Home appliances: a journey towards more sustainable lifestyles

Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General, was invited to share the key milestones of the journey of the home appliance industry towards sustainability at a webinar hosted by the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists (SEII).

Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General, was invited to share the key milestones of the journey of the home appliance industry towards sustainability at a webinar hosted by the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists (SEII). 

First, how did it all begin? When thinking about the ultimate sustainability objective, “it is important to look back at the stances that led in the very first place to the need for the foundation of our Association,” kicked off Mr Falcioni. Yet, the history of the home appliance industry in Europe is deeply entrenched in the establishment of the European Union itself. Came into light only one year after the Treaty of Rome (1957), the founding fathers of CECED - the Conseils Europeen de la Construction Electro-Domestique, known today as APPLiA, “saw newborn Europe as the natural homeland to establish their organisation,” he explained, “aimed at improving the energy efficiency of the products placed on the newly constituted common market”. This is where the sustainability journey started. 

As manufacturers began to commit to the production of progressively more efficient products, the first energy labels entered the scene as a driver to provide a clear and simple indication of the energy efficiency of appliances. First introduced in 1992 and subsequently expanded in 2010 and ultimately in March 2021, with a comparative scale from A to G, the EU energy label was conceived to pilot consumers towards more energy efficient products while encouraging manufacturers to invest in innovation by using more energy efficient technologies. Yet, the ultimate goal of improving sustainability and energy efficiency entailed the creation of a level playing field for all manufacturers in the EU, calling for the establishment of set equal minimum requirements. At the crossroad between the industry and legislation, is the creation of the resulting Ecodesign Directive, marking the consolidation of a fair journey towards sustainability and opening the door to resource efficiency. 

Let’s take the case of the washing machine. From the first hand-powered model came to light in the 1850s, “this revolutionary invention has come a long way to welcome today cutting-edge technologies,” commented Mr Falcioni. Over the years, home appliances have been delivering increasingly higher efficiency standards. From time optimisation to reduced energy bills, “such improvement in the overall efficiency of products also translates into improved standards of living for all EU citizens,” he continued. As the sector strives to close the existing gaps in the pursuit of the energy transition, “advancing sustainable lifestyles is a mission that involves each one of us across the globe,” highlighted Falcioni. “This entails a shift towards what APPLiA calls a circular culture.” In a nutshell, a circular revolution that involves each life stage of appliances and each one of us, as citizens, towards a circular economy.