The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is an ambitious EU initiative to make sustainable products the norm in the EU and boost Europe’s resource independence. It is rooted primarily in the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan of March 2020, which in turn is based on the European Green Deal of 2019.
On 30 March 2022 the European Commission has adopted a wide-scope ESPR proposal, including the creation of an EU Digital Product Passport (DPP). It is now with the European Parliament and the Council for adoption in the co-legislative procedure. The year 2023 will be key to finalise the requirements. ESPR could then start applying from 2024.
ESPR addressees are economic operators along the value chain, i.e. product manufacturers, EU importers, distributors, dealers (retailers, sellers) and fulfillment service providers. In addition, a general information obligation of suppliers of substances, mixtures and articles to provide ESPR-related information is now proposed in the co-legislative process.
The proposal governs virtually all products placed on the market or put into service in the EU, not limited to consumer products. There are only very limited exclusions (e.g. food, feed, medicinal products). The implementation of ESPR will follow a prioritisation approach, according to multi-annual Commission working plans. Even the most sophisticated and complex systems such as military equipment, space technologies or medical devices may be regulated at some stage. Candidate products for the 1st ESPR working plan are: Iron, steel; cement; aluminium; textiles, notably garments and footwear; furniture, including mattresses; tyres; detergents; paints; lubricants; chemicals; energy related products, whose implementing measures need to be revised or newly defined; ICT products and other electronics
Ecodesign requirements are at the core of the ESPR proposal. They always require the adoption of a Commission delegated act for a specific product group, unless ‘horizontal’ requirements covering several are set. Ecodesign requirements may address a broad range of aspects to make products more durable, reliable and circular, and minimize their environmental impact throughout the life cycle. In addition, the inclusion of social sustainability of products and due diligence aspects along the value chain is now also proposed. Ecodesign requirements comprise performance requirements (e.g. minimum quantities of recycled content) and/or information requirements; the latter shall include as a minimum requirements related to the DPP and to Substances of Concern (SoC).
The DPP is foreseen as a decentralized tool to electronically register, process and share product-related information amongst supply chain businesses, authorities and consumers. Data access is enabled through a data carrier and a unique identifier. An EU-funded project called “CIRPASS” aims to prepare the ground for the gradual piloting and deployment of DPPs from 2023 onwards, by providing basic cross-sectoral system requirements for the DPP, including data and IT architecture. A focus of CIRPASS is on developing a roadmap for prototypes in three value chains: textiles, batteries and electronics. The project is planned to run until Q1 2024.
Manufacturers and EU importers of regulated products will have to ensure before placing a product on the market that a product passport in accordance with the applicable delegated act is available.
The manufacturer definition is not explicitly limited to EU entities. Therefore, non-EU manufacturers of regulated products are currently expected to have the same ESPR compliance obligations like their EU competitors. A natural or legal person established in the EU may be mandated in writing by the manufacturer to act as an ‘authorised representative’ on the manufacturer’s behalf in relation to specified tasks with regard to the manufacturer’s obligations under ESPR.
Deadlines and transition periods are expected to be specified in delegated acts post adoption of the ESPR during its implementation, which is expected to run at least between 2024 and 2030.
The industry impact will largely depend on the final version of the ESPR and its implementation by the European Commission. Key open questions today include the precise definition of product groups to be regulated according to the same requirements, the use of horizontal rules and to what extent performance requirements (with possible product changes) and / or information requirements will be set.
Companies placing on the market or putting into service products in the EU are advised to start assessing the impact of ESPR for their products, monitor the ESPR adoption process and start getting prepared for the upcoming regulation. This concerns especially first-priority products (see above).
- ESPR “Myths and Truths”, REACHLaw Blog post of 11 January 2023, available here.
- REACHLaw webinar on ESPR, DPP and Implications for companies of 10 November 2022 – available on our Youtube channel.
- Tim Becker, Ecodesign for Sustainable Products and the EU Digital Product Passport, The Commission’s ESPR Proposal of 30 March 2022 – Game-changer or Slow Burner? – Zeitschrift für Stoffrecht, Volume 19 (2022), Issue 3, available here.
- European Commission ESPR Proposal of 30 March 2022, available here.
Our services bring together our regulatory expertise and your product know-how, guiding you through the ESPR requirements and processes and helping you take the appropriate actions.
REACHLaw can support your preparations for ESPR in various ways; our services include:
- ESPR impact analysis and monitoring
- Consultation support for Commission working plans
- Support relevancy assessment of ESPR sustainability criteria
- Acting as EU authorised representative for product manufacturers
- Training / awareness raising for industry associations and upstream suppliers