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Environment: Helping companies and consumers navigate the green maze
The European Commission is proposing EU-wide methods to measure the
environmental performance of products and organisations, and encouraging Member
States and the private sector to take them up.
Today, companies wanting to highlight the environmental performance of
their products face numerous obstacles.
They have to choose between several methods promoted by governments and
private initiatives, they are often forced to pay multiple costs for providing
environmental information, and they face the mistrust of consumers confused by
too many labels with information that makes products difficult to compare.
According to the latest Eurobarometer on Green Products, 48 % of
European consumers are confused by the stream of environmental information they
Calls have also come from several industrial federations for a
pan-European approach built on EU-wide science-based assessments and Life Cycle
They expressed fears that multiple initiatives at Member State level
would run contrary to Single Market principles, confusing consumers and
increasing costs for industry.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said:
"To boost sustainable growth, we need to make sure that the most
resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly products on the market are known
By giving people reliable and comparable information about the
environmental impacts and credentials of products and organisations, we enable
them to choose. And by helping companies to align their methods we cut their
costs and administrative burdens."
Today's proposal, a Communication on Building the Single Market for
Green Products and a Recommendation on the use of the methods, should bring
comparable and reliable environmental information, building confidence for
consumers, business partners, investors and other company stakeholders.
- puts forward two methods to measure environmental performance
throughout the lifecycle, the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and the
Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF);
- recommends the voluntary use of these methods to Member States,
companies, private organisations and the financial community;
- announces a three-year testing period to develop product- and
sector-specific rules through a multi-stakeholder process, including provision
for organisations with other methods to have them assessed as well;
- provides principles for communicating environmental performance, such
as transparency, reliability, completeness, comparability and clarity;
- supports international efforts towards more coordination in
methodological development and data availability.
The three-year testing period is expected to be launched soon after the
adoption of the Communication.
An open call for volunteers will be published by the Commission on the
web portals for the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and the Organisation
Environmental Footprint (OEF), inviting companies, industrial and stakeholder
organisations in the EU and beyond to participate in the development of
product-group specific and sector-specific rules.
A second phase will build on an in-depth evaluation of the results of
the three-year testing and additional actions carried out under the
Communication and the Recommendation.
Based on this evaluation, the Commission will decide on further policy
applications of the PEF and OEF methods.
These actions contribute to the implementation of the Roadmap to a
Resource Efficient Europe, in particular the section related to Sustainable
Consumption and Production.
The actions foreseen included the establishment of a common, life-cycle
assessment based methodological approach enabling Member States and the private
sector to assess, display and benchmark the environmental performance of
products, services and companies ; and the provision of better information on
the environmental footprints of products.
The Single Market for Green Products was announced as a key action in
the Single Market Act of 2011 and in the Industrial Policy update Communication
The Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental
Footprint methods have been prepared by the European Commission's Joint Research
They are based on Life Cycle Assessment, thus they can cover
environmental impacts (and point to improvement opportunities) from the
extraction of raw materials to the disposal of a product (or a product portfolio
in case of organisations).