Luca Boniolo

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Luca Boniolo is a public affairs consultant passionate about supporting industry front-runners on their sustainability journeys and helping them accomplish the EU’s environmental ambitions.

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Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation: Why is it a Game-Changer for the European Market?

Can new product sustainability rules really help us achieve the goal of a greener future? The European Commission’s answer would be, yes.

Although a truly sustainable society may seem like a distant dream right now, the impact of ecodesign measures already implemented demonstrate their potential as a real pathway forward: in 2021 alone, ecodesign measures saved €120 billion in energy expenditure for EU consumers and achieved a 10% reduction in annual energy consumption by the products covered.

With this track record of success, it was time to push for more and the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, or ESPR, is the EU Commission’s new game plan to make sustainable products the norm among us.

In this article, I’m going to take you through the most important aspects of the ESPR and help you understand what these changes could mean for your organisation.

Want someone with deep experience and connections in the EU to help guide your sustainability strategy? Get in touch!

Understanding the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation

If the ESPR sounds incredibly similar to an initiative we’ve previously discussed called Sustainable Product Initiative, it’s because it is. In fact, both are one and the same. To avoid confusion, it’s important to start by clarifying that ‘Sustainable Product Initiative’ was just a working title for the document, which in its final and official version has been named the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation.

Key elements of the new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation

In a nutshell, the ESPR has been designed to help guarantee that the majority of the products available on the EU market in the future have a reduced impact on the environment across their entire lifecycle. Personally, I would explain it as an expansion of the current Ecodesign Directive, aimed at significantly boosting its impact by widening the range of products covered and adding new sustainability requirements to be met.

With a few exceptions, such as food and feed products, nearly all physical goods available within the block may need to comply with requirements related to:

  • The product’s durability, recyclability, reusability, upgradability and reparability, as well as its recycled content;
  • Energy and resource use and efficiency of the product, based on a life cycle assessment;
  • Carbon and environmental footprints, based on a life cycle assessment;
  • The presence of substances of concern in the product which could limit its circularity;
  • Information requirements to improve transparency, including via a Digital Product Passport.

Impacts of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation

Unlike other industry-specific initiatives, such as the EU Sustainable Textiles Strategy, the ESPR applies to organisations from all sectors, which is why I believe it should be thoroughly studied and understood by policymakers and stakeholders across the board.

Here are the main impacts expected from the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation for different stakeholders.

What it means for the environment

Naturally, the adoption of the ESPR will bring significant benefits for the environment, both in the EU and globally.

According to the European Commission, the new ecodesign framework will help reduce the depletion of Europe’s natural resources, as well as its carbon footprint. By removing polluting products from the market, we will considerably bring down our overall pollution levels, allowing ecosystems and biodiversity to recuperate and thrive.

Finally, in addition to reducing the EU’s contribution to climate change, the requirements contained in the document should foster sustainable practices throughout the entire value chain, potentially limiting negative environmental damages even outside the block’s borders.

What it means for consumers

For us consumers, the impacts of the new regulations are also positive.

With access to competitively priced sustainable goods, we can expect energy, resources and cost savings. Products will also be more durable, with repair services being offered by manufacturers to help further extend their lifetime.

Another important benefit of shopping in a market under the ESPR will be the easy access to relevant information regarding the sustainability aspects of each product. More than a tool for making better informed decisions, I believe that transparency tools such as the Digital Product Passport will be a very important step in changing our purchasing habits and moving towards a future of responsible consumption.

What it means for businesses

To be straightforward about it, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation significantly raises the stakes for most companies doing business within the EU.

The new market will privilege those working in circular design, practices and business models. For many companies this would mean completely rethinking the way they operate. Companies from nearly all sectors should get ready for important changes regarding the design of their products, production processes, efficiency reporting, durability testing, sales practices and much more.

Still, businesses can also expect positive impacts from the implementation of the ESPR. The most notable one being the creation of a level playing field for companies across the block. However challenging the long list of new requirements might seem, these standards should eliminate unfair competitive advantages enjoyed by businesses that chose to operate with complete disregard for the environment. Such high sustainable standards can also represent a competitive edge globally speaking.

How can organisations prepare for these changes?

Corporate leadership can start the process by raising awareness and informing all internal stakeholders of the changes ahead. Next, they should set up designated teams charged with reviewing how distant the current product designs and production practices are from the ecodesign requirements. For many products, these standards may only be set in a few years, yet it is still crucial to be aware of the sustainability principles that the European Commission considers as an important priority.

After determining what needs to be addressed, making the required changes could demand new and specific skills from staff members, so workforce management and upskilling should also not be overlooked. As always, expert knowledge can make or break a transition of these proportions, and having experienced professionals you can rely on should be a priority.



Want someone with deep experience and connections in the EU to help guide your sustainability strategy? Get in touch!

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