EUEW‘s opinion on Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI)

Feedback from the EUEW within the Roadmap on the Sustainable Products Initiative

The European Union of Electrical Wholesalers (EUEW), founded in 1955, is a 17-national organization representing the interests of the electrical wholesaling channel which distributes domestic and industrial products including lamps, lighting fixtures, electrical wires and cables, household appliances and electronic components.

The EUEW wishes to contribute the views of the European electrical wholesalers within the framework of the Inception Impact Assessment Roadmap on a Sustainable Products Initiative (“SPI”) as published by the Commission on 14 September 2020 and open for feedback until 16 November 2020.

This Initiative puts forward overarching principles on product sustainability, among others, the following specific measures:

  • Expanding the scope of the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) to cover a wider range of products beyond energy-related products, enabling minimum sustainability and information requirements to be set at the EU-level for the specific product groups and where priority will be given to addressing electronics, ICT and textiles;

  • Extended producer responsibility to provide more circular products and intervening before products can become waste;

  • Introducing new requirements on mandatory sustainability labelling;

  • Disclosure of information to market actors (using digital product passports);

  • Establishing rules for setting mandatory minimum sustainability requirements on public procurement of products;

  • Introducing requirements to address social aspects throughout the product lifecycle;

  • Introducing measures for production processes to facilitate the use of recycled content and remanufacturing, as well as track the use of hazardous substances;

  • Banning the destruction of certain unsold durable goods.

As an intermediary linking the upstream and the downstream of the value chain, wholesalers constitute a knowledge hub in the ecosystem, enhance the implementation of innovation and surely welcome initiatives aiming to provide a basis for ensuring high environmental performance of all products and services on the EU market.

In this quality, the EUEW wishes to share the following opinions:

Opinion 1: Difference between B-2-B and B-2-C

In the SPI a lot of attention is paid to the consumers that benefit from products that are more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and energy-efficient.

The Commission is invited to take into account that industries are different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a circular economy. B-2-B relationships have different market conditions than B-2-C relationships.

The EUEW recommends therefore that implementation should be done sectorial taking the difference between the B-2-B and B-2-C markets into account, and with involvement of the sector stakeholders and their entire ecosystem.

Opinion 2: No one-fits-all definition of a sustainable product

The EUEW recommends to consider there is no one-fits-all-definition of what makes a product sustainable: some products become sustainable based on better performance compared to competing products in life cycle assessments. Other products are qualified as sustainable as throughout the products supply chain attention was paid to responsible labor, community and worker health and safety practices. Another category of products qualifies as sustainable due to their design with careful attention to material selection, processes used, logistics optimization and packaging choices or due to their focus on carbon footprint, recycled content, or for example water or energy efficiency.

It is therefore recommended to set out clear standards on how a product becomes sustainable.

Furthermore, all products are different. Life Cycle Assessment methodology can be used to evaluate sustainability, but implementing it to all products will create a remarkable cost increase and a burden to manufacturers. Market surveillance is certainly needed as sustainability claims without proper market surveillance would prove to be inefficient.

Opinion 3: Coherence and Consistency with other legislation

Electrical installations in buildings fall under the Construction Product Regulation, which is currently under review.

The review intends, among others, to include the harmonised assessment of the environmental performance of construction products into the regulation.

The Sustainable Product Initiative should not only look into the eco-design regulatory framework and take into account product specific aspects, which will be considered under the Construction Product Regulation. There will be the need to ensure coherence and avoid duplication of legal requirements.

As far as the Sustainable Product Initiative intends to render reparability mandatory and claims for the delivery of spare parts, repair instructions etc. are regulated in connection with it, the EUEW estimates it being imperative to ensure that such rights can be incorporated into the existing sales law without contradiction. Sales law contains a finely balanced system of warranty claims and counter rights of the seller. There are clear responsibilities and conditions for the assertion of claims. This system must not be impaired by a right to or obligation to repair. In particular, wholesalers should not be the obligated party in such reparability claims, but the manufacturer directly. As it is for example currently the case in the delegated regulations on ecodesign. Otherwise, there is a risk that wholesalers will be forced to act as a spare parts store and an extended factory customer service. This would pose considerable logistical problems for wholesalers in particular.

Opinion 4: The concepts “recycling“ and “repair” and binding targets and timeframes

When assessing the recyclability of products, the entire product life cycle (which is product related and depends on the product’s frequency of use) should be considered, including the conservation of resources through multi-recycling as well as possible positive effects through product application and optimization.

Apart from an evaluation of the recyclability based on the existing treatment infrastructure, the principle of innovation must be taken into account. Innovation and development in the field of waste and recycling technology will lead to the development of new solutions for products that are not recycled today. Therefore legal criteria of recyclability are regularly to be revised and recyclability must therefore not be assessed solely based on rigid design criteria.

Further, binding targets for the use of recycled materials presuppose that there are adequate markets for such materials. Regulations on this should therefore not be made generally, but rather product-specific.

The same is valid for repairs and maximum timeframes for repairs. Repairs should be encouraged wherever possible. However, regarding the regulation of mandatory repair times, it must be noted that products are inherently very different and the estimated lifetime of a product depends on the frequency of use, which makes a one-size-fits-all approach impossible. Different types of failures require more or less complex repairs. Therefore the EUEW shares the opinion it could be problematic to legislate on maximum ti