Sustainable products: the European Commission’s ambitious plans to rethink consumer products


As part of its ambitious European Green Deal growth strategy to make the EU climate neutral by 2050, the European Commission has unveiled sweeping proposals to rethink product design and labelling. The new legal framework plans to boost the circularity of a wide variety of products, including electronics, ICT (information and communication technology) products and textiles, as well as intermediate products such as iron and wood. ‘steel. With new rules for labeling and reporting the number of unsold goods thrown away each year, manufacturers as well as online retailers and marketplaces will fall under these ambitious plans to reduce the climate impact of products sold on the EU single market.

What has been proposed?

Today, the European Commission published its Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI). It repeals the existing Ecodesign Directive and creates a new harmonized regulation, while also amending the Market Surveillance Regulation. Currently, ecodesign provides rules to improve the environmental performance of energy-related products, such as vacuum cleaners and refrigerators, by setting mandatory energy efficiency requirements. The Market Surveillance Regulation harmonizes requirements at EU level for non-food products to protect consumers, health, safety and the environment.

New design requirements

The new proposal establishes a legal framework for setting ecodesign requirements on a wide variety of products, going beyond the current scope of energy-related products. The framework extends ecodesign in two ways:

  • Design rules: Ecodesign will introduce new requirements on material efficiency, presence of substances of concern in products, resource efficiency, upgradability and reparability, durability, recyclability, recycled content, reduction of carbon and environmental footprint. Not all products will be subject to the same ecodesign requirements – this will depend on a life cycle assessment of each product.
  • Product range: In addition to electronics, the ecodesign rules aim to cover all physical goods placed on the market. The list of products covered will be decided once the regulations are passed by lawmakers, but the first list will likely include furniture, mattresses, tires, detergents, paints and lubricants, as well as intermediate products like iron, l steel and aluminum. In principle, the new regulation will not apply to products covered by existing product-specific legislation (e.g. batteries, toys, packaging), but the Commission could set concrete requirements at product-specific level on the basis of the new regulatory framework in the future, and will check for any overlap/conflict between existing legislation and the new framework. Foodstuffs, animal feed and medicines are excluded from the scope.

The European Commission will adopt additional legislation in the form of delegated acts for each product category, where the full design and labeling requirements will be listed.

Labeling and digital passports

The Commission will introduce new labeling requirements, including a framework for a mandatory EU passport for digital products. Products can only be placed on the market if a product passport is available. The passport will make information freely available, covering the entire value chain, and complement standard product manuals and labels. These obligations would be incumbent on the economic operators, which include the manufacturer, the distributor and the reseller, that is to say the retailer and the seller.

This proposal is also supported by a new EU initiative to empower consumers to go green, which will ensure that product information at the point of sale includes details on product durability and reparability. . The initiative will prohibit greenwashing and premature obsolescence.

Reporting obligation

There will be new obligations for economic operators to communicate publicly on the number of unsold goods thrown away per year, explaining the reasons why the goods are thrown away and how they are thrown away (eg destroyed, recycled, donated).

If the Commission feels that there is too much destroyed property in Europe, it can prepare secondary legislation to ban the destruction of unsold property.

Online marketplaces and search engines will also be required to cooperate with market surveillance authorities to ensure that sellers comply with the requirements set out in the SPI.

And after

The legislative proposal will be considered by lawmakers in the European Parliament and the Council, who hope to reach an agreement on the proposal in 2023. Once adopted, it will be directly applicable. The Commission will then start adopting delegated acts on specific products that will fall under the rules of the regulation. Member States will be free to decide on the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the provisions of the Regulation.

Global companies manufacturing and selling products in the EU market will need to assess the current specifications of their products to ensure that they are sustainable enough to meet future ecodesign requirements. Products may need to be completely redesigned to ensure they are more durable, easier to recycle or repair, or contain fewer substances of concern, for example, which could prove costly.

Sellers, including traditional physical stores and online retailers, will have a duty to ensure that they sell products that comply with the new rules, in particular by ensuring that all products have a digital passport containing the necessary information covering the entire value chain of a product. Making information accessible to national authorities and citizens can raise intellectual property rights concerns, while subjecting companies to scrutiny of their due diligence procedures regarding product design and suppliers/materials used. .

Global companies manufacturing and selling products in the EU market will need to assess the current specifications of their products to ensure that they are sustainable enough to meet future ecodesign requirements.


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