Have you ever wondered if the products you use every day are really sustainable? Or ever thought of what you would want to change to make the whole life cycle of products more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly? Then we have news for you: on the 30th of March 2022, the Commission published its latest legislative proposal to enforce sustainability standards for products that are sold and bought in Europe. Find out more on the initiative, on what’s in it for the EU’s energy policy and youth, and how you can get involved in the quest towards a circular economy, to shape the laws that will redefine our path towards a more sustainable and energy-efficient Europe.
The European Commission makes another move towards a circular economy: #SPI🚀
The Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI) is a package of measures designed by the European Commission to tackle the most important issues related to the sustainability of products in our times. The SPI is to be looked at in the context of the European Green Deal – the growth strategy put in place in 2019 to make Europe “a modern, competitive, climate neutral and circular economy” – and of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) of 2020, aimed specifically at improving the sustainability of services and goods found in the internal market.
The challenges ahead for the SPI: unsustainable product design affects seller and consumer behaviour
Contemporary product design does not sufficiently take into account circularity aspects: goods are being replaced rather than repaired, with a waste of energy and resources. Moreover, consumers and sellers often do not have the possibility to choose sustainable products, as these have proven to be more expensive, on average, than not-so-sustainable ones. The unavailability of accurate information on the origin, durability and recyclability of products also does not enable buyers to make conscious choices on products.
The first big step for the #SPI: revising the Ecodesign Directive, a staple of EU energy policy📚
To ensure that sustainable products become the norm on the European market and to enable consumers and sellers to make more affordable and sustainable choices, part of the SPI is a complete revision of the Ecodesign Directive. Since 2009, the Directive, together with the Energy Labelling Directive, has created a framework for design standards common to all member states on several categories of energy-related products: from lighting, transformers and converters, to air conditioners, computers and servers. Let’s find out more about what ecodesign means, what distinguishes it from energy labelling, and how these concepts influence our daily use of products.
Ecodesign and energy labelling: who is who?
The EU Commission defines ecodesign as “the integration of environmental aspects into product design with the aim of improving the environmental performance of the product throughout its whole life cycle.” The concept is at the basis of the Ecodesign Directive, adopted to give voice to the need to integrate these environmental aspects and make the sustainability of products a fundamental part of exchanges within the EU’s internal market. How to do that? With minimum mandatory requirements regarding the design of different categories of products. You can check out the standards that apply here! These standards are then complemented with energy labelling requirements, which make information on the energy efficiency of products available to the consumers, as they are attached to the products themselves (through labels!).
From the Ecodesign Directive to the Ecodesign Regulation: sustainability besides energy efficiency💡
The standards above refer to energy-related products only, which means that they are mainly focussed on energy efficiency. But sustainability is much more than that! With the new Ecodesign Regulation, standards will cover more products and more aspects of their life-cycle: from durability and reusability, to the calculation of carbon and environmental footprints to the expected generation of waste materials. The standards regarding these aspects and much more will be adopted – following the pending adoption of the Regulation’s final text – by the Commission with further acts regarding each of the specific categories of products concerned. The first acts adopted should touch upon the products and materials that are, at the moment, the most unsustainable.
Besides the introduction of new products and new standards, big news regarding the new Regulation is the introduction of the Product Passport, a digital set of data accessible online that will accompany the product in its life-cycle, making consumers more aware of the sustainability of products they are using everyday. The Regulation also establishes new physical labels – except for energy-related products, which remain covered by our Energy Labelling Regulation above.
Get involved: send your feedback to the Commission by the 22nd of June!✍️
And now, it’s up to you: did you know that, for each legislative proposal, the Commission opens a feedback phase of eight weeks, in which private citizens, NGOs and the industry can comment on the adopted text? What do you think about the new Regulation? Does it reach the objectives it sets? Are there topics relevant to the circular economy of products that are not included and that you think could be worth regulating? What’s your stand on the new ecodesign requirements and on the Digital Product Passport?
👀🗯️Are you asking yourself why you should get involved?
Feedback from youth passionate about energy and the energy transition in this context is fundamental, as the Regulation is likely to have a significant impact on energy systems and could potentially engage youth much more than before in the quest for more sustainable products.
In terms of youth engagement, the Regulation aims – through the creation of the Product Passport – at giving wider access to well organised information on the products each and everyone of us buys everyday. With information on a product’s origin, environmental footprint and expected generation of waste materials being available at the simple glance of a QR code, numerous possibilities for youth to be involved open up: how do we systematise these data? How do we make it an instrument that is accessible to everyone, what kind of information are we interested in seeing there? How do we make it more engaging for us, so that we can be better informed on what we are buying? (And perhaps, how do we make it fun?) The Commission is seeking answers to these and many other questions in engaging with civil society and with youth.
As youth, we can participate by having our say in public consultations such as this one so that regulatory instruments that are meant to accompany us through the energy transition and through the journey towards a circular economy belong to us, we can shape them so that we can use them efficiently and obtain results towards sustainability in our daily lives. The results of the initial public consultation on the Sustainable Products Initiative have already enabled stakeholders across the EU to give their feedback on the initiative, which is now included in the introductory part of the Proposal for the new Ecodesign Regulation.
As for energy systems, higher standards for the energy efficiency of products that were already regulated by the old Ecodesign Directive are projected to enable savings of 170 TW/h a year in 2030. An additional saving of 70 TW/h a year in 2030 will instead come from the regulation of new products (think about electric vehicle chargers, universal external power supplies, low temperature radiators and more). Still to be estimated, but potentially highly significant, are also the impacts on the energy consumed by products such as smartphones and solar PV systems/panels, which are still to be regulated. The creation of new rules on products with a fundamental role in the energy transition – such as PV systems/panels and electric vehicle chargers – is a significant moment for energy passionates, for the youth of today and of that of tomorrow, as these products will go through this journey towards sustainable energy systems with us for the years to come!
👉Do it now 🙂
The Commission has opened its feedback period for the new Ecodesign Regulation and is now accepting submissions at its Sustainable Products Initiative dedicated page. Feedback period closes on the 22nd of June. If you are passionate about sustainability and energy or/and you are a young professional working or studying in the context of the energy transition, then it’s your chance to have a say!
- European Commission, ‘Inception Impact Assessment’ (2020). Available at <https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12567-Sustainable-products-initiative_en> accessed 21 April 2022.
- SWD(2022) 83 final (Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment of the Revision of the Ecodesign Directive. Available at <https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=SWD:2022:83:FIN> accessed 21 April 2022.
- European Commission, ‘Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for sustainable productsand repealing Directive 2009/125/EC – COM(2022)142’ (2022). Available at <https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12567-Sustainable-products-initiative_en> accessed 10 May 2022.
- Data retrieved from the European Economic and Social Committee’s Public Hearing of the 29th of April 2022. Available at <https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/agenda/our-events/events/sustainable-products-initiative-including-ecodesign-directive/webstream> accessed 11 May 2022
- The European Commission’s Sustainable Products Initiative (2022)
- Q&A on the SPI: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_22_2014
- The new Ecodesign Regulation
- The old Ecodesign Directive
A broader perspective: NGOs speak up for ecodesign
- Delivering resource-efficient products: the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) (2015)
- Applying ecodesign principles to plastics in the circular economy: The European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation’s (ECOS) (2019)
- How ecodesign can make our textiles circular: The European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS) (2021)
- More on the Digital Products Passport: Generation Climate Europe (GCE) (2021)
- Consultation Opportunities by the EU Commission
- All of the open consultations: “Have your say” by the European Commission
- Contribute with your ideas on how to simplify EU law: The Commission’s Fit for Future Platform
- “Have your say!” Special Report by the European Court of Auditors on opportunities to engage with EU lawmaking.
- Want to do more? Join the international team of EYEN now!