The European Commission announced today a draft Communication on Building the Single Market for Green Products and a draft Recommendation on the use of common methods to measure and communicate the life cycle environmental performance of products and organisations. These drafts of new European provisions constitute a part of the Single Market for Green Products Initiative which was mentioned as a key action in the Single Market Act of 2011 (see: Helping companies and consumers navigate the green maze).
The goal behind these instruments is among others to increase consumers' knowledge and awareness about life-cycle assessment and environmental performance of products. The properly established duty to inform (with preferably one harmonised labelling system across the EU) could facilitate consumers knowledge about environmental qualities of the goods they would be purchasing. At this point data shows that 48% of EU consumers are confused by all the information they receive on environmental impact of products. It has also been claimed that lack of harmonisation increases industry costs in this respect.
If the proposal is adopted it would introduce two ways to measure environmental performance throughout the life-cycle of the goods: Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF). The weak point of the proposal is that it would only recommend the use of these methods of assessment to Member States and private parties, and would not actually require it. After the adoption of the proposal the Commission intends to open a 3 year testing period for developing new product- and sector-specific rules.