modeling decisions. PEF also mandates a common set of impact categories and weighting factors to ensure consistency in results.

Each PEFCR takes this further and defines mandatory product information that must be collected and used, enabling scalability and meaningful and comparable product footprint results.

This helps allow for the type of approach that Cascale has been working towards, of scalable LCA results at a fraction of the cost.

What is Cascale’s Role in PEF?

Cascale supports the coordination of the Technical Secretariat (TS) around the PEF for apparel and footwear.  Developed under the leadership of the European Commission, the creation of the TS required the apparel and footwear sector to come together, and Cascale was uniquely positioned to convene brands, retailers, manufacturers, fiber associations and other important stakeholders to the table to meet this requirement.  Our role in supporting the Technical Secretariat means we are not the sole contributor to the PEFCR, but rather, the facilitators of a collaborative conversation that is actively working to develop a Global Apparel and Footwear PEFCR, which stands strong to serve as a common policy standard for products in the EU.

This TS has developed a new form of partnership between public actors, private actors, and civil societies. The public sector’s role is to set and define the targets, boundaries, guidelines, and final decisions, and hold the secretariat accountable to the latest scientific and academic developments. All other actors contribute their specific experiences and operations knowledge in order to merge the best of all worlds under democratic supervision.

This unique setting will deliver a common method that Cascale looks forward to incorporating in its tools to accelerate standardization and move towards the comparability of environmental claims.

The goal of this collaboration is to co-develop specific rules for apparel and footwear that still meet the overall PEF methodology with industry stakeholders who are part of the secretariat.

The objective of our role is to ensure that the PEFCRs are scalable, drive change, and ultimately will reduce the impacts of the sector as a whole.

Organizational Structure

Why is Cascale coordinating the Technical Secretariat?

Across the board, a key requirement for any group of organizations to form a technical secretariat is their ability to gather at least 50% of any given industry. As an industry association with over a decade of experience working across apparel & footwear, Cascale was uniquely positioned to be able to aggregate such a group. We are grateful to be awarded the opportunity by the EU Commission to leverage the work we’ve done to further support our members and peers in their journey towards sustainability through a common approach for measuring and evaluating environmental impacts of apparel and footwear products.

As an organization, one of Cascale’s core objectives is to unite the industry around a common language in sustainability performance and measurement, which mirrors the goal of the PEF.

The PEF is a key solution towards accelerating industry-wide alignment.

We also believe that good policy needs to build on these existing initiatives so we don’t create duplicity and add unnecessary burdens on actors in the global value chain. By building on what has already been done, we can accelerate the action we need to see in the next decade and all fronts from social to environmental. The OECD and UNGP have been creating effective frameworks for years now, and in the case of Cascale, we have spent 10 years together with the industry developing effective tools, – legislation that does not build on these but goes off at tangents severely risks setting the industry back by a decade, which we cannot afford.

Finally, language is critical. We need unambiguous words and clear definitions. Just as Cascale spent the past decade developing tools for the standardized measurement of social and environmental impacts so we can compare apples to apples, policy needs to be written so that the language is clear-cut across the board.

Well-informed and well-structured policy can help the industry comply quickly and accurately, which is one of the reasons we set up the Policy Hub together with the Global Fashion Agenda and the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) to enable the industry to speak with one voice as it informs the development of regulation.

Who is involved

The Technical Secretariat of the Apparel and Footwear PEF Project

What are the concrete deliverables for the Technical Secretariat?

The creation of the Global Apparel and Footwear (PEFCR) aims to deliver a normalized cradle-to-grave LCA, a methodology that is IP-Free, which means that anyone can use it.

Users will not be expected to dive into the methodology, but instead, provide primary data for each product, such as the list of materials to create a product, fabric spinning technology, assembly time, use of ironing, etc. As the methodology gets finalized, it will list more data that you can use if you have them.

How does Cascale support its members in aligning with PEF?

The Higg Product Module (PM), released in June 2021, enables assessment of a product’s impacts over its full life cycle through its end-of-use and offers companies insight into circularity opportunities within their sustainability programs. The Higg PM was developed through working conversations with our membership, including brands, manufacturers, academics, and non-governmental organizations. This work was also informed by our prior leadership in developing a draft Footwear PEFCR.

The development of this work has fed directly into the current Global Apparel and Footwear PEFCR, including the initial framework and discussion on the importance and inclusion of product quality and durability. Users of the Higg PM are already collecting important product information that will help them adopt the PEFCR methodology data requirements.

Cascale plans to ensure that the Higg PM remains an industry-leading tool by aligning the data requirements to global regulations and their subsequent footprint calculation methodologies. In addition to this regulatory alignment, we will continue to develop best practices into our tools to push industry progress forward.

Why is this work important to us at Cascale?

For our industry to solve systemic problems, fulfill ambitious sustainability goals, and create more respectful and secure work environments along the global value chain, we have to do this together and better know the impact of the product we are putting on the market. That means everyone working in unison – aligned around common data, insights, priorities, tools, resources, and programs –will help us achieve these goals.

Cascale supports ambitious legislation because it will help us align around clear and common standards to create a consumer goods industry that gives more than it takes — to the planet and its people. We believe this policy can help further activate these priorities through alignment and implementation.