A company wishing to market its product as environmentally friendly in several Member State markets faces a confusing range of choices of methods and initiatives. Sometimes they have to use different ones for different markets. This results in costs for companies and confusion for consumers.
The European Commission proposes the Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods as a common way of measuring environmental performance.
The approach is tested between 2013-2016 together with more than 280 volunteering companies and organisations. The aim is to understand the real potential of the methods before proposing new policies.
What problems do companies face?
Example: A given company wishing to market its product as a green product in UK, France, Italy and Switzerland would need to apply different schemes in order to compete based on environmental performance in the different national markets. In France, it would need to carry out an environmental assessment in line with the French method (BP X30-323); in the UK, it would need to apply the PAS 2050 or the WRI GHG Protocol; in Switzerland, it would need to apply the Swiss approach (currently under development); in Italy, it would need to join the governmentally recognised carbon footprint scheme, and carry out yet another analysis. The same company would also need to develop an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) based on ISO 14025 for the Swedish market. They may then need to undertake multiple EPDs as there are at least six competing EPD systems around the world with their own specificities, even if they are all based on ISO 14025.
What problems do consumers face?
Consumers are confused by the stream of incomparable and diverse environmental information. 59% think that product labels do not provide enough information, and 48% think that labels are not clear.
About half of European consumers think it is not easy to differentiate between environmentally friendly and other products and only about half of them trust producers' claims about environmental performance. This also influences their readiness to make green purchases.
Interested in more insight about consumers? Read the Eurobarometer.
What policy does the European Commission pursue?
The Single Market for Green Products initiative proposes a set of actions to overcome these problems:
The three-year testing period was launched through an open call for volunteers. Details on the ongoing pilots are available on the Environmental Footprint pilot pages.
How can stakeholders participate?
Stakeholders have the possibility to sign up to follow the development of Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRS) and Organisation Environmental Footprint Sector Rules (OEFSRs) that are relevant for them on the Environmental Footprint Wiki.