The handbook will provide "a much-needed reference to support decision-making and ensure better environmental choices when designing goods and services" as Europe strives to become more resource-efficient and less polluting, said Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik.
The document provides detailed guidance on how to quantify the environmental impact, such as greenhouse-gas emissions and resource use, of a product or service in an attempt to conduct a full life-cycle analysis.
Extra guidance to support existing global standards
The handbook was drafted by the Commission's in-house research facility, the Joint Research Institute (JRC), in cooperation with the EU executive's environment directorate. It was produced as part of the European Platform on Life-Cycle Assessment, which is lead by the JRC's Institute for the Environment and Sustainability (IES).
Potočnik stressed that "a scientifically robust and reliable approach is essential to support the requirements of business and policymakers in a coherent and efficient manner".
The handbook is actually a series of technical documents that provide detailed practice-oriented guidance on all LCA steps to ensure consistent and quality-assured analysis. The documents are in line with the two international standards on the matter (ISO 14040 and 14044), and are more specific, concrete and quantitative where relevant, the Commission noted.
Tool to compare environmental performance of products
One of the main benefits of a robust life-cycle assessment is that it allows the environmental performance of different products to be compared on an equal basis.
The Commission stressed that ensuring a "level playing field" is particularly important when comparing a product's contribution to a wide range of environmental problems, such as climate change, toxic pressures and resource depletion.