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The EU Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe – Challenges and opportunities for Europe on the horizon


If Europeans continue using resources at their current speed, the equivalent of two planets will be needed by 2050 in order to sustain them, with no hope of a better quality of life. This is based on the strong assumption that the European Commission published its 2020 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe proposes actions foreseen as necessary to reach sustainability and achieve a more resource-efficient and low-carbon economy by 2020. The European Commission is taking on the challenge of decoupling economic growth from the use of natural resources. The Roadmap therefore announces needed transformation across all sectors of activities, from energy, industry and transport, but also from a consumer behavior perspective. The European Commission chose a two-tier indicator approach for moving forward to a resource-efficient Europe, the enhancing of Resource Productivity and the protection of key natural resources (water, marine environmental, metals, etc.).

Milestones to achieve by 2020

Sustainable growth will only be reached through cooperation among public and private stakeholders to ensure coherent financing, policy, investment, innovation and research. According to the Roadmap, action will be focused on improving the interdependencies between the economy and natural resources for better resource efficiency but also for increased competitiveness. For instance, the Roadmap proposes a shift from taxation of labor to taxation on environmental resources in order to reflect the actual price of under-valued resources such as water, biodiversity or clean air. The Roadmap also integrates a number of policy initiatives with the goal to transform the market, which revolves around better efficiency throughout the life-cycle of a product. The Roadmap therefore sets a series of milestones along with the suggested measures to achieve them by 2020. From legislation to market-based instruments, the European Commission uses various mechanisms to set policy objectives on energy, waste, biodiversity, water but also sustainable consumption and production and boosting efficient production. Key sectors identified for specific action would promote healthier and more sustainable food production and consumption, the high resource efficiency of buildings and finally efficient mobility and transport.

Improving efficiency in the product life cycle

From the perspective of sustainable and efficient production and consumption, the Roadmap highlights better efficiency measures for each step of the life of a product, from design and production to marketing. It starts at the use and choice of raw materials, i.e. the design of the product. The Roadmap recommends tackling all barriers to eco-innovation and boosting research in order to promote more-efficient products. Fiscal incentives and funding should be developed in Member States to encourage businesses to improve on a systemic level their resource efficiency. Also, the reduction of hazardous substances in products or the reuse of waste and by-products are measures proposed towards rewarding companies investing in innovative products. The Roadmap underlines the need to turn waste into a resource. Recycling and re-use of waste are to be promoted to ensure waste returns as a raw material.

When looking at the marketing phase of the product, the goal of the Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe is to change consumers’ habits towards the purchase of environmentally-friendly products. The Roadmap recommends putting in place by 2020 adequate incentives to inform consumers on resource-efficient products through environmental information and pricing. The Roadmap foresees it as an incentive for companies to produce more efficient products. However, changing consumption patterns would not only be done through incentives for efficient products but also through regulatory measures. Minimum environmental performance standards are also recommended to be set on all types of products, through for instance an extension of the scope of the Ecodesign Directive. The Ecodesign Directive is currently applicable for energy-using products and products having an indirect impact on energy use and is in the process of being reviewed. Nevertheless, according to the first findings of the study on the review of the Ecodesign Directive expected in October 2011, the potential extension of the Ecodesign Directive to non-energy related products would be inadequate. In order to provide consumers with clear environmental information and reduce the environmental impacts of a product, the Roadmap to resource efficiency underlines the importance of assessing the environmental footprint of products. The European Commission developed a draft methodological guide for the calculation of the environmental footprint of products, which is to be tested early next year and finalized by September 2012. Other marketing incentives are to be given through green public procurement, for which the European Commission develops specific product criteria.

Getting Prepared in 2012

While actual targets are to be agreed on by 2013, actions and proposals should be taken as soon as 2012. It is yet too soon to know if all the policy and regulatory initiatives announced will actually be implemented, however the Commission is showing great incitement to revolutionize the European approach for better efficiency.

By dint of its extensive experience in the field of compliance with product-relating regulations, Enhesa can help companies cope with this new approach. Enhesa’s Global Product Stewardship Services are dedicated to address all product manufacturers’ concerns or will to jump on new opportunities created by product regulatory developments. Whether your main focus is set on the design stage of products, the production stage or the stage of placing goods on the markets, Enhesa’s services can help you.

The Global Product Stewardship Services offers its users a variety of tools to respond to all types of situations:

  • STEP 1: Define the relevant aspects of your product(s);
  • STEP 2: Country Profiles as a description of how these relevant aspects are regulated in your target markets;
  • STEP 3: Practical Analysis as an identification tool of what you need to do to put the product on the market in compliance with local requirements;
  • STEP 4: Help to get things done
  • STEP 5: Monitoring of regulatory and policy developments that impact your product on the market;
  • STEP 6: Product Compliance Audits.

The following are some examples of Global Product Stewardship projects Enhesa recently carried out.

  • Prior to launching a new “natural” product, Enhesa helped a cosmetics manufacturer understand the relevant aspects of its products, how these aspects were regulated in more than 50 countries (varying from not regulated to prohibited), and what had to be done to put the product on the market in compliance with the local requirements (Steps 1, 2 and 3).
  • Enhesa developed a checklist to allow product managers and market managers of a major petroleum company to ensure or verify whether the label of its lubricants met the local regulatory requirements. The tool is designed to be used for thousands of different products sold globally (Steps 3 and 6).
  • Enhesa provided a large chemicals manufacturer with strategic information for staff resources allocation, Enhesa prepared an overview of adopted and upcoming regulations in the matter of chemical registrations/authorizations, classification, labeling, packaging and safety data sheets in 27 countries worldwide (Step 5).

If you are facing product regulatory questions, and would like to find out more on Enhesa Global Product Stewardship Services, please contact us at info@enhesa.com.

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