Brussels, 18 June 2003
Integrated Product Policy; Commission outlines its strategy to stimulate greener products
The European Commission has adopted a Communication on Integrated Product Policy (IPP), outlining its strategy for reducing the environmental impact caused by products. The Commission will take a number of actions to stimulate continuous improvement in the environmental performance of products throughout their whole life-cycle. The Commission will also initiate work towards identifying those products with the greatest potential for environmental improvement, working with industry, business and consumers to green those products.
“IPP represents a new and very promising approach to environmental protection,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “IPP will look at all the stages of a product's life cycle from cradle to grave and seek to reduce the overall environmental damage it causes at the different stages. The gains that can be made by making just small changes are huge.”
The Commissioner also underlined the opportunity IPP offers to progressive companies: “In a competitive business world, environmental performance can be a factor giving companies or their products a competitive edge. IPP can help such companies by giving them more visibility. We are today calling on business to participate on a voluntary basis in a pilot project exercise to bring IPP to life and show the practical benefits of such an approach”.
Why do we need IPP?
The manufacture, use and disposal of products are the cause of many of the environmental challenges we are facing today. The quantity of products is rising, partly due to increases in disposable income and smaller households e.g. many more people own cars today than 20 years ago. Products also come in many more shapes and sizes as a result of rapid innovation and global trade patterns, and are becoming increasingly complex. IPP is not attempting to reduce consumption; rather, it is seeking to reduce the environmental impact of increased consumption.
The life-cycle of a product is often long and complicated. It covers all the areas from the extraction of natural resources, through their design, manufacture, assembly, marketing, distribution, sale and use to their eventual disposal as waste. For example, a washing machine has environmental impacts through the materials it is made of such as steel and plastic the energy, water and detergents consumed during its use, and when it is finally disposed of as waste at the end of its life.
However, existing environmental product-related policies have tended to focus on large point sources of pollution, such as industrial emissions and waste management issues, rather than the products themselves and how they contribute to environmental degradation at other points in their life cycles. Measures have also tended to look at the chosen phases in isolation.
What is IPP?
IPP represents a new approach and puts emphasis on three dimensions:
How will the Commission implement IPP?
The Communication sets out what the Commission will do to implement IPP. It will adopt a two-pronged approach:
Improving the tools that already exist to make them more product-focused. These tools, known as the IPP toolbox, can be used on many different products. They include environmental management systems (such as the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme EMAS), environmental labelling and the provision of life-cycle information. IPP will also improve co-ordination between the different instruments to better exploit their synergies.
Taking action to improve the environmental performance of products that have the greatest potential for environmental improvement.
This will result in the following concrete actions:
The IPP Communication builds on the stakeholder consultation exercise following adoption of the Commission Green Paper on IPP in February 2001. This consultation included several stakeholder meetings and expert workshops and resulted in over 130 written submissions from stakeholders.
The application of IPP requires EU-wide action as products can move freely within the Internal Market, and some of their negative environmental impacts are of European or international concern, such as the emission of greenhouse gases. In addition, many of the existing policy instruments dealing with products are set at European level.
The IPP Communication is part of the Commission's efforts to achieve the goals set down in the EU's 6th Environment Action Programme and to fulfil the commitments made by the EU at last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
The full Communication and further information on IPP can be found on the Commission's web site at: