Sustainable Products Policy: Do all stakeholders agree on what is 'sustainable'?
For decades, the standard approach to production and consumption has been “ make, use, dispose”. The European Commission considers that current linear pattern does not give producers an incentive to make their products more sustainable. Many products break down too quickly, cannot be easily reused, repaired or recycled, and many are made for single use only. Prices of products do not often reflect their environmental and societal costs, which reduces the incentives to produce and consume more sustainably. Missing or unclear information for consumers on the sustainability of products further contribute to the problem.
As warnings about climate change intensify, some civil society organisations are starting to challenge the sustainability of the linear model of production and consumption. At the same time, the single market provides a critical mass enabling the EU to set global standards in product sustainability and to influence product design and value chain management worldwide.
EU initiatives and legislation already address sustainability aspects of products. The Ecodesign Directive regulates energy efficiency and certain circularity features of energy related products. Instruments such as the EU Ecolabel or the Green Public Procurement are broader in scope but have reduced impact as they are voluntary. In general, there is no comprehensive set of requirements to ensure that all products placed on the EU market become increasingly sustainable and follow the circular pattern.
The European Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan, launched under the European Green Deal, aims to transform production and consumption. It announces initiatives for the entire life cycle of products, from design and manufacturing to consumption, repair, reuse, recycling, and bringing resources back into the economy. One of the initiatives is the Sustainable Product Policy Framework, which includes actions on product design, empowering consumers, and encouraging more sustainable production processes.
Join this EURACTIV Virtual Conference to discuss how the EU can ensure that all products placed on the EU market become increasingly sustainable. Questions to be addressed include:
- Is there an accepted standard definition for 'product sustainability’?
- How can sustainability criteria be enforced? How much importance should be given to each criterion?
- How should trade offs between criteria be addressed? Are policymakers and the public fully aware of the possible trade offs and ready to accept them?
- Are consumers informed sufficiently about a product's environmental footprint? Do they make the connection between a sustainable product and the cost of that product?
Regina Maria Dube, Director General, Water Management, Resource Conservation and Adaptation to Climate Change, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
Jessica Polfjärd MEP, ENVI Member, European Parliament
Paola Migliorini, Deputy Head of Unit Sustainable Production, Products & Consumption, DG ENV, European Commission
Lynette Chung, Chief Sustainability Officer, Covestro
Justin Wilkes, Executive Director, ECOS
Dave Keating, Journalist, EURACTIV
09:30 – 09:35 Welcome
09:35 – 09:50 Panellists statements
09:50 – 10:40 Discussion and Q&A
10:40 – 10:45 Closing statements
+32 (0)2 788 36 86
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As the European Union seeks to transition to a ‘circular economy’, the policy focus in 2021 will turn to products: how they are designed, and why so many seem to be made to throw away.