Sustainable products, environmental labels, ‘’right to repair’’?

The European Parliament’s (EP) own-initiative Report Towards a more sustainable single market for business and consumers (2020), based on the European Commission’s European Green Deal aims at transforming production and consumption of products on the EU market, in order for them to become more durable, resilient and eco-friendly.

The EP (2020) believes that a shift in the approach is necessary, and here below, we enlist the aspects, which are of most relevance for industries placing goods on the EU market:

  • There is need to tackle misleading environmental claims and to address ‘greenwashing practices’through effective methodologies, including on how to substantiate such claims;
  • Advertising has an effect on levels and patterns of consumption; whereas advertising could help business and consumers to make informed sustainable choices;
  • The rise of e-commerce has created a need for better control of the compliance of goods and services coming from third countries with EU environmental and safety standards, as well as with consumer rights;
  • Consumers are ready to embark on the journey towards a circular economy and are three times more likely to buy a product if it is labelled as more durable and repairable according to the Commission’s 2018 behavioural study, but obstacles remain, including information asymmetry; whereas clear, reliable and transparent information on the characteristics of a product, including on estimated lifetime and reparability, is needed for consumer awareness and fair competition among businesses; whereas existing information must therefore be improved, while avoiding information overload;
  • Economic operators should be encouraged to consider the durability of products and services from the design stage and when placed or provided on the internal market, so as to ensure a safe, sustainable, cost-efficient and attractive choice for consumers;
  • Legal framework for a more sustainable single market should foster innovation and the development of sustainable technology.

On this basis, the European Parliament (2020) urges to:

  • develop and introduce mandatory labelling, to provide clear, immediately visible and easy-to-understand information to consumers on the estimated lifetime and reparability of a product at the time of purchase;
  • reinforce the role of the EU ecolabel to increase industry uptake and raise awareness among consumers;
  • ensure safe and sustainable products for consumers through improved market surveillance and equivalent customs control standards throughout the EU for both traditional and online businesses; points out that in order to carry out this task, market surveillance authorities must be provided with appropriate financial, technical, information and human resources in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2019/1020, and calls on Member States to meet their needs and on the Commission to ensure proper implementation of the regulation; underlines that interaction between the RAPEX system and online marketplaces and platforms should be significantly enhanced;
  • establish a consumers’ ‘right to repair’with a view to making repairs systematic, cost efficient and attractive;
  • create tools related to the Commission digital ‘product passport’ to improve traceability and access to information on the conditions of production of a product, durability, composition, reuse, repair, dismantling possibilities and end-of-life handling together with the industry and stakeholders
  • ensure the uptake of environmental, social and innovation public procurement in the transition to a sustainable and climate-neutral economy, by introducing sustainability criteria and targets into public tenders
  • develop clear guidelines and standards for green claims and commitments translating into strengthened ecolabel certifications and welcomes the announced legislative proposal on substantiating green claims.

Ajda Mihelcic

DPM Publications Department

22/12/2020


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