Sustainable Consumption

Project: Indicators and Assessment of the Environmental Impact of EU


The European Commission is developing an assessment framework to monitor the evolution of the overall environmental impact associated with EU consumption, as policy tool supporting the transition to a resource efficient and circular economy. Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption of goods and services is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on responsible production and consumption (SDG 12).


The modelling assessment framework is designed to look both backwards and forwards and to enable relative comparisons of different dimensions, including:

  • territorial bases and countries scores
  • consumption areas (e.g. impacts of Food versus impacts of Mobility)
  • product level (food product A versus food product B or an Ecolabelled versus a conventional product) and for performance assessment using overarching references such as planetary boundaries or policy targets in 2020

The established assessment framework may become a reference tool for scenarios and policies that contribute to sustainable consumption.

This assessment framework is built on a “Consumption”-based perspective in which environmental impacts of the entire product life cycle (raw material extraction, production, use phase, re-use/recycling and disposal) are allocated to the country where the product is consumed (EU Consumption Footprint) or the consumer who purchases the good (EU Consumer Footprint). Therefore, based on trade statistics, environmental impacts of the production of imported goods consumed in the EU are included in the analysis, whereas the impacts of production of exported goods are not.

EU consumption is assessed within the framework via a set of indicators that answer the following questions:



The indicators of the EU Consumer Footprint are developed in a modular way based on Basket-of-products (BoP) indicators for 5 key consumption areas: Food, Housing, Mobility, Household goods and Electric/electronic appliances. These BoP indicators are then based on Life Cycle Assessments of products that fall under each consumption area, thus forming the respective product basket.

Environmental impact categories investigated

Within this framework, the potential environmental impacts due to EU consumption are assessed for the entire product life cycle and include the following environmental impact categories:



Based on these life cycle environmental impact indicators, a composite indicator is developed to support policies on sustainable consumption and the SDGs.

The project in numbers

  • 15 impact categories assessed (using the ILCD impact assessment method) and development of one composite indicator
  • 5 key consumption areas of the Consumer Footprint (food, housing, mobility, household goods and electric/electronic appliances) covered and more than 70 life cycle assessments performed for product groups with more than 100 life cycle inventory models (LCI)
  • Direct funding of 700,000€, with an additional 1,200,000€ in procurement contracts related to Product Environmental Footprint Life Cycle datasets and remodelling.

Started on April 2015 with final results due to be delivered on June 2018.

Other activities

This EC Project contributes to 10YFP knowledge basis developed by UNEP.

Booth at the Night of Researchers in Turin showed how LCA and the Basket of Product indicators can help people understand the environmental impact of food choices.


Publications  and dissemination

  • Papers published
    • Cristóbal, J., Castellani, V., Manfredi, S. & Sala, S. (2018). Prioritizing and optimizing sustainable measures for food waste prevention and management. Waste Management, 72:3-16 (download)
    • Castellani V. Lorenzo B, Sala S (2017) Hotspots analysis and critical interpretation of food life cycle assessment studies for selecting eco-innovation options and for policy support Journal of Cleaner Production, doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.05.078 (download)
    • Notarnicola B, Tassielli G, Renzulli PA, Castellani V, Sala S (2017) Environmental impact of food consumption in Europe. Journal of Cleaner Production, doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.080 (download)
    • Castellani V, Benini L, Sala S, Pant R (2016) A distance-to-target weighting method for Europe 2020 International Journal of LCA, p. 1-11 doi: 10.1007/s11367-016-1079-8 (download)
    • Polizzi di Sorrentino E., Woelbert E., Sala S. (2016) Consumers and their behavior: state of the art in behavioral science supporting use phase modeling in LCA. International Journal of LCA, 21 (2): 237-251, doi:10.1007/s11367-015-1016-2 (download)
    • Benini L., Sala S (2016) Integrated assessment of environmental impact of Europe in 2010: uncertainty and sensitivity of the normalisation factors to methodological assumptions. International Journal of LCA, 21(2):224-236, doi: 10.1007/s11367-015-1013-5 (download)
    • Sala S., Benini L., Mancini L., Pant R. (2015) Integrated assessment of environmental impact of Europe in 2010: data sources and extrapolation strategies for calculating normalisation factors. International Journal of LCA, 20(11):1568-1585; DOI: 10.1007/s11367-015-0958-8 (download)
  • Conference presentations and posters
    • Corrado S, Castellani V, Zampori L, Sala S. (2015) Wheat of today and tomorrow: an assessment of current LCI inventories, oral presentation at the conference “LCA for feeding the planet and energy for life”, Stresa, 6th-7th October 2015
    • Corrado S, Castellani V, Zampori L, Sala S. (2016) Modelling agricultural production: systematic analysis of secondary Life Cycle Inventories, poster presentation at SETAC Europe annual meeting, Nantes, 22-26 May 2016
    • Notarnicola B, Tassielli G, Renzulli PA, Castellani V, Sala S (2016), Environmental Impact of food consumption in EU, oral presentation at SETAC Europe annual meeting, Nantes, 22-26 May 2016
    • Benini L, Secchi M, Castellani V, Boulay AM, Sala S (2016), Application of Environmental Impact models for water scarcity to a European basket of food products, oral presentation at 10th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2016, Dublin, 18-21 October 2016
    • Castellani V, Sala S, Benini L (2016), Food consumption in the EU: LCA and hotspot analysis to drive the selection of eco-innovation strategies, oral presentation at 10th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2016, Dublin, 18-21 October 2016

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