Making sustainable products the norm

To what extent is the Sustainable Products Initiative an opportunity for both the environment and European manufacturers? Korrina Hegarty, APPLiA Policy Director for Environment, was invited to share the industry’s perspective on the possibilities of the Sustainable Products Initiative at the European Forum for Manufacturing. 

To what extent is the Sustainable Products Initiative an opportunity for both the environment and European manufacturers? Korrina Hegarty, APPLiA Policy Director for Environment, was invited to share the industry’s perspective on the possibilities of the Sustainable Products Initiative at the European Forum for Manufacturing. 

Since the adoption of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and with the subsequent launch of the Sustainable Products Initiative, making sustainable products the norm escalated the EU political agenda and became a key policy driver in the green transition. In this sense, “Home appliance manufacturers are a clear example of how the EU industry can contribute to EU policy goals through a longstanding commitment on developing and implementing Ecodesign and Energy Labeling legislation to make products as circular and energy efficient as possible, as well as addressing chemical content and end of life management,” began Ms Hegarty. Today, the current Ecodesign Directive has been fruitful for manufacturers as they work hand in hand with the EU in order to accomplish several environmental, energy efficiency and decarbonisation objectives for energy-related products. With this regard, the sector believes that an expansion to non-energy related products would risk questioning its proven legal ground, regulatory process and methodology. Instead, “a parallel legislation, with appropriate methodologies should be considered for other types of products, that takes inspiration from the good practices of the existing Ecodesign,” continued Ms Hegarty.

It is critical that any future policy landscape for sustainable products promotes a circular culture and helps establish a more coherent EU policy framework for a circular economy. Preserving the EU Single Market to promote competition and innovation should also be of utmost priority. “The SPI has the ultimate ambitious goal of addressing the challenges related to environmental impacts and resource-use while empowering industries and consumers,” outlined Ms Hegarty. Importantly, if implemented correctly, the SPI has the potential to establish a win-win scenario for both the environment and European manufacturers. To allow this to happen, policy objectives, choices and incentives across all policy areas must be implemented in a clear and consistent fashion to create a market for sustainable circular business models and opportunities from a product life cycle perspective. In a nutshell, “EU policies should reward industry investments, while leaving manufacturers free to choose their preferred route towards greater sustainability,” detailed Ms Hegarty, stressing that legislation should set the goal of driving innovation towards more sustainable products while the industry should have the flexibility to implement the best way to reach that goal. 

There is a clear path for the EU’s Sustainable Product Initiative to provide great progress towards a circular economy. Fundamental to establishing progress revolves around a robust EU Single Market. Therefore, the industry supports a  EU circular economy strategy that focuses on keeping markets open and cross-border trade for products flowing. “Adopting a harmonised approach to the various circular economy measures throughout the EU is essential to the implementation of a successful Initiative,” concluded Ms Hegarty.