The make or break factors of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation proposal

How can Europe build on the successful experience of the current Ecodesign Directive? APPLiA Policy Director for Environment, Korrina Hegarty discussed how the EU’s proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation can help establish sustainable products as the norm, at the European Forum for Manufacturing Event.

How can Europe build on the successful experience of the current Ecodesign Directive? APPLiA Policy Director for Environment, Korrina Hegarty discussed how the EU’s proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), can help establish sustainable products as the norm in Europe at the European Forum for Manufacturing Event.

If correctly implemented, with some adjustments to the Commission's proposal, the ESPR has the potential to lay the foundations of a win-win state of play for both the environment and European manufacturers. Presented as a kind of catch-all legislation, the proposal puts forward an all-encompassing ecodesign, energy label, waste legislation, chemical legislation, and market surveillance legislation. In this regard, “it is essential that the proposal is fully in line with existing and all forthcoming EU legislation, in order to avoid the duplication or cascading of current product requirements,” Hegarty began. Any additional requirements to the EU policy landscape must provide added value. This is the case for both the proposed requirements related to ‘subtances of concern’, where chemical legislation is already in place and the proposed ‘Digital Product Passport’, which must avoid replication of information provided by existing databases such as EPREL and SCIP.  Moving forward, all 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,” stated Hegarty. 

The successful experience of the Ecodesign Directive provides Europe with a chance to analyse the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of effective implementation of legislation on a product group-specific basis via concise, distinct methodology assessing relevant, individual aspects across the product’s lifecycle. The Ecodesign Directive has efficiently dealt with topics including repair, reusability, and recyclability, with resource efficiency requirements on several products since its introduction in March 2021. Speaking on the introduction of future regulations within the ESPR, “establishing ecodesign requirements should identify the most appropriate variables to improve environmental sustainability while considering that product parameters can be interdependent and affect each other,” Hegarty declared. Evaluation should be carried out to assess these parameters, not individually, but rather in combination to maximise the industry’s contribution to the EU Green Deal objectives. Building on this, “a bankable ESPR must ensure the well-functioning of the EU Single Market, in keeping markets open and cross-border trade for products flowing,” concluded Hegarty. Ensuring that requirements and standards are implemented in a harmonised fashion is key here, given that sufficient lead-time is granted to the industry to adapt to regulation, between the date of publication of the legislation and the eventual application of such requirements. 

Ultimately, the new Initiative presents a sense of optimism for European manufacturers and the state of the environment toward the creation of a policy landscape where sustainable products are commonplace. In order to inherit the best possible outcome from the proposals, it is key to shift towards a coherent EU policy framework for a circular economy that preserves the EU Single Market, competition, and innovation, across the board.