Far-reaching legislation is coming from Europe to make products more sustainable, reliable, reusable, repairable, easier to maintain, refurbish, recycle and energy and resource efficient. An example of EU regulations that directly affect key business processes is Ecodesign for Sustainable Products (ESPR).
In the coming years, Dutch companies will have to deal with new European regulations. An important part of those regulations is aimed at circularity and sustainability. In practice, it appears that companies are not always aware of what is coming at them and what these regulations mean for them. An example of EU regulations that directly affect key business processes is Ecodesign for Sustainable Products (ESPR). Using 6 questions, we will take you through the background, impact and planning of ESPR and provide tools to prepare your company for it.
Why this legislation from Europe?
Many challenges of our time do not stop at the border. This is certainly true of the environment and climate. They are big issues that you cannot solve as a country. The same goes for resource scarcity. We depend on superpowers like Russia and China for many of our raw materials. This makes us economically vulnerable, because even as the European Union, we make up only 5% of the world's population and are a small player. In short: to deal with these challenges, it is vital that countries cooperate with each other.
The European Union has a Green Deal for sustainable growth. The Circular Economy Action Plan -introduced by the European Commission in March 2020- is an important part of it. Throughout the life cycle of products, the action plan aims to develop initiatives from design process to waste streams.
From the action plan also comes the Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Regulation (ESPR) guidelines, formerly known as Sustainable Products Initiative.
What does ESPR entail?
They are new minimum sustainability and circularity requirements for products placed on the European market. It is about ensuring that almost all products:
easier to maintain;
and become more energy and resource efficient.
The new legislation goes far beyond the current directives that are mainly limited to energy consumption of products. This means, among other things, that manufacturers must work on extending the life of their products. For example, by providing software updates, parts and accessories. By ensuring that products are actually easier to repair and by providing guidelines for this to consumers. Not unimportantly; ESPR must also ensure that the burning and destruction of unsold products such as textiles and electrical equipment will soon be prohibited.
Do the ESPR guidelines also apply to my products?
That chance is very high yes. The expectation is that the new legislation will eventually apply to virtually all products/sectors with at most a few exceptions. Sectors that consume a lot of raw materials will have priority. These include packaging, textiles, tires, electronic equipment, chemicals, furniture, construction and steel.
When will these guidelines take effect?
It's not here yet, but steps are being taken.... Right now, there is a proposal from the European Commission. Together with the European Parliament and "the Council," it is at the heart of legislation in Europe. In the near future, ESPR must be agreed upon by these bodies. Then these directives must be implemented at the national level. It is expected that within 5 years the directives will be truly applicable.
How do I prepare my business for this?
We put this question to Arthur ten Wolde, expert on European regulations. He is a CIRCO Trainer and, as director of Ecopreneur.eu, responsible for public affairs on, among other things, the European Circular Economy Package.
'In my contact with companies, I notice that they have really woken up to the fact that there is a huge amount of legislation coming at them. They also do worry: how do I follow everything that is happening now? What legislation applies to my company? How can I translate this into my own goals?'
'My advice: just get started and take small steps. Go back to the basics of the business; what is actually our vision for sustainability and circularity? What are we already doing? Then it's good to determine where the biggest impact can be made for your company. When you start working with the primary (production) processes, a CIRCO Track ensures a flying start. Together with other (chain) parties, companies learn to recognize where their loss of value is and how they can turn this into circular business opportunities.'
I would like to know more about ESPR. Where can I find out?
The circular design knowledge platform CIRCONNECT organized an Expert Café specifically on the design challenges of these upcoming regulations in 2022. CIRCO and Rijkswaterstaat hosted this session. Together with the Ministry of I&W and branch organization Techniek Nederland, they provided more background and insights.
Would you like to gain more insight into the issues currently in play in Brussels and what this means for your business? Then the webinar "Between Business and Brussels" of MVO Nederland is highly recommended. In it, the most important laws and regulations in the field of sustainability and circular economy are explained in detail. Watch the webinar
The circular economy does not arise by itself. CIRCO (a program of TKI-CLICKNL) focuses on getting a new market moving. CIRCO therefore activates - with the support of the government - entrepreneurs and creative professionals to (re)design products, services and business models in order to then do circular business.