After many years of lower profile during the economic crisis, a renewed focus on commercial environment thinking has arisen in Europe. Traditionally the environment agenda always has had significant ambitions and now is no different. The agenda for the next 15 or so years is bold with many commercial implications. Indeed if it succeeds it could be transformational in several respects.

In terms of the interrelationship between commercial life and environment/sustainability, there have been several important policy instruments arising from the EU in the last several months which signpost a tremendous political and legal ambition to move the economies of Europe to greater resource efficiency and resilience (and in return less harmful to the environment). It is claimed that this will be “job rich” by creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs and will make the European economies more competitive and innovative. Further detail is expected from the EU in this regard in early Autumn 2014. 

Likely sectors to be affected include consumer products, ICT, infrastructure, manufacturing, real estate, transport and waste management.

We think it is important to take seriously the most recent policy developments because not only are they potentially very significant in commercial terms but also because this has happened before. Looking back over the last 30-40 years of European law there are numerous examples of how major commercial changes arose from European developments in environment or sustainability policy which had been signposted several years earlier. Very often commercial enterprises seemed to be taken unawares when such changes became law, suggesting that the changes were “new” whereas in fact they had been on the agenda for some time. For these reasons an early understanding of the likely changes is valuable.

As the recent policy developments could be tremendously significant in commercial terms we intend to cover many of them in a series of Law-Nows over the coming weeks and months.  The first of these will relate to an EU Communication on 2nd July 2014 entitled “Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe”. This is a major piece of the European policy matrix on resource efficiency.