The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an environmental assessment based on international standards, which reliably indicates the environmental impacts of a product. The model has been used especially in the construction industry and is now spreading quickly into other industries. Reka Cables has joined this trend by making the EPD part of its operations.
This is no small matter. We have worked for nearly a year to promote EPD, and now our first official, standard-compliant EPD has been approved for our aluminium power cables.
The EPD follows the LCA methodology, which addresses all the product’s life cycle emissions from raw materials to production, deliveries and, ultimately, recycling. The environmental impacts of each stage are assessed to produce a reliable, comparable environmental declaration. The declaration’s reliability is guaranteed by a standardised calculation model and verified by an external inspection body.
An EPD in itself does not guarantee that the product is environmentally friendly. Instead, it provides a comparable report on the product’s environmental impacts, based on international standards. It also helps us better perceive the areas of development we should next focus on in our operations.
Requested by customers
When we initiated this project roughly two years ago, the theme was still new in the cable industry and hardly any requests had been received from customers. The situation is clearly different now. While no direct demands have been expressed in this respect, EPD is mentioned increasingly frequently in discussions and inquiries. It seems customers have woken up to it now.
We have especially wanted to expand our in-house competence in this field. At the beginning of the project, we acquired software suitable for EPD calculations and organised more training. These have provided us with the competence required to carry out life cycle assessments and EPDs. Another alternative would have been to hire outside consultants for the EPD process. Although building our own competence was a costly and time-consuming task, we are now reaping more benefits from it. First of all, we can now react more flexibly and cost-effectively to customer needs. We can also prepare environmental assessments of products at just the right level to meet the customer’s real need. Depending on the case, a life cycle assessment (LCA) may be a viable alternative to a verified EPD. It is assessed in precisely the same way, but is not verified by a third party. Very often, simply calculating the carbon footprint of the product may be the best solution. Case-specific needs assessments carried out jointly with the customer often save both time and money, as EPDs are not produced at the click of a finger.
The EPD has been a challenging but rewarding learning process. As the result, we now have an operating model that can adapt to the customer’s needs and makes wide use of digital resources.
The author, Kari Ingalsuo, is Reka Cables’ Quality, Sustainability and Safety Manager and has coordinated the company’s EPD project.