The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR)  

Preparing for compliance with the EU regulation

In response to the pressing need for sustainable and environmentally conscious practices, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) has emerged as a significant milestone. Originating from the groundwork laid by the initial Ecodesign Directive of 2009, this regulation represents a vital step forward in shaping a greener future. The Ecodesign Directive set the stage by introducing energy-related standards and labels for a range of products, fostering energy efficiency and substantial savings for consumers. With the advent of the ESPR, the focus broadens, encompassing a wider array of goods and charting a path towards enhanced environmental sustainability through improving circularity, energy performance and other environmental sustainability aspects. As we navigate through the facets of the ESPR – from its overarching objectives to the innovative Digital Product Passport – we gain insight into its implications for industries, businesses, and consumers alike. This article embarks on a journey to explore the significance, implications, and timeline of the ESPR, shedding light on its role within the larger landscape of sustainable practices. 

 

Why was the ESPR put into place?

The initial Ecodesign directive, established in 2009, set the foundation for today’s Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). The Ecodesign Directive established energy-related criteria for specific products, conveyed through energy labels, and covered 31 product categories, predominantly energy-related items such as kitchen appliances. By 2021, these measures resulted in substantial benefits, saving EU consumers 120 billion in energy expenses and reducing annual energy consumption by 10% within the specified product range. The ESPR will not only expand the scope but also replace the former Ecodesign Directive. It stands as a key component of the Commission’s strategy for promoting environmentally sustainable and circular products, aligning closely with the Circular Economy Action Plan of March 2020, which in turn derives from the European Green Deal of 2019. 

 

What is the ESPR?

The ESPR aims to expand the Ecodesign directive’s focus from energy-related products to encompass a broader range of goods. It outlines performance and information criteria for almost all types of physical items available in the EU market, though certain exceptions like food and feed apply. The proposal will add new requirements to the EU Ecodesign directive while also providing clarity on existing ones. 

Central to this initiative is the establishment of a comprehensive framework to define ecodesign requirements tailored to specific product categories. The goal is to enhance the circularity, energy efficiency, and overall environmental sustainability of these products. A notable aspect of the ESPR is its emphasis on product information, with the introduction of concepts like the Digital Product Passport (DPP). 

The initial focus for delegated acts under the ESPR is directed towards textiles and footwear in the realm of end-user products. Additionally, for intermediary products, the priority lies in iron and steel.  

 

The Digital Product Passport

The Digital Product Passport, alongside Ecodesign criteria, will be introduced by the ESPR for all regulated products. This new passport will offer comprehensive information on the environmental sustainability of products to supply chain participants, regulators, and consumers. Accessible through data carrier scanning, it will encompass attributes like durability, reparability, recycled content, and spare part availability, aiming to empower consumers and businesses with informed purchasing decisions, streamline repairs and recycling, and enhance transparency regarding the environmental impact across a product’s lifecycle. 

 

Which companies must comply with the ESPR?

The scope of ESPR compliance extends to all products introduced to the EU market, irrespective of their origin within or outside the EU. This proposal encompasses a wide range of products, extending beyond consumer goods, and even includes systems like military technology, space innovations, and medical apparatus. The addressed parties under the ESPR framework comprise economic entities throughout the value chain, encompassing product manufacturers, EU importers, distributors, retailers, sellers, and fulfillment service providers. 

 

ESPR status and timeline

The current Ecodesign Directive continues to be operational until the transition to the ESPR. Currently, the European Union is in the process of drafting new regulations and conducting studies as part of the ESPR Work Plan, preceding the enforcement of the ESPR. Within the ESPR, each regulated product group has a distinct “implementing act.” The EU is actively developing and revising these acts for both new and existing product groups, with the new acts taking effect under the existing Ecodesign directive. Upon the ESPR’s implementation, it will supplant the current directive and take over these acts. The upcoming work plan for 2022-2024 entails implementing acts for mobile phones, tablets, computers, and computer servers. A total of 31 product categories are set for assessment, prioritizing those with the highest energy or material efficiency potential, potentially resulting in regulations by 2030. This phase emphasizes non-energy-related Ecodesign criteria such as durability, reparability, recyclability, end-of-life disassembly, reuse, and recycled content. The specifics of deadlines and transition periods are anticipated to be outlined in delegated acts post ESPR adoption, as its implementation is projected to span from 2024 to 2030. 

 

How to prepare for the ESPR

Eco-design is only feasible when designers have data about the sustainability of their product, but also about its compliance, should costing, environmental, health, and safety criteria. A successful workaround in-between all teams can only be provided by integrating all the data needed. An LCA analysis of the product portfolio can ideally prepare companies for the ESPR and the DPP.  

 

Conduct a Life Cycle Analysis of your portfolio 

Implementing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) within a product portfolio is an invaluable strategy for proactively aligning with the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). LCA, a comprehensive method that evaluates the environmental impacts of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, equips businesses with crucial insights into the environmental hotspots and opportunities for improvement within their product offerings. By conducting LCAs across the portfolio, companies can identify areas where resource consumption, emissions, and waste generation are most significant, allowing them to prioritize and optimize design, production, and end-of-life processes. This strategic approach not only ensures compliance with ESPR’s stringent sustainability requirements but also fosters innovation by promoting the development of more eco-friendly, energy-efficient, and resource-conscious products. Moreover, by quantifying and disclosing the environmental performance of their products, businesses can be prepared for the Digital Product Passport and enhance consumer trust.  

 

Conclusion 

In response to the imperative for sustainable practices, the emergence of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) marks a significant milestone. Building upon the foundation set by the Ecodesign Directive of 2009, this regulation represents a noteworthy progression towards ecological awareness. The initial directive introduced energy-related standards and labels, fostering efficiency and savings. With the ESPR, the scope broadens to encompass a wider range of goods, expanding the focus on environmental sustainability. As businesses and industries adapt to comply with the ESPR, they engage in a journey towards a future where responsible product design harmonizes with ecological stewardship. 

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