Redefining Transparency: product environmental performance on display
EU PEF_Shoe picture 123

Combining expertise for a consolidated measurement standard

The methodology used for the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) project is based on ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines on Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and in conjunction with best practice recommendations from the European Commission. It measures the different inputs needed to make a pair of shoes, e.g., raw materials, energy, water, transport, packaging.  Emissions and waste are also captured for all life cycle stages from cradle to grave:

In order to accurately reflect the different functions and compositions of the full range of footwear products, two sub categories have been defined: Sport, leisure and fashion, and work/waterproof. Our initial calculations show that the most significant environmental impacts are similar for both shoe types. The three main ‘hotspots’ that drive the environmental performance of one shoe compared to another are:

  • How raw materials used in the shoe are extracted and processed. That is, the weight and composition of a shoe directly influence the upstream burdens associated with producing polyester, nylon, cotton, rubber and leather.
  • Manufacturing and Assembly: shoe sub-component processing steps (molding, forming, weaving, etc.) require energy, water, and waste. The location of these manufacturing plants also affects energy efficiency and fuel mix, a significant driver of impact across the life cycle.
  • Shoe Durability: the longer a shoe lasts, the fewer replacements are needed.
Life cycle phase
Data collected
Sport, leisure and fashion shoes
Work/waterproof shoes
Relevance to overall environmental performance profile

Extraction and processing of raw materials

Material inputs weight by material

Identification of Tier 2 and 3 processing steps for each material

Primary packaging inputs

Inbound transport distance and mode to assembly for each material

Tier 1 and 2 manufacturing

Quantifying process electricity and thermal energy demand (specified by fuel)


Chemical inputs (solvents, glues, cleaners, etc.)

Chemical emissions (solvents to air, emissions to water, etc.)

Water inputs and outputs

Manufacturing waste disposal method

Tier 3 manufacturing

Electricity and thermal energy demand



Transport mode from factory to store

Transport distance from factory to store

Electricity and thermal energy demand

Maintenance and consumer use

Washing procedure (if recommended by brands)

DWR application (if recommended by brands)

End Of Life and disposal

Disposal method recommended by brands

Durability (standard lifetime)

The overall score consolidates many of the environmental impacts that can currently be measured in one LCA process, including:

Climate Change (CO2 equivalent)


Ozone Depletion (CFCs)


Particulate matter (air pollution)


Ionising Radiation


Photochemical Ozone Formation (low-level air pollution)




Freshwater Eutrophication (chemical enrichment of freshwater ecosystems)


Marine Eutrophication (chemical enrichment of marine ecosystems)


Terrestrial Eutrophication (chemical enrichment of land ecosystems)

For the purposes of this pilot, the participating brands picked a sample of similar footwear products from the same product category, for example, leisure, fashion or waterproof or work-wear shoes.  When it came to calculating the Environmental Scores, grades were allocated in an even distribution from A through E, so that:


  • A rated footwear products have among the best environmental score of the selected pilot sample
  • B rated footwear products have a better than average environmental score of the selected pilot sample
  • C rated footwear products have an average environmental score of the selected pilot sample
  • D rated footwear products have a poorer than average environmental score of the selected pilot sample
  • E rated footwear products have among the poorest environmental score of the selected pilot sample

This is a pilot project, therefore the scores are not yet externally verified. In addition, the availability and quality of data has potential to improve and expand to cover more environmental impacts such as resource depletion, land transformation and human toxicity.

For the full details on the draft methodology, as well as data limitations and units of analysis, please see the draft PEFCR report

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