As part of a continued focus on sustainability, the European Commission, Council, and Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) in early December 2023. The new regulation will build on the existing Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) and apply to a broader array of products.
Details of the provisional agreement
The current Ecodesign Directive applies only to energy-related products but has been celebrated by lawmakers for “successfully [driving] the improved energy efficiency of products in the EU.” The new regulation will establish a framework that allows lawmakers to set ecodesign requirements for specific product groups, with priority given to highly impactful products, which include textiles, furniture, iron and steel, tyres, paints, and electronics, among others. The commission will maintain and update a list of impacted products, which will be identified based on “a thorough analysis and criteria notably related to the EU’s climate, environment and energy efficiency objectives.”
Another key goal of the regulation is to improve circularity and reduce unnecessary waste. The regulation will include requirements governing several key areas, including:
- Product durability, reusability, upgradability, and repairability
- The presence of chemical substances that inhibit reuse and recycling of materials
- Energy and resource efficiency
- The use of recycled content
- Carbon and environmental footprints
Notably, the regulation also has measures that seek to end the “wasteful and environmentally harmful practice of destroying unsold consumer products.” At a minimum, companies will need to take measures to prevent this from happening, but lawmakers are looking to outlaw the practice completely and have introduced a direct ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear products. The commission has indicated that other product categories could face similar bans in the future. Companies who sell products covered by the ESPR should review their practices now to reduce or end the destruction of unsold products in advance of further action from lawmakers.
The ESPR also introduces a Digital Product Passport requirement, which calls for manufacturers to make available more information on the sustainability characteristics of their products for consumers and other businesses in the product lifecycle. In addition to increasing transparency for consumers and businesses, this Passport is also intended to help authorities improve enforcement of the regulation. As we noted in our recent 2023 European Recall Index report, some companies have already adopted a Digital Product Passport, although details on the exact format of the Passport required by the regulation are still forthcoming.
The ESPR is now making its way through the final steps of the legislative process and will then enter into force once formally adopted by Parliament and the Council. After entering into force, the commission will move forward with determining which products will be targeted first.
Businesses who manufacture or distribute products deemed “impactful” by the ESPR should take steps now to prepare for new ecodesign requirements. Across industries, businesses should prepare for EU lawmakers to continue their focus on sustainability and to advance new requirements in pursuit of the European Green Deal.
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