Facts & Figures
Xerox reported savings of $400 million and Zara €500 million in 2009 by designing their products to minimise their life-cycle environmental impact.
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 proposed the Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods as a common way of measuring environmental performance.
The approach was tested between 2013-2018 together with more than 280 volunteering companies and organisations. The results and reports of the pilot phase are available.
Based on the results of the testing, the European Commission is now exploring how to use the Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods in policies. The European Commission launched a series of consultations on this subject in 2018. Read the report here.
The 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan foresees that “The Commission will also propose that companies substantiate their environmental claims using Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint methods.” It is part of a set of interrelated initiatives to establish a strong and coherent product policy framework that will make sustainable products, services and business models the norm, and not the exception, and to transform consumption patterns so that no waste is produced in the first place. Further stakeholder consultations will be held in preparation of this initiative.
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.
The Commission carried out a study on Consumer testing of alternatives for communicating the Environmental Footprint profile of products. The study built on the results of the communication tests of the Environmental Footprint pilot phase. It gathered insight into the most desirable ways of communicating the Environmental Footprint profile to consumers: how to provide information that will most likely attract the attention of the consumer, that conveys an understandable and trusted message and that encourages consumers to take the information into consideration when buying products.