PREFER, PRoduct Environmental Footprint Enhanced by Regions

PREFER - acronym for Product Environmental Footprint Enhanced by Regions – is a project started up by LIFE+, the program by the European Commission that promotes initiatives in favor of the environment and of sustainability.

Perini Journal

The project provides for the application of the “Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)”, an innovative methodology approved by the European Commission through Recommendation 2013/179/EU, governing a product’s life cycle analysis to assess its environmental impact.
The results of each PEF survey supply information and data that can help companies in their strategic choices or be used to describe the environmental performance of a product, suggesting consumers how to choose those that are less harmful from an environmental point of view.
In Italy, the PREFER project entails the application of the PEF methodology to products coming from 8 industrial districts, with the intent, among others, of enhancing the perceived value of the Italian products of excellence – from Parmesan cheese to Asti spumante, to clothing and, of course, paper – making them not only qualitatively good and aesthetically pleasing, but also more sustainable for the environment.


THE PREFER PROJECT TOOK OFF IN OCTOBER 2013 AND WILL CONTINUE UNTIL DECEMBER 2016. In Italy, its coordination is entrusted to the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna University – Istitute of Management, that together with CENTROCOT (located in Busto Arsizio),Consorzio dell’Asti (Asti), ERVET (Bologna), Distretto Nocera Gragnano (Salerno) and the Region of Lombardy department will implement the project in the regions of Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont and Tuscany. The paper district of Lucca is among the Tuscan districts involved. In particular, the project intends identifying the ecological footprint of products belonging to the tissue category such as toilet paper, paper handkerchiefs, table napkins and kitchen towels, and then supplying indications and measures to reduce their impact on the environment.


FABIO IRALDO, Associate Professor at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and expert in Corporate Environmental Management and Life-Cycle Management, at the head the team who handles the application of PEF within the project, explains: “The PEF methodology that we are applying examines all the emissions generated by the manufacture of a product, starting from the raw material employed throughout its life cycle up to disposal and/or recycling. For paper, we consider the forests from which the cellulose is sourced or the origins of the material to be recycled, up to the end-of-life of the tissue product”.


“THE FIRST PHASE OF THE PROJECT ENTAILS THE ANALYSIS OF THE PRODUCT’S LIFECYCLE AT A CLUSTER LEVEL in order to create the PEF of a product representative of Lucca’s paper district. Right now, we are collecting data and information that will allow us to define the environmental footprint of toilet paper and other products typically produced in the Lucca district. In the meantime, we are selecting companies who wish to apply PEF to one of their products on a voluntary basis”.


“THE SECOND PHASE OF PREFER ENTAILS THE CREATION OF INSTRUMENTS THAT CAN AID COMPANIES IN THE APPLICATION OF THE PEF METHODOLOGY (e-tools, district data banks, etc.) and in the communication and training initiatives of participating companies”.
Professor Iraldo adds: “Given its complexity, PEF may require great effort by the smaller companies wishing to implement it. For this reason, we have decided to help SME by applying the method to districts characterized by the presence of small- and medium-sized production companies, a typically Italian model that we felt we had to take into consideration. The activities we will be identifying are aimed at reducing the obstacles that PME can encounter in applying this methodology, above all due to the lack of sufficient human, technical and economic resources”.
Once PEF is made applicable to the different production companies, they can measure the environmental impact of their products, act on it in order to reduce it, have it certified by competent authorities and communicate it to the market. For example, in the paper field, the outcomes of the experimental phase of the PEF methodology can result in greater attention being placed also on chain management and not only on the production aspect.
Concludes Professor Iraldo: “For now, the application of the PEF methodology is still at the experimental phase and hence it is not mandatory but purely on a voluntary basis. But the attention the European Commission is dedicating to the theme of environmental protection suggests that we not underestimate its breadth and importance. The Commission caters to building awareness in European consumers as to the use of products having a reduced environmental impact.
This is an aspect that in the coming years will become a valid competitive lever that enterprises can use to differentiate their products and have consumers prefer these to others. Real measurement of the impact and the communication methods will have to be comprehensible and credible so that the consumer can consciously choose”.


THE EMAS PROMOTIONAL COMMITTEE in the paper district, comprised of the Province of Lucca department, the Industrialists’ Association and by the district itself, joins the Scuola Sant’Anna in implementing the project, promoting participation of the companies present in the territory and the results obtained. The project hence offers a unique opportunity for the district and its products and at the same time spurs the development of innovative instruments that can grow companies’ competitiveness by leveraging on themes of sustainability.



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