There are currently two significant consultations on proposed initiatives to make products more sustainable in the EU and UK. This is an important opportunity for affected stakeholders to consider providing feedback on the measures.

The EU Sustainable Products Initiative

The European Commission launched a public consultation on its Sustainable Products Initiative last month. The Sustainable Products Initiative is one of the measures announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan and aims to make products more sustainable, durable, repairable, recyclable and energy efficient. Proposed measures include expanding the scope of the Ecodesign Directive to cover a wider range of energy-related products (with the focus on electronics and ICT equipment) and extending requirements to cover products other than energy-related products (such as textiles, furniture and chemicals). The initiative would also establish overarching product sustainability principles (among other things). See our blog here to find out more about the measures proposed.

The aim of the public consultation is to gather opinions and evidence from relevant stakeholders on the Sustainable Products Initiative, including its possible scope, objectives and the main policy options for its implementation.

The consultation seeks views from a broad range of stakeholders including product manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, importers, retailers, trade associations, consumers, consumer organisations, public authorities, standardisation bodies, technical experts and academia. You can provide feedback by completing the online questionnaire here until 9 June 2021.

UK waste prevention proposals for products

The UK government has also launched a consultation on waste prevention proposals for products in its “Waste Prevention Programme for England”. The UK initiative covers similar themes to the EU’s “Sustainable Products Initiative”, including the reuse, repair and remanufacture of products and treatment at end of life, as well as issues such as extended producer responsibility. The UK proposals are looking to focus initially on construction products, textiles, furniture, electronics, vehicles, food and plastic packaging.

The aim of the UK consultation is to give stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the proposed measures and provide feedback on whether the right priority areas for action have been identified. Like the EU, the UK is seeking feedback from a whole range of stakeholders.

The consultation on the proposals closes on 10 June 2021 and you can provided feedback here.

Comment

Sustainability is featuring heavily on the policy agenda for products in the EU and the UK, with both jurisdictions indicating that they want to take ambitious steps to make products more sustainable. Expect more onerous requirements for the environmental design and performance of consumer products, significant changes to promote longer life, such as introducing the so called right-to-repair across a broader range of product groups, and much stricter end-of-life recycling obligations. These regulatory changes will sit alongside consumer law initiatives designed to give consumers information about sustainability, in the hope this will empower them to make more sustainable choices, and so change the market for consumer products. These include, for example, the EU’s proposals under the “Empowering the Consumer for the Green Transition” initiative.

With all of these changes on the horizon, a big question is whether the UK will stay aligned with the EU on future sustainability measures for products or whether they will seek to diverge. We’ve seen the UK follow the EU’s lead recently on ecodesign measures. However, there were clear signs in the UK government’s recent announcement about the review of the UK product safety framework (which will also cover sustainability of products) that the UK is looking to make its own mark, rather than simply move in line with developments in the EU and in other international contexts (see our blog here).

These initiatives are likely to have a significant impact on the entire lifecycle of future consumer products. If you are a product stakeholder that will be affected by these initiatives, we recommend that you consider providing feedback. For both consultations, it’s important to remember that feedback will be made public. Please reach out to the Cooley products team if you need help or advice in relation to providing feedback.