While southern Europe swelters in 40+ degree temperatures, the EU has been busy formulating new legislation on environmental issues.  There is an argument that this is too little, too late, but it is worth taking a look at the proposals to see what is planned, and how our clients both within and outside the EU may be affected.

According to a new survey, 93% of individuals in the EU believe climate change is a serious problem facing the world. Over half think that the transition to a green economy should be sped up. During July, the European Commission proposed a number of initiatives:

The Commission is proposing rules to make producers responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products and to support the sustainable management of textile waste across the EU. This initiative aims to accelerate the development of the separate collection, sorting, reuse and recycling sector for textiles in the EU.  This is as part of a review of the Waste Framework Directive, which also includes a review of food waste regulation and new provisions on soil monitoring.

The Commission is proposing measures to enhance the circularity of the automotive sector, covering the design, production and end-of-life treatment of vehicles. It proposes a single regulation that focuses on several key elements to improve quality in design, collection, and recycling, while facilitating reporting obligations. In addition, it proposes more incentives for using low emission lorries for freight.

All of this sits alongside existing proposals to enhance the information provided to consumers about the eco credentials of the products they buy, as well as being able to repair products rather than throwing them away when they break. For example, the European Commission has proposed regulations on ecodesign and energy labelling for products such as mobile phones and tablets.  It has also proposed updates to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive to expand the list of product characteristics about which a trader cannot mislead consumers to cover the environmental or social impact, as well as the durability and reparability.  It will also add new practices to the “black list” of prohibited practices, such as making an environmental claim about the entire product, when it really concerns only a certain aspect of the product. Finally, it has proposed amendments to the Consumer Rights Directive to require traders to provide information to consumers about the durability and reparability of products.  The Council and the European Parliament adopted their positions on the proposed legislation earlier this year and it is likely to become law in 2024.

In the UK, the CMA continues its work reviewing greenwashing in certain sectors, while it and the ASA have updated their guidance about environmental advertising.  However, the government has (as it stands) decided not to include a specific prohibition on greenwashing in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, saying that it is covered by the prohibition on misleading advertising.

Manufacturers and retailers will have much to think about as the proposed changes come into effect. Whether these changes will have a meaningful impact on the environment remains to be seen, but many will see these proposals as a welcome step in the right direction towards real legislative action in this space.