2. Background and Prerequisites for the Development of a CEIDOCT Concept

2.1 Important Prerequisites for the CEIDOCT Concept

Project ambitions

The task of this project is ambitious and is basically to "develop a concept for environmental comparison of different technical solutions to the same problem", e.g. environmental comparison of two different technologies for manufacturing of the same product or two similar products.

Evaluation of different emissions to different media may include, e.g. carbon dioxide to air and heavy metals to water. Methodologies to do this are being developed within the LCA concept, but are not yet operational on a general level.

Important prerequisites

It is important that the approach is realistic, pragmatic and operational. This also demands a number of important prerequisites to the job, which are stated as follows:

  • Methodology development for the environmental comparisons of different technologies is not included, but is limited to the development of a concept for generation of suitable data/indicators for such comparisons.
  • The aim is not to develop the concept for comparable environmental impact data on cleaner technologies, as this will be an impossible task. The aim has been to develop a concept to constitute a sound framework for further development in the field.
  • Specific development of comparable environmental impact data on cleaner technologies inside specific branches of trade are assumed to be dealt with as future projects. Such projects may be initiated by EU or national authorities and performed in close co-operation with representatives of the specific trades and other relevant organisations, but may also be initiated and performed by the trade organisations themselves.

A framework for future projects is suggested in the form of

  • a proposal for a common, general set of comparable environmental impact data/indicators to constitute a minimum data set, which encompasses use of resources and environmental effects of relevance on national, regional and global levels (Chapter 4). For specific purposes this data set should be supplemented by data of particular relevance to the branch of trade in question, the prevailing local conditions, etc., but should in itself be able to serve as a common platform on the national levels and EU level for evaluations of environmental performance.
  • a proposal for a systematic working approach and overall methodology for the development of comparable environmental impact data on cleaner technologies inside specific branches of trade (Chapter 5). This proposal will be exemplified by tests of the methodology in three specific trades (Chapter 6).
  • The concept for Comparable Environmental Impact Data on Cleaner Technologies (CEIDOCT) developed in this project must be as simple and operational as possible to be able to achieve a widespread use in practice. This demand is considered extremely important and has been given a very high priority in the project. The demand has been met by developing a hierarchy of datasets/indicators with very few, aggregated data/indicators in the top of the hierarchy and more detailed datasets at lower levels.

This implies that the "scientific correctness" of the concept developed may be affected - in other words - the resulting concept will be a pragmatic compromise between "simplicity" and "professional correctness" at the top of the indicator hierarchy. On the other hand - on the detailed levels of the hierarchy the professional traditions from international LCA work and similar activities can - and should - be maintained.

These prerequisites have been regarded as key presumptions in the project, which has focused on development of the 2 upper levels - levels 0 and 1 - of CEIDOCT/Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs).


three elements of the same issue

It has already been stated that the concept developed in this project is of a rather general nature and therefore closely linked to many other basic problems of environmental impact assessments, e.g. environmental audits, product life cycle assessments, environmental labelling of products, environmental statements of companies, etc.

Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE)

A very relevant and useful concept to relate to is the concept of Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE) as it is used and defined in the ISO work on standardisation inside the field of Environmental Management. Here EPE is defined as: "A process to select environmental indicators and to measure, analyse, assess, report and communicate an organisation's environmental performance against its environmental performance criteria": This task will generally be accomplished by the use of a set of Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs) agreed upon as a useful way to measure Environmental Performance (EP) for the company in question.

In the ISO draft standard environmental indicators are defined as: "A specific expression that provides information about an organisation's environmental performance2 efforts to influence that performance, or the condition of the environment3. "

CEIDOCT is a common set of EPIs for many purposes

The basic, present philosophy regarding EPE is that any company chooses its own EPIs based on an evaluation of its environmental aspects and specific environmental conditions. CEIDOCT could thus be considered as a proposal for a common, minimal set of EPIs to be used on national and EU/international levels for cleaner technology EPE and other similar purposes. CEIDOCT is thus equivalent to a "common set of EPIs on national and international level".

Basic EPE-principles

The concepts of EPE and sets of EPIs have been elaborated upon in the ISO sub-committee on EPE1 and in development of a general EPE tool4 in Denmark. These references have been used in the present project.

Having made the parallel between CEIDOCT and EPIs, some of the basic principles of EPE, as developed during the ISO work1, may be transferred to the present project. These basic principles are stated as follows:

  • EPIs should be developed inside specific branches of trade, but based on a common methodology framework.
  • In developing EPIs inside specific trades, the use of "reference technologies" is recommended. A reference technology is a well-known and widespread process technology inside the trade in question, which is thoroughly documented concerning its environmental aspects. Each branch of trade should thus choose a set of relevant reference technologies as a basis for developing EPIs on branch level. Individual companies can use their own present technology as the reference technology for practical purposes.
  • EPIs in general - and thus also the concept developed in the present project - must be based on a life cycle perspective. This does not mean that complete LCAs are always necessary, but implies that a new - and presumably cleaner - production technology should not be evaluated based on its Environmental Performance in the production stage only.

A new production technology often influences EP in other product life cycle stages, e.g. manufacture of raw materials, product use or product disposal. CEIDOCT must therefore include data concerning all important changes of environmental characteristics throughout the product life cycle compared to the relevant reference technology.

This demand does not imply a full LCA of a new technology, but a D-LCA related to the reference technology; D-LCA implying that only environmentally different elements of the two technologies are considered. The reference technologies should therefore be described and documented in a full life cycle perspective covering all life cycle stages to facilitate the use of D-LCAs.

Other methodologies

In addition to the CEIDOCT relations to the EPE/EPI concepts and other references mentioned in this Chapter, the approach and methodology of the present project have been based on references stated in Chapter 3.

CEIDOCT as a common umbrella for a variety of detailed environmental evaluation concepts.

It is specifically noted that a number of methods and concepts have been or are developed internationally to carry out environmental assessments, LCAs etc. at rather detailed levels of documentation. Such methods should generally all be able to provide inputs to the CEIDOCT-concept, elaborated in this project. Thus, the CEIDOCT/EPI concept could constitute a possible common umbrella for all such detailed assessment methods.

The EDIP-project

In Denmark, special emphasis is put on the detailed assessment method of the EDIP-project5 (Environmental Design of Industrial Products), ref. Chapter 3, which has been developed to an operational level as a detailed assessment method. Other data formats like the SPOLD format could be used. The EDIP is based on international standards for data formats, and has been used as the general methodology basis for detailed environmental assessments in the present project and thus also been applied in the examples for practical purposes (Chapter 6).

2.3 The CEIDOCT/EPI Concept
the four focus areas

The main challenge of the present project has been to identify the common, general set of CEIDOCT or EPIs on a high level of aggregation.

Previous EPI-approaches - impacts or inputs/outputs

Numerous approaches to common sets of EPIs on various aggregation levels have been made in many contexts over the last decade, ref. Chapter 3. These approaches may be grouped into two main categories as follows:

  • Development of common indicators via impacts, e.g. structures in environmental effects, health effects and "resource effects".
  • Development of common indicators via inputs/outputs or environmental pressures, e.g. structured in air emissions, wastewater effluents, solid and hazardous waste production, consumption of raw materials and semi-manufactures, etc.

The impact approach

The impact approach is easy to make general on a professional environmental basis, but almost impossible to make operational on company and process level and at high levels of aggregation (few EPIs). It is necessary as a basis, however, as the choice of environmental indicators must always be based on assessments of impacts.

The input/output approach

The input/output approach is a good basis for developing operational concepts in individual companies and organisations, but is very difficult to make general in a useful way. Either it becomes too general to be of any significant value, or it becomes extremely detailed and thus unoperational in practice.

The combined approach!

It is generally necessary to combine the impact approach and the input/output approach to develop EPIs in a company or production facility. The input/output approach is used in the inventory of potential environmental impacts and the impact approach in the assessment of the potential impacts and the choice of focus areas for the company action plan.

- but on a large scale!

This combined approach, however, results in company individual focus areas and action plans and thus not necessarily in any comparable EPIs or other common data sets. To accomplish this, the combined approach has to be contemplated on a large scale, e.g. national, regional/EU or global scale. This way a minimal set of common, general EPIs may be generated.

Four focus areas for initiatives - integrated product policy in Denmark

Such an approach has been applied in the development of a concept for an integrated product policy in Denmark6. The aim has been to identify focus areas of critical importance to secure sufficient "ecological space" on a global scale in the coming 3-5 decades. The focus areas identified have been stated as follows:

M) Consumption of mineral resources, excluding energy purposes (Mineral resources)

E) Consumption of fossil fuels (Energy)

C) Consumption and dispersion of chemicals hazardous to the environment and human health (Chemicals)

B) Consumption of biological resources, including as well biological production as its basis, biodiversity and land use (Biological resources).

Why the four focus areas?

These four focus areas (M, E, C, B) are suggested as the basis for development of general EPIs for the following reasons:

  • They are rather general, but also sufficiently specific to be operational and action-oriented in real-life situations.
  • They are intended to be strategic and future oriented and not mainly professional/scientific and historically based as is usually the case.
  • They include the majority of important issues in existing international conventions, regulations, agendas, etc.
  • They are based on regional and global environmental impact considerations and thus constitute important priorities all over the world.
  • They can be developed into further details on many levels and thus be adjusted to virtually any regional, local and trade-specific conditions.

MECB and the MECO principles of EDIP

Further, the proposed focus areas M, E, C, B are very similar to the focus areas M, E, C, O (Materials, Energy, Chemicals, Others) as applied in the EDIP-project to arrange and simplify the results of LCAs. The Dutch Ecodesign Manual uses a similar simple matrix of M(aterials) E(nergy) and T(oxics) as presented briefly in Chapter 3.4. The "MECO" principle has already proven to be very useful and operational in practice and is built on the fact that the focus areas M, E, C and O each represent categories of resource consumption and environmental impacts that are to some degree complementary: This is illustrated in Table 3.1 in Chapter 3.4.

"Biological resources consumption" to be integrated in LCA methodology

The four focus areas, MECB, proposed for the CEIDOCT concept are thus similar to the MECO except for the fact that "Others" has been replaced by "Biological resources consumption", including the biodiversity issue - a focus area that is not generally made operational in LCAs, but nevertheless is of utmost importance in assessments of environmental impacts in general. This issue has been given high priority in Agenda 21 of the Rio Summit 1992; however, this fact has not yet been reflected in the methodology developments of environmental assessments including LCAs. It is therefore an important recommendation of the present project to develop "Biological resources consumption" as an integrated part of normal LCA methodologies.

Generally, it is not difficult to develop the four focus areas, MECB, into a large number of detailed indicators, e.g. one or several indicators per individual chemical substance applied in a product life cycle. This is, however, still not very useful as a general approach.

The CEIDOCT-approach

The important task is therefore to develop one or a few relevant and meaningful aggregated indicators inside each of the four focus areas. A lot of basis work exists to build upon regarding the focus areas M, E and C, whereas the biological resource-issue must be addressed in a more in-depth fashion. It is, however, also very important that the aggregated, upper level indicators are consistent with indicators at the lower level, so that aggregation can take place up through the levels in a simple and straightforward fashion. It goes without saying, however, that information will be lost in aggregation from level 2 to level 0 - this is part of the price for the simplicity at level 0. In Chapter 4.1 an overview of the environmental effects included and the important effects excluded at level 0 is given.

CEIDOCT: Indicators at levels 0 and 1

Within the four focus areas, MECB, it has been attempted to develop proposals for four upper-level indicators (called level 0) and 10-12 indicators at the next level (level 1). To the extent possible also a methodology for a pragmatic and approximate quantitative assessment of these indicators has been outlined at a preliminary stage. Such a top-down approach for a preliminary quantification of the upper level indicators can make it possible to identify the priority areas where detailed assessments are necessary/important, thus making it unnecessary always to start on a rather detailed assessment level for all environmental aspects. The CEIDOCT concept is schematically illustrated in Fig. 2.1:

Figure 2.1: Illustration of the CEIDOCT concept and relation to existing LCA methodologies as a basis

The CEIDOCT concept demands normalisation of environmental impact data

Development of the CEIDOCT concept into a common set of general indicators requires agreement on a common routine for normalisation of environmental impact data from LCAs. This way all compute the level 0 and level 1 indicators in the same way and the indicators can be interrelated. A possible routine for such normalisation has been used, e.g. in the EDIP-project through the use of "person equivalents" for all environmental impacts.

Normalisation inside specific branches of trade may be developed by units of typical products or functional units as a reference, equivalent to the normal procedures for LCA methodologies.

CEIDOCT as a "common language"

If a common normalisation routine can be obtained, the CEIDOCT concept may constitute a "common language" or a "common yard stick" in the environmental field. This could be of importance to the discussions of environmental priorities and weightings at EU-level both inside the cleaner technology field and inside the environmental field in general. The prioritising and weighting issues are not solved with the CEIDOCT-concept, but will be facilitated to a certain degree. Consequently, this project does not contain weighting recommendations for the CEIDOCT indicators, although it is considered natural on a general level to assign equal weightings to the indicators at level 0.

Data acquisition problems

Data quality requirements must be addressed when carrying out an LCA. These requirements are defined to enable goals and scope of an LCA to be met.

Data requirements are made to assure appropriate coverage in time, geography and technology as well as precision, completeness and representation of the data. These issues and more, as required in the standards for LCA (i.e. ISO/FDIS 14040), are as relevant to the CEIDOCT concept as to LCAs.

Therefore, the general data acquisition problems from the LCA field of work will also hamper the development and use of the CEIDOCT concept at levels 0 and 1. From experience, these data acquisition problems are especially serious regarding production, use and evaluation of chemical substances.

2.4 Potential Use of a CEIDOCT/EPI Concept

EPIs for decision support

EPIs may be used for many different detailed purposes on various levels of society, but the basic purpose behind use of EPIs is always to provide an overview of environmental aspects of a given activity to serve as decision support regarding initiatives towards this activity.

EPIs should be regularly evaluated

It is very important to observe that any set of EPIs for any purpose should always be re-evaluated regularly. This is necessary because changes take place all the time. New environmental priorities occur from environmental science, new policy initiatives are taken nationally or regionally, and technology and local conditions also keep changing. So even the most well-argued set of EPIs is never a pillow to sleep on!

EPIs for local purposes

EPIs at levels 1 and 2 may be developed by companies, organisations and local communities. EPIs at these levels may also be relevant to national governments to a certain extent. EPIs at such lower levels represent a choice of environmental parameters considered important for the body that defines them today and in a foreseeable future. They therefore represent environmental aspects, which the body finds it important to deal with. The EPIs may be seen as important for e.g. image, successful performance, records etc. or because they are considered of environmental importance. They thus constitute a decision support basis in relation to development initiatives inside the body in question.

EPIs in branches of trade - for benchmarking or as a common frame of reference

Companies within the same branch of trade, local communities etc. may apply the same set of EPIs on a detailed level - or partly the same set. When this is done by several bodies, these common EPIs may be used for benchmarking or just as a common frame of reference for environmental performance records and reporting. This may be an advantage, especially if the development of the EPIs and the necessary framework of documentation and strategy considerations constitutes a too complicated and expensive task to handle for the individual body.

The value of a common set of EPIs/CEIDOCT

Trade-specific EPIs on a detailed level is developed today for any company or any branch of trade, but this produces a rather confusing overall picture. With the CEIDOCT concept as a framework of EPIs at level 0 and level 1, all sets of EPIs might be developed based on this framework and thus use a common "language" or "yard stick", facilitating reporting and communication in general in the environmental field.

EPIs for strategic and political purposes

The CEIDOCT/EPIs at level 0 and partly at level 1 are suggested for a common reporting format on environmental performance in individual trades, but also between various trades and in society as a whole. They could to a certain extent serve as decision support at strategic level for companies and branches of trade and at strategic and political level for local and national governments and international organisations and co-operation bodies.

EPIs and cleaner technologies at company and government levels

In a cleaner technology perspective the EPIs at levels 0 and 1 could be applied by companies for a first preliminary assessment of the environmental performance of a change in technology. This assessment could constitute the decision basis for a more comprehensive development project including LCAs, and thus define the objectives and ambition levels of such a project. The general nature of the focus areas opens the possibility for national and regional governments to use the focus areas as a standard format for company environmental reporting and evaluation of national cleaner technology and environmental management initiatives and programmes.

Preconditions for successful development of CEIDOCT/EPIs

Important preconditions to achieve these advantages will be

  1. Tools for environmental assessments, LCAs and development of lower level EPIs become more operational and more widely used than they are today. They will be based on common and internationally accepted principles and guidelines.
  2. A set of CEIDOCT/EPIs at levels 0 and 1 is defined which may serve as a common umbrella for these more detailed assessment methods.
  3. The upper-level CEIDOCT/EPIs may be assessed quantitatively on a preliminary level without always going through a detailed assessment process first.

1) is in rapid development these years. A proposal for 2) is given in Chapter 4 of this report and at the same time some possibilities to fulfil 3). Further, the development of more detailed tools with still more extensive databases also provides an important future potential for rapid assessments; this potential already exists to a considerable extent e.g. with the EDIP tools and database.

1: ISO/CD 14031: Environmental Management - Environmental Performance Evaluation - Guidelines Committee Draft ISO/TC 207 / SC4N207.
2: Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs) are a type of environmental indicators used in relation to the organisation's management and operations.
3: Environmental Condition Indicators (ECIs) are a type of environmental indicators used to describe the local, regional/national or global condition of the environment in relation to the organisation.
4: Development of a general tool for Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE) of small and medium sized enterprises. For the Danish Environmental Protection Agency via Danish Society of Consulting Engineers. 1994-95.
5: Wenzel, H., Hauschild, M., Rasmussen, E.: "Environmental assessment of products" Danish Environmental Protection Agency and Confederation of Danish Industry. (In Danish, the English version is published by Chapmann and Hall, spring 1997).
6: Danish EPA, Proposal for an Integrated Product Policy in Denmark, 1996.

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