Product Sustainability Information

Product Sustainability Information

Ensuring sustainable consumption and production should take a life cycle approach, and central to this is the development of product sustainability information (PSI).

An overview of the current state of PSI begins with an acknowledgement of the complexities in assessing the sustainability aspects of a product. Given this reality, the need to determine the social, health and environmental impact of the millions of different products demonstrates that the ambitions of any sustainability metric or tool are high.

The only way to deal with this complexity is to simplify reality into an appropriate model—but one that reduces complexity, while minimising distortion and uncertainty. In the late 1980s, this insight resulted in the development of an approach, known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Yet, the ambiguity and uncertainty of LCA results and the difficulty of communicating them in a meaningful way have led to a flurry of tools and approaches either to simplify or to standardise the assessment.

This publication provides the following four recommendations to advance in this direction: • Provide a global guidance for interoperability of PSI tools (their development and use), and manage concerns over trade barriers while reducing uncertainty in the information that the tools produce. This can be done under the umbrella of the Consumer Information Programme under the 10 Year Framework of Programmes.

  • Encourage major PSI actors, i.e. label and tools associations to use life cycle-based principles as criteria for the alignment of their work.
  • Facilitate the inclusion and engagement of representatives of developing and emerging economies in international efforts on PSI.
  • Create an international dialogue between brand owners, retailers, consumer organisations and policy-makers in order to acknowledge the different cultures and contexts to develop a better understanding of what consumers will recognise to be information that is credible and that they can act upon.
Data and Methods

Life cycle assessment

Document type

Guidance and guidelines



publication year