The European Commission has been developing an assessment framework to monitor the evolution of environmental impact associated to the European Union (EU) consumption that will support resource efficiency, eco-innovation and circular economy policies. The EU Consumer Footprint is the measurement of the environmental impacts based on the life cycle assessment (LCA) of products (or services) purchased and used in one year by an EU citizen.

Implemented in

  • Europe and Central Asia

Led by

  • European Commission, Directorate General for Environment

Sustainability themes

Sectors of activity
Consumer Goods, Food & Beverage, Scientific Research, Development and Innovation

Type of initiative
Policy Frameworks & Tools, Research, Analysis, Assessment

Type of lead actor
Government / public sector

Objectives

The European Commission (EC) develops an assessment framework to monitor the evolution of environmental impact associated to the European Union (EU) consumption. The assessment framework should help to support a wide array of policies, such as those related to resource efficiency, eco-innovation and circular economy.

The environmental impact of EU consumption is assessed adopting two sets of life cycle-based indicators: the Consumption footprint and the Consumer footprint, which have a complementary role in assessing those impacts.

The EU Consumer Footprint is the measurement of the environmental impacts based on the life cycle assessment (LCA) of products (or services) purchased and used in one year by an EU citizen.

The Consumer footprint adopts a bottom-up approach, aiming at assessing the potential environmental impact of EU consumption in relation to the impacts of representative products. For this are modelled with LCA more than 100 representative products purchased and used in one year by an EU citizen. For the calculation of the Consumer footprint, the consumption of European citizens is split into five key areas (food, housing, mobility, household goods and appliances). The Consumer footprint allow assessing environmental impacts along each step of the products life cycle (raw material extraction, production, use phase, re-use/recycling and disposal).

Complementary to the Consumer Footprint is also developed the Consumption footprint indicator. The consumption footprint is basically a top-down approach, aiming at assessing the potential environmental impact of EU apparent consumption, accounting for both domestic impacts (production and consumption at country level with a territorial approach) and trade- related impacts.

Whereas the production-based perspective helps in identifying domestic sectors, product groups and products responsible for emissions and resource use, the consumption-based perspective looks at the overall environmental impact induced by the domestic consumption. Each of the two perspectives on environmental impact has its use for policy-makers.

Assessing the environmental impact due to consumption of goods and services is a crucial step towards achieving the sustainable development goal related to responsible production and consumption (SDG 12).

Activities

The Consumer Footprint and Consumption Footprint assessment framework of environmental impacts of EU consumption is under development by Joint Research Centre.

Results and findings are gradually released as JRC reports and can be accessed through the JRC publication repository and the dedicated project website.

Impact and Results

The Consumer Footprint and Consumption Footprint as consumption based indicators support to monitor the evolution of the overall environmental impact associated to EU consumption and the policies contributing to the transition to a resource efficient and circular economy.
Assessing environmental impact of consumption is primarily linked with SDG 12, and it implies the evaluation of the level of decoupling of environmental impact from economic growth, and related consumption patterns.