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The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR)

Impacting many brands and products placed on the EU market

What is the new ESPR?

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is an ambitious EU initiative to make environmentally 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.

Where are we now?

On 30 March 2022 the European Commission has adopted a wide-scope ESPR proposal, including the creation of an EU Digital Product Passport (DPP). After an intense co-legislative process the Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional political agreement on the proposed regulation on 4 December 2023. The adoption and entry into force of the ESPR is currently expected in the first half of 2024. 

Actors affected

ESPR addressees are economic operators along the value chain, i.e. product manufacturers (both EU and non-EU), EU importers, distributors, dealers (retailers, sellers) and fulfillment service providers.   

The manufacturer, having detailed knowledge of the design and production process, is responsible for carrying out the conformity assessment procedure applicable or having it carried out on their behalf. Importers will have to ensure that the products they place on the market comply with the conformity assessment requirements and that the CE marking and documentation drawn up by manufacturers are available for inspection by the competent national authorities. Importers will also have to ensure, where applicable, that a product passport is available for those products. 

Products affected

The regulation 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 space technologies or medical devices may be regulated at some stage. Candidate products for the 1st ESPR working plan are:Iron, steel; 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. 

How does ESPR define environmental sustainability?

There is no definition as such for environmental sustainability in the ESPR. However, the 16 product aspects listed in Article 5(1) are circumscribing this scope, encompassing “all aspects of circularity” (see recital (103)):  

Durability; reliability; reusability; upgradability; reparability; possibility of maintenance and refurbishment; presence of substances of concern; energy use and energy efficiency; water use and water efficiency (added by the Council); resource use and resource efficiency; recycled content; possibility of remanufacturing; possibility of recycling; possibility of recovery materials; environmental impacts, including carbon and environmental footprint; expected generation of waste

ESPR requirements/obligations in brief

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. The inclusion of social aspects should be evaluated after four years, for now they are to be considered under the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). Ecodesign requirements comprise performance requirements (e.g. minimum quantities of recycled content, restriction of certain substances inhibiting circularity) and/or information requirements; the latter shall include as a minimum requirements related to the DPP and to Substances of Concern (SoC).

What are substances of Concern ( SoC)

Substances of Concern are defined broadly in Article 2(28), including three categories: 

  • Substances of Very High Concern included in the REACH Candidate List; 
  • Substances with a harmonized classification for certain health or environmental hazards and included in Annex VI of the CLP Regulation; 
  • Substances that negatively affect the re-use and recycling of materials in the product in which they are present. 

The co-legislators have also added substances regulated under the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Regulation (EU) No 2019/1021 to the SoC definition.  

However, it is important to note that ESPR provisions allow exemptions for certain SoCs when defining product-specific information requirements. Equally, the possibility to restrict substances in products for reasons of circularity is not limited to SoCs. Therefore, the scope of ESPR-regulated substances is expected to be product-specific. 

What is a Digital Product Passport (DPP)?

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” (since October 2022) aims to prepare the ground for the gradual piloting and deployment of DPPs, by providing basic cross-sectoral system requirements for the DPP, including data and IT architecture. The European Commission expects DPPs on the market from 2026/2027.

Who is responsible for providing a DPP?

The actor that puts the product on the market will be responsible. Manufacturers and EU importers of regulated products will have to ensure that a product passport in accordance with the applicable delegated act is available.

Obligations for non-EU suppliers

The manufacturer definition is not explicitly limited to EU entities. The European Commission Impact Assessment for ESPR also states that requirements “apply in a non-discriminatory manner to EU and non-EU companies”. Therefore, non-EU manufacturers of regulated products are currently expected to have the same ESPR compliance obligations as their EU competitors. Commission delegated acts could provide further clarity. 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. 

Are there any specific deadlines?

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 first ESPR delegated act is expected at the earliest one year after ESPR entry into force (i.e. around Q2/2025); it should have a minimum transition period of 18 months before becoming effective (i.e. around Q4/2026).  

ESPR impacts on businesses

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. 

How will enforcement look like and who will be in charge?

The Commission in its proposal and the co-legislators have paid special attention to enforcement provisions in order to ensure a level playing field and effective application of ESPR and its delegated acts. Enforcement measures will be generally based on the Market Surveillance Regulation (EU) 2019/1020, complemented by ESPR provisions. Member States are to lay down penalties for non-compliance, including fines.  

Market Surveillance Authorities in the Member States will enforce product compliance rules in the internal market, whereas Customs Authorities will be in charge of controlling products entering the Union market. The European Commission will also have an important role as it will be in charge of a DPP Registry and may organise joint market surveillance and testing projects in areas of common interest. An Administrative Cooperation Group (‘ADCO’) of market surveillance authorities will meet to coordinate activities and identify common priorities.  

The co-legislators have also introduced a consumer right to claim compensation for non-compliance damage from the product’s manufacturer, EU importer or authorised representative, or fulfilment service provider; so-called “private enforcement”.  

How to prepare?

Companies marketing 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). Companies or trade associations may also participate as a stakeholder for the preparation of ecodesign requirements (e.g. in the Ecodesign Forum) and DPP (e.g. in CIRPASS).  

More generally, companies are advised to raise awareness within their organisation on ESPR and the broader sustainability agenda. The same applies to the information of other actors in the supply / value chain.  

Further information on ESPR

  • 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 ourYoutube 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. 
  • ESPR final text according to the provisional agreement of 4 December 2023, available here. 
  • Website of the CIRPASS Consortium, including a F.A.Q. section, available here. 

REACHLaw Support

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 
  • Stakeholder consultation support  
  • Support relevancy assessment of ESPR sustainability criteria 
  • Acting as EU authorised representative for product manufacturers 
  • Training / awareness raising for industry associations and upstream suppliers 
  • Other consulting support 

Please let us know in case you are interested in our support, by sending an e-mail to .