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What is the PEF methodology (environmental impact calculation)?

Let's start from the beginning. PEF means the Product Environmental Footprint.OK, and so what? Well, that is exactly what we are going to talk about…

If we had to sum up, we could describe the PEF methodology as a way of assessing a product's environmental performance. How does it work? What's it for? Well get to that.

What evaluation methodology does DECATHLON use?

DECATHLON has joined the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) project launched by the European Commission in 2013, with the aim of developing an environmental assessment methodology that is harmonised with other market players. This project aims to define a harmonised life cycle assessment methodology at European level.

Today, the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) method is the most scientifically mature and comprehensive environmental assessment method, taking into account 16 environmental indicators. It also presents an overall score aggregating all the indicators, weighted by other factors such as the product's durability and reparability.

What is the PEF?

While the global PEF framework has been defined since 2019, the rules for calculating the life cycle assessment for each type of product now need to be detailed in order to highlight the issues specific to them.

For textiles and footwear, for example, the PEF Footwear & Apparel brings together 50% of the market players (brands, NGOs, LCA service providers, etc.) to define the rules for calculating the environmental impact of this type of product. While these rules should be finalised by 2025, some brands, such as DECATHLON, are already using them to calculate the environmental impact of their products.

For product types that have not yet been dealt with in detail by the PEF, DECATHLON is working on evaluation rules based on the global PEF recommendations, in collaboration with other market players (brands, LCA service providers, etc.) so that it can already identify the main environmental impacts of its products.

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The PEF, parent of the OEF

The purpose of the Organisation's Environmental Footprint, or OEF, is to evaluate an organisation's impact for a given period.In that sense, it is closer to a company's carbon footprint. The OEF is interesting for taking good strategic decisions at the level of an organisation.

In both cases, whether we are referring to PEF or the OEF, it is about assessing the environmental impact relating to other indicators other than simply climate change.

What is the PEF methodology (environmental impact calculation)

What is the PEF for?

The aim of the PEF is to specify the standards, to standardise how to carry out life cycle analyses, specify the modelling rules for a product category, apply similar rules within the European Union...This “alignment” is also an important part of this methodology: based on internationally accepted International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards, e.g. 14040 and 14044 standards, it is a tried, tested and approved method.
The methodology has also been referenced in the European Commission's draft legislation published in March 2022.

How is the methodology rolled out at DECATHLON?

The PEF's benefit is to, therefore, help raise awareness about the environmental impacts of what we put on the market. Having said that, drawing up a life cycle analysis requires real expertise: you have to know the tools, standards, etc. At DECATHLON, we've subsequently decided to support designers, help them make the right choices, and make product offer managers aware of their responsibilities… in particular, by systematising the evaluation of products as part of engineers' everyday job tasks.

The PEF subsequently acts as an accelerator: you no longer need to ask yourself all the questions from scratch for each product because the PEF already clarifies what is critical to assess and how to do it.

The PEF now sets out a product's general assessment rules.The European Commission also coordinates detailed work to specify these rules by product type (nutrition, clothing, footwear...).

The rules specific to clothing and footwear are still in the process of being fleshed out, and DECATHLON is contributing to this work. It is nevertheless possible to now apply the latest developments in PEF and the work specific to clothing and footwear, which is what we do at DECATHLON.

What data does DECATHLON use to evaluate its products?

DECATHLON uses two types of data to calculate the impact of its products:
- activity data relating to a product (energy consumption of a transformation process, a transport distance, the washing temperature of a garment, etc.) entered by our product engineers;
- and environmental databases, which list the environmental impact of the main materials or processes. These correspond to the environmental impact of, for example, the production of cotton yarn, its dyeing, the production of one kWh of electricity from the mix of national technologies, etc.

DECATHLON primarily uses the ADEME's IMPACTS® database and data from the EcoInvent database. When crucial materials or processes are missing, DECATHLON develops these environmental data in collaboration with research consultancies specialising in life cycle analysis. Together, these two types of sources make up the DECATHLON database.

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How can this method be used? What is the point of rating products?

A government could very well imagine levying a tax on a product if it pollutes more than the market average.
The PEF could become a comparison tool for consumers when purchasing a product. The PEF method is a way to help understand a product's impact (and improve it), but not an end in itself.

So is PEF score like a Nutri-score ?

Not really:the PEF score gives us a result. It is not like an ABCDE score, with the idea that it's “good or not good”, it's a number, for example, like a price.
It is then up to the consumer to compare and decide what is acceptable or not to them.
What is currently complicated is that, as opposed to a price, the order of magnitude doesn't exist, well, not at the moment anyway.
Because as part of the PEF score, the number includes the whole life cycle, as opposed to the price, which does not include maintenance, for example. A t-shirt will cost the same price, whether you wear it once or a thousand times. Here, the number could be different: the impact will not be the same because it depends on the number of uses.
It is part of the elements that still need a framework and will probably still evolve.

Why can a product's carbon footprint change?

The environmental assessment methodologies follow a process of continuous improvement to incorporate the latest scientific developments in measuring the environmental impact of products. The databases are periodically updated to enable more accurate impact measurement. Consequently, DECATHLON regularly recalculates the carbon footprints of its products.
Last updates: December 2022 and August 2023.

What does this have to do with the AGEC Act?

Yes, because it has to do with environmental issues.
The AGEC legislation requires input data (hazardous substances, precious metals, dyeing, spinning mill origin …). This legislation should help to speed up some data at times difficult until now to get a hold of (such as the clothing supply chain). There are however, differences: the PEF does not require the measurement of certain items (such as the composting packaging), where as the AGEC legislation has made other choices, such as packaging.

We are talking about Europe, but what  about in Asia, for example? What is happening elsewhere?
There are equivalent private initiatives analysing the life cycle and sometimes even research on the subject. But today, from an institutional standpoint, it's France and then Europe that have been leading the way.

The issue is far from over. There is, for example, an issue with the PEF score and planetary boundaries: we can lower the impact of climate change but if this reduction leads to an increase in water consumption… How do you arbitrate these issues? The concept of avoided emissions is partially integrated into PEF, but this question about how the business model will evolve to a circular economy, is also a critical challenge. We are still at the beginning…

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On top of offering you high-performance sports products, our design teams are committed to developing them with a more environmentally friendly approach. We make use of ecodesign to achieve this.

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