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The Circular Economy tools and instruments


Circular Economy Tools and instruments

Different tools and instruments have been developed by the Commission to facilitate the transition towards a more Circular Economy. This page presents an overview of these available tools and highlights their area of intervention in the different steps of the Circular Economy. You can get more information about the different tools by visiting their specific webpage.


Building sustainable performance

EU Ecolabel

Sustainable products and services


EU Environmental Technology Verification


Eco-Management and Audit Scheme


Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental Footprint


Green Public Procurement

Level(s) - Building sustainable performance

What is Level(s)?

Level(s) is a voluntary reporting framework to improve the sustainability of buildings. Using existing standards, Level(s) provides an EU-wide approach to assessing environmental performance in the built environment. It encourages life cycle thinking for the whole building by offering a step by step approach to life cycle assessment.

Level(s) in the circular economy

The building sector is a big consumer of resources in Europe. It uses about half of all materials extracted, half of all energy consumed and one third of all water consumed, and it generates one third of all waste. Environmental pressures arise at different stages of a building's life-cycle.

However, this also means that the building sector offers an enormous potential for setting the circular economy business case, including opportunities for sustainable building design, construction, repair, maintenance, as well as recycling and reuse of materials in the end of a building's lifespan. These opportunities have been increasingly recognised by the European Commission, which in 2014 adopted the Communication on Resource Efficiency Opportunities in the Building Sector and later on placed a special focus on sustainable buildings in the Circular Economy Action Plan. The Action Plan includes an action on the assessment of the environmental performance of buildings. To support such assessment, the Commission has developed a framework with indicators, called Level(s). It is a simple entry point to what can be a very complex area and covers energy, materials, water, health and comfort, climate change and life cycle cost and value.

ETV - EU Environmental Technology Verification

What is ETV?

ETV is a new tool that helps innovative environmental technologies reach the market. This circular economy tool provides third-party verification of the performance of technologies, building trust among potential customers whilst reducing technological risk.

ETV in the circular economy

For successful circular economy uptake, innovative, efficient and at the same time reliable environmental technologies needs to enter the market ETV provides third-party verification of the performance of technologies, enabling innovators to differentiate themselves from competitors, build trust among potential customers and reduce technological risk. The verification procedure allows for an independent assessment and validation of the manufacturer's claims on the performance and environmental benefits of their technology. The information provided by ETV through the transparent, robust and independent process, can be useful especially to small companies that wish to enter and disrupt markets. The EU-ETV Pilot Programme initiated by the European Commission has been targeted at environmental technologies whose value cannot be proved through existing standards or certification schemes and whose claims could benefit from a credible verification procedure as a guarantee to investors. The Pilot Programme has been running in specific Technology Areas: Materials, Waste and Resources technologies, Water technologies and Energy technologies. Examples include new recycled, bio-based or recyclable materials, resource-efficient processes, performance of re-manufactured equipment. ETV may be used among others to integrate innovative requirements in supply chains and public procurement, to prove compliance with pre-standard specifications or generic requirements. The EU Circular Economy Action Plan is set to further promote efficiency and updates of ETV especially in supporting innovations by SMEs.

PEF-OEF - Product Environmental Footprint and Organisation Environmental Footprint

What is PEF-OEF

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) are comprehensive tools that measure and inform customers about the environmental impact of products and organisations. Their approach of assessing life-cycles reflects the essence of the circular economy.

PEF-OEF in the circular economy

With increase of environmental consciousness customers are increasingly willing to buy green products. However, the current market offers a big variety of environmental labels and schemes leading to confusion and mistrust in environmental performance information. On the other hand, producers of green products in order to prove their environmental performance and enter the national markets need to apply methods that are authorised in these countries. Therefore, the European Commission has adopted in 2013 two harmonised methods to quantify the environmental footprint of products and organisations. These methods are based on life cycle assessment and recognises the importance of addressing environmental impacts throughout the entire supply chain of product/organisation in an integrated way. The life-cycle perspective of the PEF and OEF reflect the essence of the Circular Economy. This means by addressing the impact on each stage of the life cycle, PEF and OEF address better design of products, reduction of material use and waste, recycling. They enable companies to better define their circularity strategies, focusing their efforts where really matters, that is the reduction of the most relevant impacts related to their products/organisations. Through the Pilot initiative run between 2013 and 2017, the Commission supported development of PEF Category Rules for over 20 products and OEF Sector Rules for Retail and Copper production organisations. It is envisaged that PEF and OEF will contribute to Circular Economy growth in the EU by offering a strong gross-border market boost to products and stronger competitive position to companies assessed following the EU harmonised methods.

EU Ecolabel

What is EU Ecolabel?

EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label that helps to identify products and services that have reduced their environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle. It allows consumers to make informed choices and rewards producers who practice making efforts to create sustainable products.

EU Ecolabel

Established in 1992, the EU Ecolabel promotes Europe's transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption. Thanks to transparent ecological criteria, consumers can make conscious choices, without compromising on the quality of the products. Similarly, the EU Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources. Any goods or services that have been awarded the EU Ecolabel meet a set of high environmental and performance standards. The EU Ecolabel is a component of the European Commission’s action plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy and is referred to in the Circular Economy Action Plan.
The EU Ecolabel has in fact acted as a pioneer in promoting circular economy, as the criteria to be complied with by the various products or services are based on the main principles of circular economy. The EU Ecolabel supports products and services that have a lower environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development along their life cycle, are energy efficient, durable and repairable. In 2016-2017, the Commission adopted a new set of EU Ecolabel criteria for furniture, footwear, computers, wood-, cork- and bamboo-based floor coverings and tourist accommodation product and service groups, and more is to come. 2017 has been the year 25th anniversary celebrations of the EU Ecolabel, with actions promoting the scheme among all concerned stakeholders.

EMAS - Eco-Management and Audit Scheme

What is EMAS?

EMAS is the official European environmental management instrument that helps organisations improve their environmental performance and demonstrate their efforts to implement "reduce, reuse and recycle” practices.e.

EMAS in the circular economy

With EMAS, organisations can quantify their resource use, develop plans to improve their environmental performance, reach environmental goals, while coming up with new, more efficient management processes. EMAS is open to every type of organisation eager to improve its environmental performance. It spans across all economic and service sectors and is applicable worldwide. The European Commission sees EMAS as one of the tools that facilitate organisations towards the shift to the Circular Economy. EMAS offers organisations the management tools to save money and resources of all types by introducing various measures, including cutting wastes and material use, increasing water and energy efficiency, introducing "reduce”, “reuse” and “recycle” practices. There are strong evidences that annual energy and material savings of EMAS registered organisation exceed the annual costs of maintaining EMAS. In view of reaping the Circular Economy benefits, EMAS is increasingly offering more opportunities for economic savings. For examples, the European EMAS initiative have already registered experiences focusing on exchange and secondary use of products and materials by EMAS holders, which offer benefits such as avoiding cost for waste management for partners offering the materials and reduction of procurement cost for recipient organisations gaining access to resources. Furthermore, the Green Public Procurement requirements are increasingly evolving to address Circular Economy, and the EMAS certified organisations with sustainable supply chains will have advantage in the procurement tenders.

GPP - Green Public Procurement

What is GPP?

GPP is a powerful circular economy instrument that encourages demand for green products and services by promoting green markets and setting strong examples for public bodies to follow.

GPP in the circular economy

The procurement of goods, services, and works by public authorities across Europe makes up around 14 % of the EU’s GDP, accounting for about €2 trillion annually. By using their purchasing power to choose environmentally friendly goods, services and works, they can make an important contribution to sustainable consumption and production.
Green Public Procurement (GPP) is a voluntary instrument, but its key role in the EU's transition to a circular economy has been acknowledged in the Circular Economy Package. It can boost demand for resource efficient, durable, recyclable, repairable products, and promote new business models based on offering functionalities and services instead of selling products. Besides that, Green Public Procurement allows local, regional and national authorities to set examples to follow for businesses, industries, and organisations. To help public bodies to define green products the European Commission has developed support measures for public bodies, including the EU GPP criteria for priority product groups like construction, food and catering, IT equipment and transport. It has also set up a GPP helpdesk, published a “Buying Green!” handbook and built a collection of best practices that can provide ideas and inspiration for implementation. The Circular Economy Package sets out several key actions on GPP, such as strengthening circularity requirements in the EU GPP criteria, and providing training on the circular economy. The Commission will also lead by example in its own procurement.

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