How can the European Union better support consumer choice and promote more sustainable products?

Peter Holdorf, Mara Fehling

The new Circular Economy Action Plan launched under the European Green Deal aims to transform production and consumption. This means changing the way consumer products for the EU market are made and offering consumers more sustainable choices.

There are already measures that support more sustainable products in the EU. Yet, a comprehensive set of requirements is missing to effectively transition to more sustainable product design and manufacturing.

To close this gap, the European Commission will be putting forward a sustainable product policy framework. This will help make products more resource efficient. It will also introduce higher volumes of materials into the circular economy. Widening the scope of the Ecodesign Directive will be the key pillar of this initiative as new eco-design requirements could significantly reduce the environmental footprint of consumer products.

A recent report for the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) has researched how this consumer protection legislation can support the transition to a circular economy and enable more sustainable consumption.

Ending misleading commercial practices and improving product information are crucial to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

Therefore, the report recommends integrating the product and organisation’s environmental footprints (PEF/OEF) in the Ecolabelling framework. This is meant to substantiate green claims on products and help consumers identify unfair commercial practices and limit greenwashing.

Though many companies have already rolled out their own version of PEF labelling, more companies will need to consider the level of coherence between PEF/OEF and existing life-cycle assessments.

This report will influence the European Parliament’s thinking on important upcoming initiatives such as the Sustainable Product Policy Framework and the upcoming sustainability and circular economy initiatives. We have put together some of the takeaways from the report in this comprehensive slide deck.