Sustainable Manufacturers Up Their EPD Game

With mounting pressure from consumers to prioritize sustainability, manufacturers are conducting life cycle analyses of their products and issuing environmental product declarations (EPDs) to show their commitment to improving their environmental impact.

Sustainable living remains a primary concern for consumers, who are prioritizing eco-friendly products and actively seeking data to substantiate manufacturers' claims. 

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In a recent COGNITION survey, nearly 50% of consumer respondents, the majority of whom were Millennials and Gen Zs, indicated a greater trust in companies with robust environmental policies compared to those lacking such initiatives. 

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EPDs with third-party verification are a powerful tool that manufacturers can use to validate the carbon neutrality of their products and gain consumer trust.  

What is an EPD?

An EPD is a document that confirms a product's environmental impact over its intended lifetime through third-party verification. Its purpose is to transparently communicate the product's environmental performance to consumers.

An EPD typically includes information about the materials used to create the product, the sources of those raw materials, and details about the energy intensity of the manufacturing process. This information is typically gathered during a life cycle analysis (LCA) of the product.

In the construction sector, EPDs are quite useful as they can help builders to earn material credits under the different green building rating systems. Like consumers, builders see sustainability as a moral imperative and as a result are increasingly constructing net-zero, all-electric, healthy, and connected homes. 

According to COGNITION Smart Data, approximately 75% of homebuilders show interest in developing and selling all-electric homes. Additionally, 60% of surveyed homebuilders plan to leverage IRA funding to improve their energy efficiency offerings. 

This underscores the ongoing commitment of builders to adopt decarbonization building practices and strategies. This trend not only addresses the increasing consumer demand for sustainable living but also reflects builders' perceived responsibility to minimize their climate impact.

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Manufacturers' Commitment to EPDs

Now that we understand the importance of EPDs to both consumers and builders, let's take a closer look at how manufacturers are working to increase the presence of EPDs in the market.

For many manufacturers, pursuing EPDs for all of their major product lines serves as an extension of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy. By increasing the number of EPDs, manufacturers enhance transparency, build consumer trust, and simultaneously establish a baseline for measuring and improving their environmental footprint.

EPDs encourage manufacturers to engage in thoughtful analysis of their products, driving them to innovate. This may involve increasing the recycled content of their products, adjusting manufacturing processes to reduce energy intensity, or establishing take-back programs to handle product waste.

Manufacturers such as Kohler recognize this as the most significant benefit of EPDs. Amy Hampton-Davies, Director of Business Development, Sustainability Living at Kohler, reflects on the company’s product sustainability journey, noting that “as we have continued to evolve, our customer needs have evolved. We've had to look at our existing portfolio and identify where we can improve from an environmental sustainability standpoint in terms of how we make those products. And so we do have a set of products that have gone through a re-engineering process to become more sustainable.”

Kohler exemplifies this ethos of continued innovation for sustainability and is working towards generating EPDs for over 1,000 of their products and 10,000 individual SKUs.

More recently, they've collaborated with Ferguson to introduce a line of exclusive Kohler-Ferguson products, with multiple of those products being accompanied by EPDs. Over time, as the LCA process is completed, Kohler plans to expand the number of EPDs available in the Kohler-Ferguson lineup. This partnership aims to simplify the process for consumers to identify sustainable products.

Click here to check out a Kohler bathroom faucet with an EPD 

Click here for more information about a Kohler kitchen faucet with an EPD

Click here to get the lowdown on a Kohler shower temperature control valve with an EPD

Other manufacturers are motivated to pursue EPDs as a means to mitigate greenwashing claims. Regardless of the motivation behind this pursuit, the consensus remains that having EPDs for products is a clear benefit, serving the interests of consumers and builders committed to sustainable living.