NLconnect is de branchevereniging van de telecom-, breedband- en glasvezelindustrie

NLconnect publishes Product Category Rules for sustainable fiber optic products

07 februari 2024
NLconnect publishes Product Category Rules for sustainable fiber optic products

Dutch trade organization NLconnect has published Product Category Rules (PCRs), for active and passive fiber products. The PCRs introduce common calculation rules that allow manufacturers and vendors to map out the environmental impact of fiber optic products in a standardized way. The PCRs are an essential building block for the sustainable development of the fiber and telecom industry, and serve as input for standardized Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

In the international fiber optics industry, there was no standard for the sustainability classification of fiber optic materials. NLconnect is now addressing this gap for the Netherlands, with the aim to develop this into an official international standardization. The PCRs have been developed by NLconnect over the past few months in a working group. 

Manufacturers and suppliers are now invited to use the PCRs to conduct Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of their products. The PCRs and LCAs enable the creation of a standardized EPDs for each fiber product or product group. These EPDs provide manufacturers, as well as procurement teams at telecom operators, contractors, and governments, with a comprehensive overview of the environmental impact of materials and products used in fiber optic networks. This facilitates telecom companies in gaining a better understanding of their so-called scope 3 emissions – the portion of the CO2 footprint attributed to the entire life cycle of all products purchased by a company.

New industry standard

NLconnect's PCRs were developed because there was previously no international standard for the sustainability classification of fiber optic materials. Consequently, EPDs are often prepared without common calculation rules, rendering it impossible to compare the environmental performance of similar fiber optic products. With its PCRs, NLconnect addresses this lack and establishes a new industry standard.

Passive and active fiber optic products

The PCRs apply to a broad range of fiber optic products. On the passive side, this includes cables, ducts, closures, FTUs, and fiber trays. The PCR for active products includes modems, routers, ONTs, and switches. The PCRs are published on the NLconnect website and can be freely used by any manufacturer or supplier of fiber optic products, as well as telecom operators and providers.

The PCRs have been developed in recent months by NLconnect in collaboration with the following companies: Adtran, Amadys (Netceed), Attema, BAM Telecom, Circet, Compose/Legrand, Dura-Line, Eurofiber, Genexis, Maunt, Netways Europe, Odido, Prysmian Group, TKF, and TriNed. NLconnect received support in the project from NIBE, a consultancy in the field of sustainable and circular construction.

Within the NLconnect project, EPDs have already been created for ducts and optical cables from Prysmian, an optical cable from TKF, a duct from Amadys (Netceed) and Dura-Line, a fiber patch tray from Legrand/Compose, an FttX distribution closure from Attema, and an XGS-PON ONT from Genexis.

Reduction of scope 3 emissions through sustainable purchasing with EPDs

In the PCRs, all aspects related to the environmental impact during the life cycle of the product are taken into account: from raw material extraction, production processes, practical lifespan, maintenance and management, to demolition and waste processing, as well as all logistics over the lifespan.

NLconnect Director Mathieu Andriessen says, "Modern 5G and fiber optic networks are already very energy-efficient. The Dutch digital infrastructure, for example, accounts for only 0.22 percent of the total CO2 footprint in the Netherlands. With the publication of the PCRs, our industry gains an important standard to further reduce emissions. The PCRs enable manufacturers to create EPDs and thus demonstrate the ecological footprint of each product. This also makes it possible to focus on reducing emissions in Scope 3 through procurement. Scope 3, the indirect emissions in the supply chain, is a significant challenge because it constitutes the majority of emissions for most telecom operators. We expect the use of standardized EPDs in our industry to increase significantly in the coming years."

International standardization

The NLconnect PCRs complement the core product category rules in EN 15804, EN 50693, and the Dutch PCR for construction products, "Bepalingsmethode milieuprestatie bouwwerken," of the Dutch National Environmental Database Foundation (NMD). In developing the PCRs, NLconnect also incorporated elements from existing PCRs for other cables and electronic products, such as EPD Norge, Environdec, and PEP Ecopassport.

The PCRs have been published on the NLconnect website, and the industry association also aims to have the documents published as an official c-PCR on the website of the Dutch National Environmental Database. This is planned for later this year and will include a public consultation for both PCRs.

In parallel with national standardization, the trade association is working on official international standardization. To achieve this, NLconnect collaborates with the FttH Council Europe and is also in talks with the ITU.