Insight

Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR): Navigating Compliance and Innovation

Explore the ESPR's requirements and prepare your business for its impact, including Digital Product Passports and more circular-focused unsold goods rules.

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Regulatory Compliance
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Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR): Navigating Compliance and Innovation

Feeling overwhelmed by the new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR)? Read on to discover all you need to know to help navigate. The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is a critical legislative framework that establishes game-changing performance and disclosure requirements for virtually all products placed on the EU market.

Its objective is to improve the environmental performance and reduce the ecological footprint of products throughout their lifecycle. The regulation serves as a vital tool for shifting the market towards a circular economy and is a cornerstone of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan and European Green Deal.

The ESPR builds upon the existing Ecodesign Framework Directive, which has long imposed performance and disclosure requirements for energy-intensive products like refrigerators and televisions. The new Regulation will soon cover a much broader scope of products, imposing a series of performance and information requirements specific to the product type (including product durability, repairability, hazardous substances, energy efficiency, recycled content, and recyclability, as well as potential calculation and disclosure of carbon and environmental footprints).

Critical to this approach is the integration of ecodesign principles early in the product development process, ensuring that environmental considerations are embedded from the outset.

Additionally, products will need to be accompanied by a Digital Product Passport, which details their adherence to the performance requirements as well as other relevant information, enabling consumers and actors throughout the product supply chain to understand and engage.

Finally, the ESPR will separately establish reporting obligations on the destruction of unsold goods, as well as a ban on destruction for the apparel and footwear categories.

Key Takeaways of the ESPR

  • The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) focuses on enhancing product sustainability across the EU.
  • It will require brands and manufacturers to integrate ecological considerations from design to disposal.
  • Consumer awareness and mandatory product disclosures are essential components of the Regulation.

Background of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation

The ESPR is essential to the European Union’s overall strategy of making products more sustainable and circular. It is part of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to convert our current economic model overall to a more circular one. 

A core aspect of this is ensuring that products that are placed on the EU market are designed with environmental sustainability in mind, including consideration of the materials used

Changes to Directive 2009/125/EC

The existing Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC is a longstanding framework under which manufacturers of certain energy-intensive goods must ensure that their products comply with environmental performance and efficiency standards.

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation will broaden the scope of the existing Directive considerably. The focus will now extend to virtually every product placed on the EUR market (versus the more limited 31 product groups covered under the existing Directive). Additionally, it will apply new requirements to improve the sustainability and circularity of products, including requirements addressing durability, reparability, and recyclability.

Link to the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal is the EU's ambitious roadmap for achieving a sustainable economy by 2050.

As part of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Ecodesign Regulation for Sustainable Products sits under the Green Deal umbrella, contributing to the Green Deal’s goals alongside other critical measures such as the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This broad suite of new measures will increase resource efficiency and reinforce the EU's commitment to climate neutrality, encouraging businesses to do the same as part of their strategies. The ESPR will complement a range of other emerging EU rules governing sustainability communications about products, including requirements on green claims.

Ecodesign Requirements and Framework

The upcoming ecodesign requirements will play a pivotal role in enhancing circularity and energy efficiency for covered products. The law establishes a new, comprehensive framework for regulating various environmental aspects of products, ranging from the use of recycled content to product durability

Mandatory Requirements for Products

Requirements for covered products will include both performance requirements and information requirements specific to the relevant product. 

Performance requirements relate to the actual functions, characteristics, and efficiency of the product. They may include minimum or maximum levels of performance for a given product parameter. These might take the form, for example, of a limit on energy consumption during the use phase of an electrical product.

Information requirements, by contrast, relate to the disclosure of certain information about the product to relevant parties, including consumers. These requirements relate generally to the same set of parameters for which performance requirements may be set.

Relevant Product Aspects and Parameters

Either performance requirements, information requirements, or both may be established for a series of product parameters identified in the ESPR.

These include:

  • Durability
  • Reliability
  • Reusability
  • Upgradability
  • Reparability
  • Possibility of maintenance and refurbishment
  • Presence of substances of concern
  • Energy use and energy efficiency
  • Water use and water efficiency
  • Resource use and resource efficiency
  • Recycled content
  • Possibility of remanufacturing
  • Possibility of recycling
  • Possibility of recovery of materials
  • Environmental impacts, including carbon and environmental footprint
  • Expected generation of waste

Establishing Requirements for Different Products

It is not yet known what specific requirements will apply to different products. Due to the very broad scope of the ESPR, individual product category requirements must be carefully assessed and agreed. Working groups are currently working on establishing these requirements in different sectors, including in the textile sector.

For example, it may be the case that for a certain type of product (for instance, garden tools), a product footprint is not required, but for another (for instance, textiles), a product footprint is required.

Once a set of requirements is defined for a given product group, the European Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts that establish these requirements into law. It is anticipated that it will take multiple years before the first delegated acts are adopted, after which economic operators will have additional lead time to prepare for compliance. 

Understanding Key Ecodesign Parameters

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation will function by regulating a defined set of product aspects and parameters. While these requirements may take very different forms based on the type of product concerned, we break down below what may be targeted for several key product aspects generally.

Energy Use and Efficiency

The energy efficiency of products is expected to be closely scrutinized across many product categories, with requirements focusing on reducing energy consumption during operation. These requirements are likely to mandate the use of established calculation methodologies, including testing and measurement, to verify compliance.

Life Extension

The ESPR will also result in specific requirements for different product types concerning durability, reliability, reparability, and upgradability—critical aspects that extend the life of products and ultimately reduce waste by keeping products out of the waste pile for longer.

Reusability also forms a key part of the requirement mix, as products or components may be subject to design requirements that make them conducive to reuse and maintain their long-term value within the economy.

Materials and Resource Management

Materials and resource management will also play a crucial role in creating products that are more resource-efficient and sustainable by design. This section will focus on the methods and requirements likely to be applied to various product categories under the Regulation.

Recycling is the process of converting products that are at the end of their useful life into new products, reducing the consumption of raw resources and energy usage. It is likely that requirements will be established to ensure products can be effectively dismantled and separated.

Industries like steel, aluminum, and textiles have developed extensive recycling methodologies to reclaim materials from end-of-life products. For instance, steel can be continuously recycled without loss of quality, making it a staple in circular products.

Remanufacturing entails disassembling and restoring used goods to like-new condition. It is possible that requirements will be set in the context of different products that establish designs that facilitate easy disassembly and material reuse.

Remanufacturing is particularly prevalent in sectors such as furniture, tires, and automotive parts. Components can often be refurbished and reused with the same effectiveness as new materials, substantially minimizing waste and raw material demand.

Recycled Content and Sustainable Materials

Recycled content refers to the proportion of recycled materials used in new products. It is a key metric in material efficiency, promoting the use of post-consumer or post-industrial materials. The ESPR is likely to require strict recycled content requirements across different product categories, reducing the reliance on virgin resources.

Textiles and furniture manufacturers are already increasingly integrating recycled fibers and materials to lessen the overall environmental impact.

The use of sustainable materials encompasses choosing substances that are renewably sourced or have a minimized footprint, such as bio-based lubricants and non-toxic paints and detergents.

In chemical selection, the focus is on minimizing hazardous substances and opting for materials that can be safely recycled or biodegraded naturally, thus supporting a more resilient and resource-efficient supply chain.

Environmental Footprints

Regardless of product type, an essential method for understanding a product's overall impact is to calculate its footprint. Under the ESPR, the European Commission is empowered to mandate that different product types calculate and disclose the footprint of the product to consumers. 

Footprints may take the form of a comprehensive environmental footprint, a carbon footprint, a material footprint, or a combination of some or all of these. Calculation of these footprints must follow established scientific methods developed by international organizations, such as the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method established by EU Recommendation (EU) 2021/2279.

Product Information and Consumer Engagement

A key pillar of the ESPR is the requirement for products to have a Digital Product Passport (DPP), a digital solution that enables consumers, regulators, and other actors along the supply chain to access key product information relating to the ecodesign parameters discussed above.

          {% button %} Create up to 50 free Digital Product Passports{% button-end %}

Digital Product Passports

Digital Product Passports will function by providing information to users (consumers and other actors) about the characteristics of the product. What characteristics must be disclosed will be defined by subsequent “delegated acts” over time (i.e., the European Commission will decide on a category-by-category basis).

In very general terms, it operates through a “data carrier” – a barcode or QR code that links directly to the passport. The data carrier must appear directly on the product, its packaging, or in documentation accompanying the product to ensure ease of access.

The product passport must also enable the sharing of different levels of information with supply chain businesses, government authorities, and consumers. Different access levels will be required, ensuring that the scope of available information is limited based on the needs of different user classes (e.g., a customs officer versus a consumer).

Additionally, data included in the Digital Product Passports must be disclosed and linked to a centralized online platform registry and separate web portal, where the EU and stakeholders can track and inspect the qualities of all products in one place. 

Further specifics about how DPPs will function will also be defined in subsequent delegated act(s). Working groups such as CIRPASS are currently developing the technical requirements that will govern the operation and design of this unified but simultaneously decentralized system. 

Informed Choices and Transparency

Transparency for consumers comes in many forms, including innovative tech tools. One key goal of mandating the display of Digital Product Passports is to enable informed consumer choice. Informed choices stem from the transparency afforded by these digital tools. Clear, accessible data will ultimately allow consumers to understand the environmental impact of their purchases.

For consumables, such as electronics or clothing, this means that consumers can check for reparability, recyclability, or energy efficiency. This will remain possible not only at purchase but throughout the product's lifetime.

Through this increased transparency, manufacturers are held accountable, regulators are empowered to verify compliance, and consumers are enabled to preferentially select products that align with their environmental values.

Impact on Industries and Consumers

The introduction of Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation represents a seismic shift for industries and consumers, mandating rather than encouraging increased resource efficiency and sustainable design. It is poised to fundamentally reshape manufacturing across the consumer products landscape, especially within categories like electronics and textiles where environmental impact is significant but regulation has historically been less intensive.

Effects on Electronics and ICT

The electronics and ICT industries sectors will be subject to significant new obligations under the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation. For electronics specifically, this should result in a longer lifespan for devices, as products are designed to be more durable and easier to repair.

Manufacturers must also consider the energy efficiency of devices throughout their lifecycle to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions along with it:

  • Recycling and Recovery: Enhanced requirements for the recycling and recovery processes of electronic products.
  • Energy Efficiency: Design improvements to reduce energy consumption during usage.
  • Material Restrictions: Limitations on hazardous substances in electronic components.

Implementation and Compliance

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation is not yet officially the law. First proposed in 2022 by the European Commission, the ESPR began its journey through the EU legislative process. After both the Council of the EU and the European Parliament adopted their negotiating positions in 2023, formal negotiations between the bodies commenced, ultimately resulting in a provisional agreement in December 2023. 

The ESPR was formally adopted by the European Parliament in April 2024. Under the terms of the agreed-upon text, the European Commission will be empowered to begin adopting requirements for specific product categories, meaning requirements could realistically begin to apply as soon as 2027.

Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation Timeline and Working Plans

Part of retail’s evolving legal landscape, the ESPR is expected to enter into force in Q2 2024, following publication in the Official Journal. After official entry into force, a timeline of action steps and compliance deadlines will follow, commencing with the adoption of the first working plan in early 2025. The first working plan will identify priority sectors for which delegated acts establishing mandatory ecodesign requirements should be adopted first.

While no specific deadlines have yet been identified for specific product categories, the first working plan is anticipated to prioritize iron, steel, aluminum, textiles (notably garments and footwear), furniture, tires, detergents, paints, lubricants, chemicals, ICT products and other electronics and energy-related products that need to be revised or newly defined. For these categories identified in the first working plan, it is anticipated that requirements will be adopted through delegated acts over the following three years.

The ESPR further provides that companies will have at least 18 months after a delegated act is adopted to begin compliance, meaning the first date by which compliance may be required is likely to come no sooner than 2027.

Separate from the core performance and information requirements applicable to different product categories, the destruction of unsold goods requirements will go into effect on a more expedited basis. Reporting obligations will begin in 2025 and compliance obligations will take effect from 2026 for apparel and footwear. 

Consultation Forum and Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement will be vital for successful implementation.

To facilitate this, an Ecodesign Forum for consultation will be established, comprising representatives from EU Member States, industry associations, NGOs, and other relevant parties including SMEs.

The Forum's role will include contributing to preparing ecodesign requirements, drafting and recommending working plans, reviewing the effectiveness of the different surveillance mechanisms, and assessing prohibitions on the destruction of unsold consumer products.

The Commission is mandated to integrate feedback from these discussions into the final delegated acts, ensuring broad consensus and effective compliance across the European Union. 

In the context of apparel and footwear, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) is currently holding a series of consultations on the scope and nature of the textile-specific requirements, which is expected to be ongoing over the next 12-16 months.

Resources

As we navigate the complexities of the EU ESPR, staying informed and adaptable is key to compliance and sustainability success. Get regulation-ready by leveraging our Legislation Tracker and DPP Solution for free, or to delve deeper into your journey with Vaayu, get in touch.

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Contents
FAQs
What are the main objectives of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation?

The main objectives are to reduce environmental impact, improve energy and resource efficiency, and ensure products designed for the EU market contribute to sustainability goals. By setting specific requirements, it aims to extend product lifespans and facilitate a more circular economy.

How does the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation affect manufacturers and importers in the EU?

Manufacturers and importers must ensure their products meet the new sustainability criteria. This may involve redesigning products, manufacturing processes, or supply chains. Compliance is necessary for market access in the EU.

Can you outline the timeline for the implementation of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation?

The implementation timeline will widely vary for different product categories based on when performance and information requirements are decided and adopted by the European Commission. Companies must keep abreast of when specific requirements will come into force for their product categories, although initial compliance with ecodesign requirements is not expected to begin for several years.

In what ways does the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation differ from the previous Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC?

The new Regulation broadens the scope beyond specified energy-intensive products to virtually every product placed on the EU market. It additionally extends performance requirements well beyond energy efficiency, encompassing the environmental footprint, resource usage, recyclability, and many other parameters. It represents a more comprehensive approach to product sustainability.

What are the compliance requirements for products under the new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation?

Products must meet (to-be-defined) environmental performance and information requirements. These include aspects like durability, reparability, upgradability, and recyclability.

Disclosure of this information is mandated through the use of a Digital Product Passport. This is to ensure transparency and facilitate enforcement.

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