Redefining Transparency: product environmental performance on display
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The Footwear Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Pilot

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition leads the Technical Secretariat for the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) project for non-leather shoes. It is one of 27 such pilots designed to evaluate diverse products from leather to pasta to batteries. It has three core objectives:


  • Test the process for developing product footprint calculations
  • Test different approaches to verification
  • Test communication vehicles such as labelling and online and offline messaging for sharing life cycle environmental performance with consumers and other interested stakeholders

Phase One: Developing Scoring Systems

The first phase of the PEF project involved bringing together the participating brands: adidas, H&M, Nike, Inditex (through their brands Oysho and Zara), Stella McCartney and Vans, and experts: BAFU and Gore, to share data and collaborate in working sessions. The goal was to develop and refine a set of Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) and a performance scoring system based on several Life Cycle Analysis methodologies.

WL Gore
Stella McCartney

Phase Two: Developing Communications Strategies

After developing the draft of the PEFCR, the SAC asked sustainability advisors Salterbaxter to design a communications approach in line with EU requirements and best practice guidelines on behavior change theory that could provide consumers with the end performance scores in a relevant and engaging way.

The approach includes both a label to be used on-product as well as supporting communication for on- and offline purposes.


Phase Three: Testing & Research

To evaluate the success of the scoring and communications strategies, the PEF project developed 3 hypotheses that, if proven, will demonstrate its factors of success. It is hypothesized that these outcomes will bring mutual benefits for the brands, the EU and consumers:


  • Brands carrying products with higher environmental performance scores will be more favorably perceived as a result
  • Shoppers will better understand the environmental impacts associated with shoes
  • Shoppers will choose products with higher environmental performance scores


To test these hypotheses, the SAC, Salterbaxter and the brands are conducting consumer research both in stores and outside of the retail environment

Throughout 2016, the participating brands adidas, H&M, Nike, Stella McCartney, Vans and Inditex (Oysho and Zara), will include the PEF label in select European stores.  In addition Gore and BAFU are supporting the pilot by providing expertise. The participating brands will track data to compare both the sales of labelled shoes versus non-labelled products and higher-scored shoes versus lower-scored shoes.


Simultaneously, consumer focus groups and one-to-one quantitative interviews with shoppers in the pilot stores will provide insights to evaluate the efficacy of the project’s approach.


Phase Four: Policy Development

The SAC continues to work closely and collaboratively with the European Commission as the leader of this PEF.

The next phases of the policy work stream include:


  • July 2016: 2nd draft PEFCR submitted to the European Commission for review, stakeholder consultation and comments
  • December 2016: Final draft PEFCR submitted for review and approval


If the PEF pilot methodology proves successful, we will be able to understand how environmental performance labelling influences purchasing decisions and how it enhances consumers’ awareness about the environmental impacts of the shoes they buy.


This knowledge will be incorporated in the SAC’s Higg Communication Roadmap to Transparency. Technical learnings and methodology will be used to develop the Higg environmental footprinting tool, which will be created in 2017. This tool will be used to measure the environmental impact of footwear, apparel and home textiles.

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