As consumers are becoming more environmentally aware in their purchasing, there has been a proliferation of environmental information outlining the impact of products. With this proliferation has come many kinds of different label and information guidelines that surveys now show to be leading to confusion amongst consumers. To address this confusion and bring certainty to both the consumer and producer, the European Commission is proposing EU-wide methods to measure the environmental performance of products and organisations, while encouraging Member States and the private sector to adopt them.
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 receive. Calls have also come from several industrial federations for a pan-European approach built on EU-wide science-based assessments and Life Cycle Analysis. 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 and recognisable. 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.